The 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition Is the Sports Sedan Mom Says ‘We Have at Home’

169 horsepower surely has the Civic Si terrified.

byPeter Holderith|
Toyota News photo


Sports sedans can be a practical way to get into the world of enthusiast motoring. The formula is simple: stiffen up the suspension a bit, make it look more aggressive (add some RED), and then increase horsepower appropriately. The new Corolla Apex could've been a poster child for that classic formula, but this car just doesn't quite get it over the line, at least on paper. While the chassis has been upgraded for corner carving and, yes, nailing the apex, the engine has received... one extra horsepower. 

It's like what you get when you ask mom for a sport sedan, and she says we have a sport sedan at home. The Corolla Apex is what we have at home, folks. 

Let's not dwell on the negative, though. There are a few interesting things about this car that are worth talking about. To start, just look at it. While it may not fare much better on the road than a regular 2.0-liter Corolla, it does at least look the part. And thank goodness for this: no red accents! Bronze has been chosen instead of the classic crimson. What a breath of fresh air. Who needs horsepower when we have bronze? I'm feeling better about this thing already.

And all of this bronze tinsel and black aero parts do actually reflect some suspension upgrades underneath. The Corolla Apex gets new solid sway bars that help increase the roll stiffness by 46% in the front and 33% in the rear. The whole car is also lowered by 0.6 inches thanks to coil springs unique to this model. Unique to this model as well are new shock absorbers with more intense damping and a retuned electric power steering system.

The unsprung weight has also been reduced thanks to a set of unique gloss black wheels that are flow-formed and bring down the weight by 2.2 pounds per corner.  Toyota claims they improve brake cooling as well. An optional summer tire is also available to increase cornering grip if you're into that kind of thing. 

The new lighter gloss black wheels in question, Toyota

But let's talk about this one extra horsepower—it hasn't just been manifested out of thin air. In fact, it's thanks to a new catback exhaust system. The business end of this new exhaust is a 3.5-inch exhaust tip that's unique to this model, and all of these new parts are said to give the Corolla's naturally aspired, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine a bit more howl, especially at wide-open throttle. 

Speaking of that engine, there are three interesting things about it. The first is that it has 13:1 compression, so don't put regular gas in it. The second is that it has both port and direct fuel injection. That's cool, right? It's also 40% thermally efficient, which is high for a road-going engine.

Engines are great. We love engines here at The Drive.

We also love transmissions, particularly manual transmissions. That's where there's a bit of a speedbump here, actually. See, the Corolla Apex will be available with a stick—a good one at that—it's Toyota's six-speed "iMT." It has automatic rev-matching, which is nice. It's also only been available on the SE when it comes to the sedan, so the Apex adds another trim where it's offered. Just hope you're one of the 120 people that's lucky enough to get it on the Apex. See what I did there? Just snuck that in at the end.

Toyota's 6-speed iMT, Toyota

Yes—most of the Apex editions, 5,880 of them, actually, will receive the automatic CVT. Only a very small fraction will be made with the iMT. While that may be a paltry amount, let's be thankful it exists at all. We can't take that stuff for granted anymore.

There are a few exclusive color combinations available; Cement with Black Sand Pearl roof; Super White with Black Sand Pearl roof; and Black Sand Pearl. The interior upholstery is also bespoke to this car, with a cloth seating surface surrounded by some faux-leather that Toyota calls SofTex. It all looks very nice, very sporty.

So what is this car? Well, it's set to be a sort of looks-like sports sedan that rides a bit harder I suppose. Perhaps a good first car if you want to lease/buy something for your kid! That one extra horsepower is something I would bring up at a high school lunch table, at least.

That's really what this car is then. A bronze-trimmed one-horsepower flex on other Corolla owners. Could be worse.

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