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2021 Toyota Corolla Review

The 2021 Toyota Corolla lands in the bottom half of our compact car rankings because it struggles to match the power, agility, and practicality of many of its rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Gentle ride
  • Good gas mileage
  • Straightforward infotainment controls
  • Terrific predicted reliability rating
  • Small trunk
  • So-so base engine
  • Less agile than rivals

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Toyota Corolla's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Cars category. Currently the Toyota Corolla has a score of 8.0 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 12 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.0

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.8
Performance: 6.9
Interior: 6.9
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.8 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Toyota Corolla?

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Is the Toyota Corolla a Good Car?

Yes, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is a good compact car. It has a class-leading predicted reliability rating, an intuitive infotainment system, a cushioned ride, and good mpg ratings. It’s available as a four-door sedan and as a hatchback, and both body types come standard with lots of safety features through the Toyota Safety Sense suite. However, this vehicle also has a small trunk and an underpowered base engine.

Why You Can Trust Us: 12 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about this vehicle in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data like horsepower ratings, gas mileage, and cargo space dimensions with 12 professional Toyota Corolla reviews. This review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2020.

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Toyota Corolla?

The Toyota Corolla is certainly worth considering, but in this highly competitive class, there are several good options to choose from. For a more athletic vehicle, you might consider the Volkswagen Golf. You could also look at the Hyundai Elantra, which has plenty of cargo space and fancy tech features such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you like the Corolla and are open to an SUV, then you might consider the Toyota C-HR, which is similarly equipped but has a larger cargo hold.

Toyota also makes a Corolla Hybrid, which we review separately.

Compare the Corolla, Golf, and Elantra »

2020 vs. 2021 Toyota Corolla: What's the Difference?

For the 2021 model year, Toyota added Android Auto and a fuel-saving engine stop-start feature (that you can turn off) to the Corolla's standard features list. Toyota also added a few limited-production models, such as a sporty Apex Edition sedan.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Corolla »

Here are the key changes for the Toyota Corolla over the last few years:

  • 2017: refreshed with updated interior and exterior styling and a standard CVT; gained a wealth of standard safety features
  • 2018: no notable changes
  • 2019: Corolla hatchback body style debuted, replacing the Corolla iM
  • 2020: sedan fully redesigned; gained standard Apple CarPlay and a stronger optional engine; base engine got a 7-horsepower bump
  • 2021: added standard Android Auto and a stop-start engine feature

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Corolla, 2019 Corolla, and 2020 Corolla reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Toyota Corolla Cost?

The base Toyota Corolla sedan has a starting MSRP of $19,825, while the Corolla hatchback has a base price of $20,465. Both figures are slightly above average for a compact car. The top-of-the-line XSE trim starts at $23,415 for the Corolla hatchback and $25,725 for the sedan.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Corolla Versus the Competition

Toyota Corolla vs. Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is a fantastic compact car. It comes in sedan and hatchback body types (the coupe was discontinued for 2021), and it has a range of powerful engines. The Honda has sharper handling than the Toyota, and it's more fun to drive. Additionally, it has more cargo space and a nicer cabin with more soft-touch surfaces. The Toyota has more standard features, such as a touch screen with smartphone integration, but those are available in the Honda. In most respects, the Civic is the better vehicle.

Compare the Corolla and Civic »

Toyota Corolla vs. Mazda3

The Corolla is a fine vehicle, but the Mazda3 is a better one. It can be had as a sedan or a hatchback, with the latter having more cargo room behind the rear seats than the Corolla hatchback. The Mazda also has premium cabin materials, and its lithe handling helps make it one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class. The Toyota has higher mpg estimates, but that's not enough for us to recommend it over the Mazda.

Compare the Corolla and Mazda3 »

Compare the Corolla, Civic, and Mazda3 »

Corolla Interior: Mixed Bag

Corolla Cargo Space

The Corolla sedan’s 13.1-cubic-foot trunk is slightly undersized for the class. The rear seats can fold, but there is a lip that makes the area between the trunk floor and folded seatbacks uneven, making it hard to load long items.

The Corolla hatchback provides more cargo space than the sedan, with 17.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Unlike in the sedan, the rear seats fold flat, and dropping them opens a total of 23.3 cubic feet of space. That’s still small for a hatchback.

How Many People Does the Corolla Seat?

This Toyota can seat five people. It’s easy to get in and out of the vehicle, and the seats are comfortable. Space in the front row is relatively accommodating, but things get a bit tighter in the rear, where taller riders may find headroom to be lacking.

Cloth upholstery is standard. Synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are available. The SE and XSE trims have front sport seats with additional side and thigh support.

Corolla and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. A lower anchor can be borrowed from either side. The Corolla's LATCH system is among the easiest to use.

Corolla Interior Quality

The Corolla’s cabin materials earn mixed reviews. Some critics find the materials unimpressive, but others think they are on par with more premium vehicles. Most agree that the cabin is well-built.

Corolla Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Corolla's Entune infotainment system is easy to use and features a touch screen that responds quickly to inputs. You can display your smartphone on the touch screen via Apple CarPlay and, new for 2021, Android Auto. There are also plenty of well-organized physical controls on the center stack.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, two USB ports, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, and a six-speaker stereo
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, a navigation system, a 7-inch digital driver display, wireless device charging, another USB port, a nine-speaker JBL sound system, and HD Radio
  • Other available features: a moonroof, automatic climate control, and proximity keyless entry

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Corolla Performance: Easy to Drive, Hard to Drive Fast

Corolla Engine

Toyota offers two four-cylinder-engine options for the Corolla. The sedan comes with a 1.8-liter base engine that makes 139 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. Available in the SE and XSE sedan trims and standard in the hatchback is a 2.0-liter engine rated at 169 horsepower (168 in the hatchback) and 151 pound-feet of torque.

