2021 Toyota Corolla Apex first drive review: Great idea, mediocre execution

Jeffrey Cuebas

A sporty economic climate motor vehicle is extra than just the sum of its components, but the components continue to factor in. Go away way too numerous issues on the desk, and the stop outcome will feel purgatorial, trapped among what it is and what it could be. That, dear visitors, is the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex in a nutshell.

Never acquire that to suggest that the Corolla Apex’s updates are for show needs only. Quite the opposite, really the Apex packs a number of tweaks that get the job done to live up to its handling-adjacent badge. New springs reduce the body by extra than 50 percent an inch, and they get the job done in conjunction with new shocks, solid sway bars and a unique tune for the energy-steering process.

I can feel each individual single improve. In truth, I are not able to cease feeling them. The Corolla Apex is demonstrably stiffer than its pedestrian sibling, completely way too substantially so, in truth. The a person tremendous-clean street I encounter is achieved with a high-quality experience, but the second the pavement swaps above to a little something a minimal extra worn, the experience gets tiring. Every bump or highway growth joint is achieved with an exceptionally sharp vertical jerk, and just about each individual undulation in the roadway will deliver the Apex tracking off-line.

When I’m really supplying ‘er the beans on a twisty backroad, the outcome is as predicted, with just about no body roll to communicate of and an agility that I have a difficult time ascribing to a Corolla. In each day use, nevertheless, the suspension gets straight-up annoying, and rapidly. Adaptive dampers, like those uncovered on the Volkswagen GTI or Honda Civic Si, would go a extended way right here. You could possibly feel the Apex is akin to the Honda Civic Activity, but the Civic Sport’s experience high quality is so substantially greater suited to each day use. The brakes are conventional Corolla fare, and they continue to deliver extra than plenty of halting energy. The steering is nicely weighted — pretty nicely weighted, really — but it is not like you will find substantially suggestions going by way of it.

No-value Dunlop SP Activity Maxx summer season tires wrap close to my tester’s eighteen-inch alloys, which is midway to cheating. Just about anything in this segment is going to feel like twice the motor vehicle in corners when it is sporting the same rubber as a Subaru STI S209 or a Nissan GT-R Nismo.

The Corolla Apex just about seems like it is lacking a little something, and in my impression, that a little something would be about 25 or thirty horsepower. This hopped-up ‘Rolla works by using the same motor as its higher-trim siblings: The 2.-liter four-cylinder motor puts out just 169 horsepower and 151 pound-ft of torque, kind of dragging its ft guiding the Civic Sport’s one.5-liter turbo four that can make 180 hp and 162 or 177 lb-ft (depending on transmission). Absolutely sure, you will find a new exhaust on the Apex, but its bass-welcoming tune is only really obvious outdoors the motor vehicle, or within at reduce RPMs, and it does nothing at all to deal with output. Merged with my tester’s optional CVT (a six-speed handbook is offered), the Apex’s powertrain is high-quality, relocating its way by way of equipment ratios at simulated shift points that get a minimal sharper with a press of the Activity button on the heart console. Any person get this factor a turbocharger, or some reduce-down torque. Something.

Honestly, my favourite section of the Corolla Apex is the way it seems. The front end’s extra aggressive intakes and the bronze accents in them look appropriately shouty without having looking like a SEMA reject, and that go-rapid aesthetic heads rearward by way of the aforementioned alloys, some incredibly sharp aspect skirts and, in my tester’s situation, a $375 rear wing that’s on the tasteful aspect of aggressive. It’s like a miniature Camry TRD, specially in this two-tone black-on-white getup. The inside of my SE Apex is adorned with snug cloth on the seats and a splash of white that defines the beltline without having building annoying windshield reflections.

The Corolla’s white inside accents are nice, but they you should not lengthen to the top of the dashboard, maintaining windshield reflections from obtaining way too insane.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

The Apex’s tech is all conventional Toyota fare, which suggests it is superb. An 8-inch touchscreen is conventional, functioning Toyota’s standard operating process, which is a minimal small on graphic fidelity but packs plenty of attributes including Apple CarPlay, Android Automobile, Amazon Alexa integration and a six-speaker audio process. It’s also stacked to the brim with safety programs, including automatic crisis braking, adaptive cruise manage (for CVT variants), lane-departure warning and lane-hold assist. Blind place monitoring is conventional on the XSE Apex and optional on the SE Apex.

It’s all very affordable, way too. My SE Apex tester commences at $26,065 including $995 for location, with the rear wing bringing the window sticker to $26,440. Which is a couple grand extra than a Civic Activity Hatchback, which gives extra space and a extra wise experience, but it is a couple grand less than a VW Golfing GTI, which is… frankly, it is just a greater motor vehicle all-close to and value the more scratch if you appreciate the two sporting pretensions and not staying shaken to pieces regularly.

This is just not the “Corolla very hot hatch” you’ve got listened to rumors about — not that you would be probable to make that assumption, looking at the Apex is just not a hatchback. That motor vehicle is continue to on the way, and it should really occur toting a powerful powertrain that will put hearth to the ft of cars like the GTI. Whilst I was hoping the Apex would have a little bit extra of a middle-child technique right here, acting as an intermediary among the lavatory-conventional ‘Rolla and the forthcoming sports motor vehicle, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex is, if nearly anything, a reminder that tolerance is a virtue.

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