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Toyota Corolla gets the basics right, and that's a good thing
Dependable and safe are hallmarks
Published Monday, January 4, 2021 12:00 pm
by Winfred Cross

The 2021 Toyota Corolla continues the nameplate's long-running standard of dependable, safe and reliable transportation.

Dependable, safe, reliable and affordable aren’t the first words most carmakers want car buyers to think about when purchasing their product, unless the maker is Toyota and the product Corolla.

Yep, that’s what Corolla’s have been for decades. It’s one of the longest-running nameplates on the road and Toyota couldn’t be happier. Buyers could not be happier because the 2021 Corolla is probably the best ever.

This new Corolla is certainly one of the best-looking, especially in the XSE trim I sampled. The look is modern and sleek if not a bit derivative. There is a NightShade and Apex edition that look even better.

The interior is also good-looking and functional. The cloth and simulated leather seats are certainly comfortable and have plenty of adjustments for various sized drivers. The rear seat is not as comfortable but roomy enough for car seats. There is enough head and leg room from all but very tall passengers.

The dash has large and easy to read gauges which can be configured to display other info. There is the ubiquitous touch screen which controls the car’s audio and other functions.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard. Toyota’s suite of safety features that are standard on every Toyota builds includes lane departure warning and front collision warning with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control. Same may switch off the lane departure feature because it can be a bit overprotective.

If you purchase anything above the SE model you get the Corolla’s bigger 2.0-liter engine. It makes 169 horsepower with 151 pounds-feet of torque, a 30-horsepower improvement over the base 1.8-liter unit. The continuously variable transmission is perfectly matched and simulates gear shifts quite well.

Driving the Corolla is easy and pleasant enough. There is a substantial amount of wind and road noise so reaching for the stereo’s volume button may be necessary. The bigger engine does make the car feel peppier. You may have to floor it to make really aggressive moves in traffic but otherwise the driving dynamics are about what you would expect for an economy car.

Handling is good, but not great while emergency braking is OK. Yes, you can find cars in the class that will drive better but none of them other than maybe a Civic have been around for 12 models like the Corolla.

Toyota says you should average about 34 miles per gallon combined. I got about 40 mpg overall. That was impressive considering this was the larger engine and not even the hybrid.

Overall, I find this new Corolla to be the kind of car that Toyota buyers want. Dependable, safe and affordable it is still. Its reliability will be gauged in the coming years and I would be surprised if this car is any worse than the 11 other models before.

My test car was the XSE which is near the top of the line. It comes with the larger 2.0-liter engine, auto climate control, remote, keyless entry, sport seats, 18-inch wheels, sunroof, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, power adjustable driver’s seat and upgraded LED lights. A premium JBL stereo and adaptive headlamps were optional.

The as-tested price was about $24,497. That’s certainly more than most Corolla’s before this model, but, again, it’s better than any other Corolla before. There is a lot of competition out there, but Toyota seems to have armed its best-selling sedan with enough to keep it a top seller.

Email Winfred Cross at cross@alldaytech.com.

• Better looks

• Great gas millage

• Comfortable interior

• Good driving dynamics

• Lots of features

• Loud, noisy interior

• Needs more power


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