The Corolla has long been a favorite of families, parents with teenagers learning how to drive, and pretty much anyone seeking a reliable sedan. With an MSRP of $19,600 for the 2020 model year, the price reflects the car’s sensible nature. But the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex — a limited edition variant that costs upwards of $30,000 — is different in aesthetics and function.

The Corolla Apex will come in SE or XSE trims

With only 6,000 units of the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition available to consumers, this vehicle harbors some semblance of rarity. Rarity in and of itself isn’t worth anything — I once saw the front half of a minivan fused with a pickup truck bed, and it was amazing yet worthless. However, if the Corolla Apex has features that drivers can’t find in the rest of the Corolla lineup (or even with similarly sensible sedans from Toyota’s competitors), it may be worth the price jump.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex SE starts at $26,065 while the Apex XSE clocks in at $29,205.

Looks and function in the Corolla Apex

The Apex Edition is clearly more aesthetically appealing than the regular Corolla. This has a lot to do with its rear spoiler, bronze accents, and darkened windows. The 18-inch black wheels don’t hurt, either (and they’re 2.2 pounds lighter, making the vehicle itself marginally more aerodynamic). Drivers can pick from two-tone car paint or an all-black look.

Step inside the cockpit and you’ll find faux leather seating (as opposed to the regular cloth upholstery). Regardless of which Apex variant you choose, the seats let you adjust to eight unique settings.

Lighting on the Corolla Apex

Corolla apex headlights

Image Source: Caricos

The headlights on the Apex Edition have an axe-like appearance that seems pretty striking. The headlights, front turn signals, and taillamps are all LED. According to Toyota, the taillamps also have “smoked outer light lenses” for an unparalleled appearance in the rear.

Does performance match the price tag of the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex?

In some ways, yes. The biggest draw of the Corolla Apex is its suspension, which has been lowered by 0.6 inches and stiffened by an average of 40 percent more. The vehicle has its own coil springs with internal rebound shocks to make for smoother driving.

Experts who tested the Corolla Apex say the tires give more grip and the car corners flat, both of which are pros in my book.

But not every part of the Apex’s performance is worth the few extra thousand. The powertrain is exactly the same (a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that gives 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, plus a CVT or manual transmission).

Plus, the engine is kind of loud and the upgraded suspension may be a little too stiff. Overall, it seems like the upgraded trim could have a few more performance benefits to reason the cost (kind of like the Honda Civic Type R, which people are glad to spend an extra $12,000 on because of its wild nature).

Maybe the Corolla is better off being sensible

In my humble opinion, the Corolla is a sensible compact sedan that does its job well and good. It’s meant to be affordable, and fancifying it seems futile. I know not everyone will agree with me. But if I’m going to spend nearly $30,000 on a sedan, I’d rather drop that dough on a Honda Civic Si, Mazda6, or Subaru Legacy Limited.

Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    5 Comments

    1. I honestly don’t understand a fancier Corolla. Especially, since there didn’t appear to be too many noteworthy upgrades. But maybe that is just me. I was expecting more. At the end of the day, it is still a Corolla. And there is nothing wrong with that. So why not stick to the affordable one?

      1. I am right there with you!

    2. This is a very interesting move on Toyota’s part. I hope it does do well. Adding more variety to cars akin to the Type-R is always great.

    3. I will always love Toyotas. I find them to be economical and also long lasting. I dont like a loud motor so I will prefer to not have that on any of the cars. I love the fact that is leather seats.

    4. This vehicle looks attractive, but the performance is not. Mazda successfully made something similar, and it was called the Mazdaspeed. They offered turbocharged Mazda 3 front wheel drive and Mazda 6 all-wheel-drive models with an upgraded powertrain making 260 horsepower vs the standard models lazy 151 horsepower. That is a 100% increase in power. The suspension was lowered about 1.5 inches, came equipped with wider wheels and tires, and the vehicle was tuned and perfected on the Nürburgring. The Apex is some grade A BS for an extra 12,000 bucks. You would be a fool to buy this car.

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