The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling car in automotive history with a long record of satisfying millions of practical-minded customers around the world. The fact updated versions are still being sold in every market where Toyota has managed to set up a dealership is a testament to the strength of the car’s underlying character.
The Corolla typically does not change much from one generation to the next. But the updates do incorporate shifts in the tastes and desires of a global audience even though Toyota has never been considered the most flexible company in the automotive world.
For the 2021 model year in the North American market, including the U.S., Toyota even managed to add a hatchback version capable of competing with the “hot hatches” from competitors such as Volkswagen and Honda. The results are a car with a manual transmission that can hold its own — coming in at $25,528, including the $995 destination charge — while remaining eminently affordable.
One of the big departures for the Corolla Hatchback is the move away from the traditional notch back sedan silhouette, which has been part of the car’s basic identity in the U.S. market for decades. But the Corolla easily morphs into a hatchback with a rather aggressive profile and a nice-looking rear hatch.
In addition, Toyota equipped the 2021 Corolla Hatchback with 18-inch wheels, a neatly done front fascia that supports the Toyota badge and nicely designed light fixtures both front and rear. In addition, the version I drove for a week was equipped with an appearance package, featuring a black roof, spoiler and side mirrors, lower rocker panel applique and door sill protectors. The package of extras was surprisingly inexpensive at less than $1,000 and gave the car a bold look.
Throughout the years, the interior of the Toyota Corolla has never been very fancy, but for its segment and price point, it always seemed to be a cut-above direct competitors. Toyota follows the same basic philosophy on the interior of the 2021 Corolla Hatchback. The cabin is neatly laid out and while the materials are not expensive, they are deftly used.
In addition, the hatchback comes with a heated sport seats with “leatherette” trim and power adjustment. The seat is quite comfortable even on longer drivers. The controls for the heating and air conditioning also are easy to reach as are the knobs and buttons for the entertainment system. Visibility from the driver’s seat is good, but the rear seats are a bit tight — but useable — and the interior provides a surprising amount of space for cargo or luggage.
The 2021 Corolla Hatchback was equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission, proving the manual gearbox might be on its last legs but it isn’t dead yet. Toyota sells cars around the world and the relatively small number of customers in the U.S. looking for manual transmission stand to benefit from Toyota’s continuing efforts to improve the clutch and 6-speed gearbox. The clutch goes down easily, and the shift lever moves easily through the gear and downshift is never a problem.
Since the 1970s, the front-wheel drive Corolla has lived on its reputation for efficiency and the 2021 Corolla Hatchback does not disappoint. It delivers a combined mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon, including 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Safety and Technology
While fuel-economy has always been one of the Corolla’s strong points, Toyota also has taken pains to add new technology to the car’s features. The 2021 Corolla Hatchback comes with dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights for dark roads and a backup camera.
It also is equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio connection and Bluetooth. For those wanting a little extra when it comes to safety technology, the Corolla hatch also features Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with pre-collision alert and pedestrian detection as well as 10-different airbags to protect the driver and passengers in frontal- and side-impact crashes as well as rollover accidents.
I know the Corolla has developed a reputation as a boring car to drive. But the 2021 Corolla Hatchback with a manual transmission is loads of fun. The 2.0-liter engine delivers 168 hp, which seems ample thanks to the car’s good power-to-weight ratio. It has plenty of zip thanks to the 2.0-liter engine and the manual is easy to handle.
However, the car’s steering also has quite a solid feeling to it and the brakes are very good. The suspension also gives the cars a nice steady feeling on all kinds of surfaces and while moving through curves. Driving a manual transmission on city streets in heavy traffic can be rather tedious, but the manual gearbox in the 2021 Corolla Hatchback shifts so nicely and the clutch works smoothly the tedium is reduced dramatically.
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE Specifications:
|Dimensions||L: 172 inches/W: 70.5 inches/H: 57.1 inches/Wheelbase: 103.9 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission|
|Fuel Economy||28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/31 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $23,415; As tested: $25,528, including $995 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
If you, and perhaps your significant other, are comfortable operating a manual transmission, the 2021 Corolla is an impressive value with a long list of equipment and features at a very affordable price — a rarity given the average transaction price for a new vehicle exceeds $41,000.
Moreover, in a fair number of vehicles selling for around $40,000, you don’t get as complete a suite of driver assistance features as is found in the 2021 Corolla Hatchback. In addition to helping your personal finances, it will also look good in the driveway or carport.
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is a Toyota Corolla?
The Toyota Corolla starts in the low $20K range and goes up from there. The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE price starts at $23,415 when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, and rises past the $25K mark after that, including the $995 destination and delivery charges.
What is the reliability of a Toyota Corolla?
The Toyota Corolla Reliability Rating is 4.5 out of 5.0, which ranks it 1st out of 36 for compact cars. The average annual repair cost is $362 which means it has excellent ownership costs. The severity of repairs is low while frequency of those issues is average, so major issues are uncommon for the Corolla.
Does the Toyota Corolla come equipped with Apple CarPlay?
It does come equipped with Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto, satellite radio connection and Bluetooth.