2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid review: The 21st century people’s car

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

The Corolla Hybrid offers 52 mpg and a lot of standard technology.

Kyle Hyatt / Roadshow

Throughout history, there have been numerous “people’s cars” – vehicles that offer great value and utility, making them attractive as a basic means of transportation. Cars like the Ford Model T, Volkswagen Beetle and Citroen 2CV come to mind. Today, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid also embodies this philosophy.

Like it

  • Incredible fuel savings
  • Comfortable interior
  • Well equipped for the price

I do not like

  • The engine sounds rough
  • The front passenger does not have much knee room
  • Quite slow

The Corolla Hybrid is neither fast nor fast, but what it lacks in punch it makes up for with efficiency. Power comes from a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces just 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Like Toyota’s other hybrid models, the Corolla uses the Atkinson combustion cycle which offers greater efficiency at the expense of power. The motor is mated to a permanent magnet motor offering 71 hp, powered by a 600 volt battery. Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a well-behaved continuously variable transmission.

According to the EPA, this base hybrid transmission is good for 53 miles per city gallon, 52 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg combined which, given the Corolla’s 11.4-gallon fuel tank, offers truly cruising range. impressive. Over the course of about 400 miles, I saw 50.6mpg – not quite EPA numbers, but any observed economy above 50mpg is pretty big in my book.

The Corolla’s chassis isn’t designed for thrills, but it’s perfectly competent for this car’s intended purpose. The front suspension consists of MacPherson struts while the rear uses a multi-link design. Toyota could have saved up here and used a rear torsion beam, but it didn’t, and the ride quality is better for it. The steering isn’t particularly communicative – not that I would expect it to be – but it is precise and well-thought-out, which adds to the driving pleasure. The brakes are ventilated discs in the front and solid discs in the rear and offer a decent pedal feel with plenty of stopping power.

On the road, the Corolla feels good. It is fine and generally feels solid. It performs well enough to make a winding road fun, if not thrilling, and the cabin is free of squeaks or rattles.

The interior is comfortable and, most importantly, durable.

Kyle Hyatt / Roadshow

Technology in general, and security technology in particular, is an increasingly important part of the “people’s machine” formula. Just because a vehicle is affordable to buy and operate doesn’t mean buyers are willing to sacrifice modern safety features or driving aids. Toyota delivers here too, with the robust Safety Sense 2.0 suite as standard. It includes a precollision braking system with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance, automatic high beam, traffic sign recognition and an excellent adaptive cruise control system.

The infotainment technology is also quite good. Toyota’s Entune system won’t win any awards for responsiveness or attractiveness, but it’s very functional and I appreciate the 8-inch touchscreen and inclusion of Apple CarPlay is Android Auto series compatibility. The lack of a premium stereo option on the Hybrid model is a bit of a disappointment, but the standard stereo will be totally adequate for most people.

The Corolla Hybrid’s interior is essential, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsightly. The fabric seats are comfortable and the material feels durable, as if it could withstand years of abuse. Ditto the internal plastics. Nothing will make a potential buyer ooh or ahh, but the cabin looks and feels good, particularly for the Corolla’s modest asking price. The driver’s seat has six-way adjustment and the front passenger has four-way movement, although the glove box design cuts knee room for taller riders. The rear seat lowers and has a 60/40 split, adding significantly to the Corolla’s practicality. Even with the rear seats up, the 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space is ample. Ikea racing is definitely not out of the Corolla’s reach.

Even this basic Corolla Hybrid is a good-looking little sedan.

Kyle Hyatt / Roadshow

The 2021 Corolla Hybrid starts at just $ 24,595, including $ 995 for the destination, and with a nearly nonexistent list of options, it’s close to what you’ll pay. My tester features a few niceties like paint protection film and a HomeLink rearview mirror and comes in at just under $ 26,000 all inclusive. Not bad. Plus, the Corolla Hybrid is a great alternative for people who want the space and efficiency of a Prius but don’t want, you know, a Prius.

Putting it all together, I feel absolutely justified in placing the Corolla Hybrid 2021 in the same pantheon as the Beetle or the 2CV. It is a vehicle designed to be ruthlessly efficient and extremely accessible to working class people. You could rack up miles on one of these and drive it in the ground for an extended period of time. Would I like to live with one? Happily. The Corolla Hybrid is a great car.