A sporty financial system automobile is extra than simply the sum of its components, however the components nonetheless consider. Depart too many issues on the desk, and the tip outcome will really feel purgatorial, trapped between what it’s and what it could possibly be. That, expensive readers, is the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex in a nutshell.
Do not take that to imply that the Corolla Apex’s upgrades are for show functions solely. Fairly the opposite, truly; the Apex packs plenty of tweaks that work to stay as much as its handling-adjacent badge. New springs decrease the physique by greater than half an inch, they usually work along side new shocks, strong sway bars and a singular tune for the power-steering system.
I can really feel each single improve. In reality, I can not cease feeling them. The Corolla Apex is demonstrably stiffer than its pedestrian sibling, fully an excessive amount of so, in actual fact. The one super-smooth street I expertise is met with a fantastic trip, however the second the pavement swaps over to one thing a little bit extra worn, the trip turns into tiring. Each bump or freeway growth joint is met with an extremely sharp vertical jerk, and nearly each undulation within the roadway will ship the Apex monitoring off-line.
After I’m truly giving ‘er the beans on a twisty backroad, the result’s as anticipated, with nearly no physique roll to talk of and an agility that I’ve a tough time ascribing to a Corolla. In every day use, nevertheless, the suspension turns into straight-up annoying, and shortly. Adaptive dampers, like these discovered on the Volkswagen GTI or Honda Civic Si, would go a great distance right here. You may suppose the Apex is akin to the Honda Civic Sport, however the Civic Sport’s trip high quality is so a lot better suited to every day use. The brakes are normal Corolla fare, they usually nonetheless present greater than sufficient stopping energy. The steering is properly weighted — very properly weighted, truly — but it surely’s not like there’s a lot suggestions going by way of it.
No-cost Dunlop SP Sport Maxx summer time tires wrap round my tester’s 18-inch alloys, which is midway to dishonest. Something on this section goes to really feel like twice the automobile in corners when it is sporting the identical rubber as a Subaru STI S209 or a Nissan GT-R Nismo.
The Corolla Apex nearly looks as if it is lacking one thing, and for my part, that one thing could be about 25 or 30 horsepower. This hopped-up ‘Rolla makes use of the identical engine as its higher-trim siblings: The two.0-liter four-cylinder engine places out simply 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, form of dragging its ft behind the Civic Sport’s 1.5-liter turbo 4 that makes 180 hp and 162 or 177 lb-ft (relying on transmission). Certain, there is a new exhaust on the Apex, however its bass-friendly tune is barely actually noticeable outdoors the automobile, or inside at decrease RPMs, and it does nothing to deal with output. Mixed with my tester’s optionally available CVT (a six-speed handbook is out there), the Apex’s powertrain is ok, shifting its manner by way of gear ratios at simulated shift factors that get a little bit sharper with a press of the Sport button on the middle console. Anyone get this factor a turbocharger, or some lower-down torque. One thing.
Actually, my favourite a part of the Corolla Apex is the best way it appears. The entrance finish’s extra aggressive intakes and the bronze accents inside them look correctly shouty with out wanting like a SEMA reject, and that go-fast aesthetic heads rearward by the use of the aforementioned alloys, some surprisingly sharp facet skirts and, in my tester’s case, a $375 rear wing that is on the tasteful facet of aggressive. It is like a miniature Camry TRD, particularly on this two-tone black-on-white getup. The inside of my SE Apex is adorned with snug material on the seats and a splash of white that defines the beltline with out creating annoying windshield reflections.
The Corolla’s white inside accents are good, however they do not lengthen to the highest of the dashboard, conserving windshield reflections from getting too loopy.
The Apex’s tech is all normal Toyota fare, which implies it is glorious. An 8-inch touchscreen is normal, working Toyota’s normal working system, which is a little bit low on graphic constancy however packs loads of options together with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration and a six-speaker audio system. It is also stacked to the brim with security methods, together with automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise management (for CVT variants), lane-departure warning and lane-keep help. Blind spot monitoring is normal on the XSE Apex and optionally available on the SE Apex.
It is all inexpensive, too. My SE Apex tester begins at $26,065 together with $995 for vacation spot, with the rear wing bringing the window sticker to $26,440. That is a pair grand greater than a Civic Sport Hatchback, which presents more room and a extra wise trip, but it surely’s a pair grand lower than a VW Golf GTI, which is… frankly, it is only a higher automobile all-around and price the additional scratch when you recognize each sporting pretensions and never being shaken to items consistently.
This is not the “Corolla sizzling hatch” you’ve got heard rumors about — not that you simply’d be prone to make that assumption, contemplating the Apex is not a hatchback. That automobile remains to be on the best way, and it ought to come toting a potent powertrain that can put hearth to the ft of automobiles just like the GTI. Whereas I hoped the Apex would have a bit extra of a middle-child strategy right here, appearing as an middleman between the bog-standard ‘Rolla and the forthcoming sports activities automobile, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex is, if something, a reminder that persistence is a advantage.