It sometimes feels like SUVs have stolen the limelight, but sedans are still doing just fine. The freshly redesigned Toyota Corolla is built on new underpinnings, giving it a much better ride quality. The interior also saw a much-needed remodel, complete with standard Android Auto for 2021.
Though typically not as popular as the Corolla, the latest Nissan Sentra earned high praise from MotorTrend. When comparing it to the Corolla, testers found the Sentra more satisfying to drive overall. However, the Toyota Corolla proves it’s still superior in one category.
Behind the wheel of the 2021 Toyota Corolla
The 2021 Toyota Corolla offers three powertrain options. The base model comes with a four-cylinder engine producing a meager 139 hp. But one with 169 hp is available. Both pair with either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or an optional six-speed manual. The third powertrain is a hybrid. It offers low horsepower but incredible gas mileage.
The Corolla Hybrid gets 52 mpg combined, while the regular Corolla gets up to 35 mpg. In addition to praising the hybrid, MotorTrend also likes the unique Corolla Apex Edition. It boasts bold styling accents and a sport-tuned suspension. Unfortunately, that doesn’t improve its handling.
But this compact car is a great daily driver — as long as you don’t push the engine too hard. The interior is assembled neatly and has soft, good-quality materials. The seats are also comfortable and supportive. And the sedan offers a surprisingly spacious second row.
The Toyota Corolla hatchback’s second row is a little more cramped, but it has a larger cargo hold. It’s almost 18 cubic feet deep with the second row upright, while the sedan’s trunk measures only 13 cubic feet.
All Corolla models come equipped with plentiful tech features, including a large safety suite.
Driving the 2021 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra offers only one engine choice, but MotorTrend says it’s better than the Toyota Corolla’s base engine. It’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 149 hp and paired with a CVT. During acceleration testing, the Sentra neatly reached 60 mph in eight seconds. The base Corolla was two seconds slower and excessively groaned.
However, like the Toyota Corolla, the Sentra is far from the sportiest sedan. But critics agree its ride quality vastly improved after its 2020 redesign. Car and Driver says the Sentra drives smoothly over most bumps and has a great set of brakes.
The Corolla’s interior is nice, but MotorTrend thought the Sentra’s is more aesthetically pleasing. Higher trims feature quilted leather and shiny chrome accents, but the base model still has plenty of nicely padded surfaces.
The Nissan Sentra isn’t available as a hatchback, but it has slightly more cargo space than the Corolla sedan. Both rows are equally spacious and supportive, but the headroom can get tight for tall occupants. Like the Corolla, the Sentra boasts plenty of advanced safety tech.
Why the Toyota Corolla comes out on top
The two sedans are nearly identical in features, but the Toyota Corolla offers lower ownership costs. According to MotorTrend, Toyota won the IntelliChoice 2020 Best Overall Value Award, and the Corolla Hybrid led in its segment. On the other hand, the Nissan Sentra is typically one of the most expensive vehicles to maintain, Edmunds reports.
However, the Sentra still provides better value up-front than the Toyota Corolla. All of its trims are cheaper than their Corolla counterparts, plus it has a superior base engine. Ultimately, the choice might come down to your budget, but MotorTrend believes the Corolla is the safer buy.