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Toyota tried to light a fire under the 2021 Corolla by giving it 170 horsepower and calling it an “Apex”. However, it wasn’t quite enough to classify the Corolla as a sports car. Besides a body kit, new suspension, and wheels, the Corolla Apex was just a normal Corolla XSE. It doesn’t get a manual transmission and weighs almost 3,100 pounds. For all of its style, the Corolla Apex, as a potential enthusiast’s car, doesn’t seem worth $28,360. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a better option. If you bought a Toyota Corolla and want to give it sportier equipment, be prepared to toss the famous Toyota reliability out the window if there is such a thing. Here’s why you may want to wait until the GR Corolla comes out.

Toyota Corolla XSE/Apex engine may not mix well with forced induction

Toyota Corolla on display in Belgium
Toyota Corolla on display in Belgium | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

For all of its technology, the 2-liter M20A-FKS inline-four inside the 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE may not be strong enough to handle forced induction. It uses an aluminum block with an aluminum head but is open deck, and everything is lightweight, including the pistons. This could be an indication that nothing is overbuilt or is built with tolerances according to stock horsepower levels. It’s also complicated. It uses both direct injection and combined port injection, with a super-high compression ratio of 13.0:1. 

Suspension is too tight for comfort

Although Toyota gave the Apex retuned suspension, it failed in providing adequate ride quality, according to Car and Driver. It cornered better than the XSE and stayed flat through a corner but sacrificed ride comfort in the process. If you were so inclined, you could swing for a set of RS-R coilover suspension, which will run you about $1,900. It’s expensive, but at least you could set your own suspension settings and make the ride a little more comfortable. A stiffer sway bar could tighten up the rear end as well and reduce understeer. Of course, these modifications bring the car up and over $30,000. 

Apex has good tires and wheels

One of the biggest upgrades to the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex was its wheels and tires. The Apex’s tires go on flow-formed wheels, which is a process that stretches and compresses the inner barrel to increase the tensile strength. If you can get your hands on a set of these, you can take your Corolla XSE into any tire shop and get the widest tires that stick like glue. The wheels may not be built to Toyota spec, but without spending the money for an Apex, you can have a similar wheel and tire setup.

The Toyota GR Corolla could beat the Volkswagen Golf R

Toyota Corolla racing at a British Touring Car Championship race in England
Toyota Corolla racing at a British Touring Car Championship race in England | Ker Robertson/Getty Images

2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE Review, Pricing, and Specs

Although nothing is certain, the Toyota GR Corolla could be enough to bring the brand back into sports car territory. Speculation dictates it could have a turbocharged engine with 257 horsepower lifted from the GR Yaris, mated to a manual transmission. Front-wheel-drive vs. all-wheel-drive is up in the air, but if the GR Yaris’ name is any indication, it means the Corolla has a good chance of having all-wheel-drive as well. While you could spend the money to modify the car’s suspension and wheels, it might be worth waiting to see what the Toyota GR Corolla has to offer.