The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Used Every Rookie “Upgrade” Gimmick

Toyota has forgotten more about making sporty cars out of regular sedans than many auto marques know about cars in general. There is a long history of entire arenas of motorsport being born from sports sedans and coupes Toyota has made. Not only does Toyota make great sports cars, but they make one of the most popular daily drivers of all time; the Toyota Corolla. So, why is the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex such a dud? 

The history of the Corolla Apex makes this stinker all the more upsetting. The AE86 – a 1980s drifting legend – had an Apex model and is still considered JDM royalty. 

So, what exactly are we working with here? The Corolla isn’t a very sporty vehicle, but it is a reliable and budget-friendly daily driver that has been bought by many hundreds of thousands of people over the years. Surely, if Toyota is going to the trouble of making a limited run, “sporty” version, it will be a beefed-up turbo model or have a larger motor from a different Toyota, right? Wrong.

Change the way it looks, but don’t raise the power

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex will have the same 2.0-liter in-line four from the regular Corolla, making 169 hp. According to Car and Driver, of the (not-so) limited run of 6,000 Apex Corollas, only 1,200 units will feature a manual transmission. So, that’s something, but all the rest have the CVT automatic, which has almost zero sportiness to it, according to MotorTrend. Toyota did tune the exhaust note, but apparently, it can only be heard outside the car. From the wheel, it’s too quiet to notice a change in power, much less sound. 

2021 Corolla Apex driving
2021 Corolla Apex | Toyota

New tires and lower suspension

While the grippier summer tires and stiffer suspension (Dunlop Sport Maxx 050 and lowered 0.6 inches) aren’t bad upgrades, it does beg the question of “why?” If Toyota didn’t give the Corolla Apex more power then why did they think it needed increased handling measures? 

Not only was the stiffer suspension unnecessary, but it also comes as a high cost to comfort. Car and Driver reports the newly lowered and stiffened suspension negatively impacts the overall driving experience. They say that road perfections and impacts of any kind are harsh and unsettling. However, the added sway bars did lower body roll. So, there’s at least one improvement for the Corolla Apex. 

The Toyota Corolla Apex’s body kit and wing

The next step in bush-league car “upgrades” is adding a body kit and decorative spoiler to feign aero. Well, that’s what Toyota has done here. The Corolla Apex was dressed in a wide body kit to give the appearance of downforce and sport acuity but without any of the sauce to back it up. The silliest new appointment is the tiny spoiler Toyota added to the trunk lid. It doesn’t even look like something that would help downforce at all. It stinks of an afterthought. 

2021 Toyota Corolla Apex
2021 Toyota Corolla Apex | Toyota

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There is nothing to be excited about here. It feels like a teenager was given a few thousand dollars to improve their car, and they were turned loose in an Autozone while his/her Mom went to the grocery store. This limited option will run about $2,300 for the manual and $2,600 for the automatic transmission. Do yourself a favor – do neither.