2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE new car reviews

Not much has changed since the last time we drove a Corolla Hatchback XSE, though Toyota does note that a new, limited Special Edition has been added to the lineup.

The Special Edition is still powered by 168-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-four that can be mated to either a six-speed manual or CVT transmission but adds a unique front splitter, rear bumper garnish, side skirts black 18-inch wheels and black rear spoiler. According to the spec sheet, only 1500 Special Editions will be built, and all are only available in Supersonic Red–although we drove the "standard" model. 

At any rate, what is the latest version of the Corolla Hatchback like to drive? Read our impressions below.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I’m a sucker for a five-door hatchback, and the newest Corolla takes that layout and turns it into a seriously lovely automobile. Our XSE-trim test car had the optional red with black roof treatment, and it was a downright handsome automobile, looking like one of those cool European models that you’d always see in magazines but never came to America. Well, this one is here, and it’s pretty cool.

The current Corolla has very few options, instead of packaging the various technology and comfort features into trim levels, with the XSE being the most well-equipped version. Indeed, the loaded Corolla feels very un-Corolla-like when it comes to content. A fully functional DIC, heated seats, automatic lighting, climate control, all the good stuff you’d find in a well-equipped model over on the Lexus side of the dealership, but in an entry-level Toyota model.

The features—and the overall presentation of the car—feels anything but entry-level, though. Even though it has the typical modern Toyota DIC menu weirdness, where some key features are buried a couple of levels deep in the menus—the Corolla also has a LOT of key controls accessible via buttons, knobs and switches. These controls may not be loved by the interface designers, but they are much appreciated by drivers looking for maximum functionality and convenience out of their cars.

Maybe the only downside to the current Corolla is a bit of sticker shock. A well-equipped XSE-trim Corolla hatchback is going to set you back almost $28,000. It’s a lot of features for that money, but adapting to a world where an entry-level car is nearly $30,000 is going to take some getting used to. Luckily there’s nothing entry-level about the features or the utility of the car.

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