While the base engine is fine for city driving, it can feel outmatched on the highway. Getting to higher speeds takes time and a heavy foot. Models with the 2.0-liter engine hold their own a bit better.

The smaller engine comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The larger one can be had with a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission. Unlike many CVTs, the Corolla's operates smoothly and quietly.

Corolla Gas Mileage

With its base engine, the Toyota Corolla sedan gets an EPA-estimated 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Surprisingly, gas-mileage estimates improve with the larger engine, which returns 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway with the CVT. It’s no Toyota Prius, but those are all great figures for a small car. The Corolla hatchback gets 32/41 mpg or 28/37 mpg, depending on transmission.

For something even more fuel-efficient, you might want to consider the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

Corolla Ride and Handling

This Toyota delivers a comfortable ride, though more so in the sedan than the hatchback. Both body types have balanced handling, with strong brakes and light steering, but it would be a stretch to call the Corolla fun to drive. Even the sport-tuned SE and XSE models aren’t as agile as some rivals. Front-wheel drive comes standard.

Read more about performance »

Corolla Reliability

Is the Toyota Corolla Reliable?

The 2021 Toyota Corolla has a stellar predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five.

Toyota Corolla Warranty

Toyota backs the Corolla with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Corolla Safety

Corolla Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Toyota Corolla five out of five stars in the frontal crash test and four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the 2021 Corolla as of this writing.

Corolla Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane trace assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Adaptive headlights

Read more about safety »

Corolla Dimensions and Weight

The Corolla sedan is about 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,910 to 3,150 pounds. The Toyota Corolla hatchback is 14.3 feet long and has a curb weight of 3,060 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Toyota Corolla Built?

Toyota builds the 2021 Corolla in Mississippi.

Which Toyota Corolla Model Is Right for Me?

Toyota makes the 2021 Corolla sedan in five trim levels: L, LE, SE, XLE, and XSE. The L, LE, and XLE come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). SE and XSE trims have a 2.0-liter inline-four engine and a choice of the CVT or a six-speed manual transmission. The Corolla hatchback comes with the larger engine and offers both transmission options. The hatchback is only available in SE and XSE trims.

There’s also a Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which we review separately.

The base L trim has plenty of tech and safety features, but you may want to upgrade to the LE for more comfort add-ons or to the SE to get the stronger engine.

Toyota Corolla L

The entry-level Toyota Corolla L has an MSRP of $19,825. Standard equipment includes a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, satellite radio, a Wi-Fi hot spot, two USB ports, Bluetooth, cloth seats, and the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assistance features. TSS 2.0 includes a pre-collision warning and braking system, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane trace assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

There are no notable packages or options with this trim.

Toyota Corolla LE

The LE has a base price of $20,275. It comes with an 8-inch touch screen, a third USB port, automatic climate control, and remote keyless entry. The LE Convenience package costs $1,150 and adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, push-button start, proximity keyless entry, and alloy wheels. The Premium package includes all of that plus a moonroof for $2,000.

Toyota Corolla SE

The Corolla SE sedan retails for $22,275, while the hatchback starts at $20,465. This trim comes with the larger engine and gains front sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and alloy wheels. You can add the manual transmission for $700.

The Premium package remains available, though it costs $1,500 in the SE. You could get the Premium package with Toyota’s telematics system for $2,265 or with telematics and a nine-speaker JBL stereo for $2,865. The SE also has a Nightshade Edition that features unique styling elements.

Toyota Corolla XLE

The Toyota Corolla XLE (MSRP: $24,225) reverts to the 1.8-liter engine but gains several features, including SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, a 7-inch digital driver display, HD Radio, and a moonroof.

The Connectivity package ($1,715) comes with a navigation system, the JBL stereo with nine speakers, and qi-compatible wireless device charging. For $2,165, you could get those plus adaptive headlights.

Toyota Corolla XSE

With a starting MSRP of $23,415 for the Corolla hatchback and $25,725 for the sedan, the top-of-the-line XSE features the more powerful engine but otherwise comes with most of the same features and options as the XLE trim.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

See 2021 Toyota Corolla specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Toyota Corolla offers a gentle ride, good maneuverability, and a user-friendly infotainment system. It also has a great predicted reliability rating, decent mpg estimates, and plenty of standard driver aids. However, if you’re after a compact car with a strong engine, lithe handling, or a large trunk, you may want to consider one of the Corolla's rivals instead.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Toyota Corolla is a smart pick in the small sedan class. We give it high marks for its smooth ride comfort, high-quality interior, and comprehensive list of advanced safety features. Holding it back is a smaller-than-average trunk and slow acceleration." -- Edmunds
  • "The Corolla is an excellent choice among compact cars. It comes loaded with standard safety features, [and it's] reliable, efficient, easy to drive, and a great value." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Despite being such a drastic improvement over its predecessor, the Corolla hardly leapfrogs to the top of its class; it merely reaches closer to parity. This is not an aspirational compact car like the new Mazda 3 with its daring and premium design, or the Volkswagen Golf with its class-above refinement, or even the Honda Civic with its fun-to-drive nature and bevy of sporty models. Instead, the Corolla sedan remains an honest small car: nothing more, nothing less, only one that's significantly better executed than the last few decades of Corollas." -- Car and Driver (2020)
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