2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE Review, Pricing, and Specs

  • 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback ($20,715-$25,180)
  • Awards: IIHS Top Safety Pick, NHTSA 5-Star Overall Safety Rating, Green Car Journal’s 2020 Green Car of the Year
  • Pros: It’s small, light, and fun to drive in city environments
  • Cons: Its interior falls behind some of its key competitors

There is no denying that the 2021 Toyota Corolla is an iconic model at this point, with a lifespan of well over 60 years. Throughout that time, it’s become the go-to choice for buyers that are looking for an affordable and reliable daily driver from a reputable brand. However, as crossovers grow in popularity, the Corolla has tougher competition than ever before, even from its siblings.

This week, I’ve been testing what may be a crossover’s kryptonite with the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback. On paper, the hatch has it all, ample cargo space, an efficient engine, and an approachable price tag. However, with tough competition from Honda and Mazda, the Corolla doesn’t have the clear lead it once did over its competitors.

How is the 2021 Toyota Corolla hatchback different from the sedan?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

While the 2021 Toyota Corolla hatch and the sedan might look quite similar on paper, they are vastly different in the metal. For starters, the hatch gets a completely redesigned front end. Even in the base trim, the front bumper appears far sportier than that of the sedan, an aesthetic motif that’s helped along by the angular headlights. While these might seem like subtle touches, the hatch is instantly recognizable.

As you might expect, the hatchback’s rear end is completely different as well. However, it carries through the same sharp aesthetic elements that the front end presents. As a result, you get a sporty rear bumper paired with angular taillights. To my eye, the hatchback’s design feels more cohesive and appealing than that of the sedan.

Since my tester was an XSE trim, it benefitted from larger 18-inch wheels along with red paint and a gloss black roof which really tied together this car’s sporty mood quite well.

Is the 2021 Toyota Corolla’s interior comfortable?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

One of the things that immediately stands out about the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback’s interior is the fact that it isn’t cramped by any means. Despite being a small hatchback, the Corolla offers up ample space for tall and large passengers. The same goes for the seats, which are just comfortable enough for a road trip. However, you’ll notice a lack of support if you want to dial your seating position in since the seats are only six-way adjustable.

One thing you’ll certainly appreciate if you go for this light grey interior is the fact that Toyota has added a dark fabric material where you actually sit. Regardless of whether you like the two-tone look, we can’t deny the benefit of added stain protection.

My main drawback surrounding the Corolla’s interior has mainly to do with the choice of interior materials. For the most part, Toyota opts to use hard plastics throughout that can feel a bit flimsy. When you consider that this car has an as-tested price of over $28,000, some additional soft-touch materials certainly won’t go amiss.

What tech features does the 2021 Toyota Corolla offer up?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Sit in the driver seat of the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, and you’ll notice another key difference between it and its sedan sibling. That’s because the hatch gets a unique instrument cluster. While it’s not just a large screen, it’s certainly more modern than the standard analog gauges you’ll find in the sedan. Additionally, they feature vibrant colors that truly serve to brighten up the cockpit.

In the center of the dash, you’ll find the standard eight-inch infotainment screen. While it doesn’t offer up high contrast or vibrant colors, it’s still a touch screen that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Unfortunately, you don’t get to interact with your phone wirelessly just yet.

As my tester goes, it featured the upgraded JBL speaker systems, which was a noticeable improvement over the standard offering with greater bass and volume.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla may not have big power, but it’s light

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Power aside, one of the most important stats you need to know about the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is how much it weighs. At 3,060 lb, it is significantly lighter than most small crossovers and SUVs. Despite offering up 17.8 cu ft of cargo space, an improvement over the sedan’s 13.1 cu ft offering, it feels light on the road. One of the most noticeable driving dynamics the hatch offers up is its agility at lower speeds. Throw the Corolla into a corner, and it’ll happily grip with acceptable amounts of body roll.

If you end up on the highway, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback retains a great level of comfort. However, this is where its lightweight nature plays against you as the hatch doesn’t feel quite as composed at higher speeds. Additionally, once you add in the surprising amounts of road and wind noise, you get a driving experience that is better suited for short distances. So if you’re running around in a city, the Corolla will feel right at home.

Skip the base engine and go straight for the 2.0-liter

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Before we talk about the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback’s engine, I am aware the hatch only comes equipped with a 2.0-liter option. However, if you cross-shop the sedan, there’s a cheaper 1.8-liter option available. Having driven all of the Corolla’s different flavors over the years, I can confidently say that the 2.0-liter is a significant upgrade over the base option. In the hatch, it develops 168 hp and 151 lb-ft. If that seems low, remember that curb weight we discussed earlier.

Attached to its four-cylinder engine, you’ll find a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual if you decide to option it. After having driven both, I find myself leaning toward the manual thanks to its added fun and engagement. However, the CVT does a decent job of giving you the power you want, as long as you don’t mind a bit of a racket. While the CVT helps in terms of efficiency, I feel the hatch would’ve been better suited by a standard automatic as you get in the Mazda3.

You can expect your hatch to consume an average of 32 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Is the 2021 Toyota Corolla safe?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Given its tiny size, you’ll be happy to learn that the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is quite a safe machine. For starters, it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and it received a 5-start crash safety rating from the NHTSA. However, this little Toyota also does a great job of stopping you from having a crash in the first place, thanks to its standard safety tech.

As part of Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 system, you get a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control,  road sign assist, and lane tracing assist. If you want bling-sport monitoring, it is available as an optional extra.

How much does it cost to maintain a 2021 Toyota Corolla?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

As you might imagine, one of the strongest selling points surrounding the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is its dependability. According to a study conducted by CarEdge, you should expect to spend around $4,087 over a 10-year period to keep your Corolla on the road. This figure undercuts its competitors by $2,752 over the same period, meaning the Corolla won’t break the bank at the dealership or over time. Additionally, CarEdge reports that you should expect an 11.89 percent chance of needing serious repair in the first 10 years.

Is the Corolla still the king?

An image of a 2021 Toyota Corolla parked outdoors
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

There is no denying that the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is up against stiff competition from other hatchbacks and small crossovers. However, thanks to its simple, affordable, and robust formula, it remains one of the best options for most people. However, it’ll need to look toward implementing higher-quality materials and greater tech if it wants to retain its crown. It’s a real shame the hatch isn’t as popular as the sedan because it’s the clear winner of the two.

MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback an expert rating of 8.0 out of 10

The editors at MotorBiscuit rate the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback an 8.0 out of 10. We like the Corolla Hatchback’s unique bumpers and larger wheels, which set it apart from its sedan counterpart. The interior controls are also easy to use, however, Toyota did go a little heavy on the cheap plastics. This small hatchback is also packed with safety features and provides a reliable and capable means to get around town.

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