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In 2021 Toyota surprised us. The company usually plays it safe and makes sensible, comfortable cars that you don’t even notice in the Target parking lot. Then, it launched the Apex Edition of the Corolla, and suddenly the Corolla was competing with sportscars. You could order an Apex Edition with a six-speed manual gearbox, and it came with a louder exhaust, and a surprisingly taught sport suspension.

For 2023 Toyota killed the Corolla Apex Edition

The trunk trip with the word Apex on the Corolla
The Apex Edition is no more at Toyota | Toyota

But in the world of commuter cars, enthusiast-based versions must be a hard sell. After just one year, the Apex was killed. While enthusiasts loved putting the Apex though its paces on canyon roads, the average Corolla buyer must have decided the Apex Edition was just a bit too much, especially with the spoiler and extra ground-effects kit. However the reviewers at CNET called it “entertaining,” to drive, and loved the easy-to-shit manual.

But, luckily for us enthusiasts Toyota didn’t totally abandon the idea of a sporting Corolla, it just doesn’t call it the Apex Edition anymore.

For 2023, we get the sportier Corolla SE Sedan

Maybe we can infer that SE in Toyota-speak means Sport Edition? While it’s hard to say any Toyota Corolla is a sporty car, the SE adds some goodies that make it more sporting than the base LE and luxury-like XSE versions and even to the Hybrid trim. The SE comes with LED headlights, 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires, leather trim on the front sport seats, and a larger touchscreen.

But what makes this car a winner is that it keeps a suspension that’s more like the Apex Edition’s. It’s not a tooth rattler, but it is firmer than the regular Corolla’s. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox was killed. Granted, the SE is no boy-racer GR Corolla, which is the hard-core Corolla. However, it does come with some exterior trim that lets the world know you’re not driving a basic Corolla.

How much is a Toyota Corolla SE?

A white Toyota Corolla SE Hybrid parked
2023 Corolla SE Hybrid has sporting touches | Toyota

The SE starts at $23,999, which is about $2,500 more than the basic Corolla. But, for that extra scratch, you do get the form-fitting sport seats, and a host of electronic goodies the basic car doesn’t get. In the SE you get Bluetooth, a hands-free phone system, dynamic radar cruise control, and some other driver’s aids like lane-departure warning and steering assistance.

Also, the SE comes standard with Toyota’s Smart Key System, that adds remote keyless entry and a push-button starter. Outside, it also gets LED lights, grey sport side panels, and more. However this car is still all Corolla and that means it comes with Toyota’s fairly uninspiring 2.0-liter four-cylinder and front wheel drive. Also, instead of that inspiring six-speed manual of the Apex, we get a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, that saps some of the fun.

But if your commute includes some twisty mountain roads and you’re looking for a car that will seat five in comfort, yet still gets 34 mpg, the SE trim may be the best Corolla.


Is the 2022 Toyota Corolla XSE Apex Edition Really Worth $28K?