2021 Toyota Corolla Review

2021 Toyota Corolla - The affordable and fun daily driver


It's been a few years since I've driven the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, but I have vague memories of thinking it was a pretty swell vehicle. While memories sometimes don't match up to the reality, that wasn't the case with the Corolla Hatch.

I'm happy to say it's just as good as I remember it being.

From the compact styling to the zippy acceleration, the Corolla Hatch is an affordable and fun daily driver.

Supersonic styling

The Corolla Hatch design is a fairly typical compact "hot hatch" type vehicle. But the standard LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights make the vehicle look a little more high-end, which makes its $21K base price tag a bit of surprise.

The test vehicle was an SE trim with the Special Edition Package, which amps up its already sporty good looks. The Supersonic Red paint combined with the black accents on the spoiler, grille and wheels help the vehicle pop.

The interior is equally attractive - even with the cloth seating surfaces. The center stack with the 8-inch screen looks top notch, and when you add in the standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, you can overlook the somewhat dated Toyota graphics.

One thing I'd like to point out specifically is the seat comfort. In addition to having soft-and-squishy cushioning - which is great for long stints behind the wheel - Toyota adds an extra little bolster right where your tailbone hits the seat. At first it seems a bit weird, but over time I really appreciated the extra support.

Zippy acceleration

The Corolla Hatch is equipped with the same 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that its sedan counterpart has - though it delivers 1 horsepower less. Power output is 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque for the hatch.

Plus/minus 1 horsepower doesn't really make a difference, though, and I thought the Corolla Hatch was surprisingly zippy. I had this test car during a quick trip to Texas, and I was merging into traffic with much larger vehicles already inhabiting the lanes. So, this is one area where you don't want any lag.

I was definitely able to hold my own - both with the merge and off-the-line starts.

But I will admit I felt a bit small in Texas where most people drive full-size trucks or large SUVs. However, it's perfect for a place like Chicago because of the tight turning radius and ability to parallel park in small spaces.

The standard transmission in the Corolla Hatch is an automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission). But here's the thing: You can opt for a 6-speed manual as a zero-cost option. While the test vehicle had the CVT, which was fine, I remember from the vehicle launch back in 2018 that I really, really liked the manual.

A word about pricing

While the base price for the Corolla Hatch is around $21K, the test vehicle added some pricey options, which took the price up past $27K with the destination fee included.

While this price tag starts edging out of "entry-level" status for a lot of people, I will point out the average transaction price for a new vehicle in 2021 is just more than $40K. That definitely puts the Corolla Hatch on the more affordable side of the spectrum - even with the options.

And consider that you get standard features such as CarPlay/Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist. That's a lot for $21K.

The decision to be made is the extra $6K. Are the blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 18-inch alloy wheels, special paint and aggressive body kit worth the extra price?

I'm going to put that in the dealer's choice arena.

The vehicle is great without these add-ons. But it's better with them.

The bottom line on the Corolla Hatch

While the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback isn't going to compete with the likes of a Ford Focus RS or even a Volkswagen GTI, it's like kinder, gentler introduction into the hot hatch segment. It's just enough fun to play around with, but it lacks the stiff suspension and higher horsepower numbers to get drivers - especially newer ones - into too much trouble.

Overall, I really like the Corolla Hatch. It's attractive and peppy with just the right amount of technology for any driver.

Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers and the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. Jill is a syndicated automotive writer and acts as the managing editor for the Pickup Truck + SUV Talk website.