Sedans & Coupes

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Didn’t Live up To the Hype

A special edition of the Toyota Corolla will be available for 2021. Called the Corolla Apex, it offers a sportier version of the popular car and is developed around the SE and XSE trim levels. Unfortunately, not everyone loves the car. The Roadshow by CNET review of the new 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex was not enthusiastic. It describes the car as “trapped between what it is and what it could be.”

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex

The Toyota Corolla doesn’t get a TRD version, but instead, the Apex Sport package is available as a special edition. A number of aspects of the car, though, are shared with the standard Toyota Corolla. The brakes, which are the same, are still good. The steering has a good weight but doesn’t provide enough feedback.

The Corolla Apex includes the same engine used in higher trims of the standard Corolla – a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which generates 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. CNET suggests the car would benefit from 25 or 30 hp more power as well as a turbocharged engine. More power would also put it more in line with the Honda Civic Sport.

The Corolla Apex has a CVT, but 120 of the cars have been built with a six-speed manual transmission. Toyota is building 6,000 total of the special edition cars for sale in the U.S., according to Car and Driver.

The 2021 upgrades don’t upgrade the driving experience

There are a number of suspension upgrades in the car, including springs that lower the body by 0.6 inches, new shocks, solid sway bars, and different tuning for the power steering. Together these changes give the Corolla Apex a stiffer ride than the standard Corolla, which wasn’t something that CNET enjoyed. The reviewer found all road surfaces except a straight and flat one to feel bumpy or jerky, calling the suspension “straight-up annoying” during everyday driving. The ride would be improved with the addition of adaptive dampers.

But, on curves, the Corolla Apex had plenty of agility and just about no body roll. The Dunlop SP Sport Maxx summer tires also gave it great grip. They’re available for no extra cost. The Corolla Apex does also have a sport-tuned exhaust system, but that mostly affects just the car’s sound. And, unfortunately, the sound is really only different for people outside the car. Car and Driver agreed with CNET’s disappointment with the overall driving experience, saying the Corolla Apex’s “drivetrain says commuter car, not sports sedan.”

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex’s style and tech

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CNET was positive about the 2021 Corolla Apex’s appearance and its technology. The car has some variations that give it a more aggressive look. The front features different intakes, black and bronze body accents appear on the front and rear, and there are “surprisingly sharp side skirts.” A rear spoiler is also an available option. The interior has a few white accents and bronze-colored accent stitching.

The car provides an 8-inch touchscreen that is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. It has a six-speaker audio system. Its drive-assist safety features include automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Versions with the CVT also have adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring is an available option and standard on the top trim.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex version adds $2,385 to the price when equipped with the manual transmission or $2,695 with the automatic transmission. CNET had hoped the Corolla Apex would offer the best of both worlds, straddling the line between the standard Corolla and a rumored performance Corolla, but it doesn’t exactly live up to that wish.