The current Toyota Corolla has made a splash for its bold styling and improved dynamics. No longer satisfied with being a safe buy due to rock solid reliability, Toyota decided that their lineup needed some spice in its designs to attract new buyers that tended to look elsewhere. As if a redesigned sedan and addition of a hatchback model weren’t enough, buyers have been given the choice of a limited model, this 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition.
Canada will only receive 150 units of the 6,000 Apex Editions that have been produced. A handful of those will have a six-speed manual like our test vehicle, while the remainder will get the CVT that most buyers want. Current Corolla owners that are looking to trade up their older model are going to be in for quite a shock if they have never seen the current model. The bland exterior and interior they are used to are no longer evident and thankfully, beige is no longer a color option.
The 2021 Corolla Apex Edition adds a few exterior design upgrades that add a bit of flair to its overall look. Some will approve, while others may say they didn’t go far enough. Bronze trim accents are added to the front bumper, side skirts and rear diffuser. The bronze actually makes the front bumper look more aggressive when combined with the front side splitters.
All of the Apex Edition’s exterior logos and badges are blacked out. The trunk spoiler is more pronounced as it is slightly raised, versus the subtle lip found on the lesser models. Exclusive black forged wheels come standard and in Canada, we only get one colour. Every Corolla Apex Edition is painted in Cement Grey, as opposed to multiple paint choices available in the United States.
Inside, the changes are minimal. Sticking with the copper trim outside, copper stitching can be found on the steering wheel, seats, door panels and shift boot. Portions of the dashboard and doors are also covered in white soft touch faux leather for some additional contrast. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are standard in a still-frustrating Toyota user interface that lags behind its Korean rivals in its ease of use and responsiveness.
A wireless charging pad for your phone is also included, but oddly enough, Toyota thought it would be a wise idea to not offer a heated steering wheel as standard or even as an option. This is an essential item that is now considered the norm in just about every class of vehicle, especially in our Canadian market. Heated cloth seats are present and feel fairly good, with adequate support for taller drivers.
Those expecting the Corolla Apex to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, Honda Civic Si or even the Hyundai Elantra N-Line will need to look elsewhere. While these cars feature upgraded powerplants and additional tuning over the models they are based upon, the Corolla Apex Edition doesn’t quite match up.
The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine is shared with the regular Corolla SE. There is not a turbo in sight or even a slight bump in horsepower or torque. Drivers will make do with 169 horsepower at 6,600RPM and 151 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400RPM. Expect a 0-100km/h time around 8.2 seconds. The previously mentioned competitors push out at least 200 horsepower using turbochargers that the Corolla cannot hope to match. Luckily Toyota knows how to make a good four-cylinder engine so expect a smooth and reliable powerplant. It does get buzzy at speed thanks to the added sport exhaust, but this adds some necessary pep to the Corolla’s personality.
This being the Apex Edition, Toyota wants people to know that this car is built to handle twists and turns that a regular Corolla could not hope to match. They have given the coil springs a 0.6 inch drop, tuned front and rear stabilizer bars and improved the anti roll bars. While this adds a bit of handling flair to what we already like in the Corolla’s chassis, it impacts ride quality substantially. Impacts on the slightest bump or pothole feel harsher than they should. Those impacts are followed by unnerving bounce.
Fuel consumption ratings come in at 8.2L/100km in the city and 6. L/100km on the highway. With an aggressive city commute over roughly 400 kilometers, we saw 8.6L/100km on regular-octane fuel. Pricing for the manual transmission model comes in at $27,440. Those wanting a two-pedal CVT can add $1,000 to the price. This is a $4,850 premium over the regular Corolla SE and roughly $2,000 over the SE with the Upgrade Package.
The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition is a bit of a head scratcher. The average Corolla sedan buyer will be more than happy with the SE model that adds the bigger 2.0-liter engine, but doesn’t have the harsh ride of the Apex Edition. Of course, the SE also lacks the funky styling that buyers may want. The price point is fairly aggressive, though comes eerily close to the Civic Si. Those wanting a bit of pep along with their reliability will find enjoyment in this unique compact sedan with a splash of flavour.