Plenty of buyers will be impressed by the Toyota Prius' fuel economy, but no amount of frugal fuel-sipping would ever convince us to purchase such a strange-looking vehicle, but the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a different matter entirely. The Corolla received its hybrid drivetrain last year, and the mode carries over into 2021 with some mild changes while retaining its excellent blend of style and efficiency. With the Corolla Hybrid, you can enjoy the same stellar range and fuel economy found in a Prius, without wanting to vomit when looking at it. You certainly won't see images of the Corolla Hybrid on the cover of magazines, but Toyota's compact sedan isn't unattractive by any measure.
Powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors, the Corolla Hybrid produces 121 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque, the same amount found in the Prius. It's not quick, but the hybrid returns fuel economy figures well into the 50 mpg range. Toyota's Safety Sense 2.0 suite bundles in tons of standard safety features, even if the Corolla Hybrid only comes in a single, low-level trim. With competitors like the Honda Insight and Hyundai Ioniq staring it down, the Corolla Hybrid makes a compelling argument for itself with a stellar value proposition and amazing fuel economy.
The Toyota Corolla got its first hybrid powertrain last year and has since gone on to be one of the most efficient and cost-effective cars in its class in the US. The hybrid Corolla, as with the rest of the Corolla range, benefits from a few new additions for 2021: all models gain Android Auto capability and SiriusXM with a three-month all-access trial. Safety has also been enhanced with rear side airbags. Rear cross-traffic alert with a blind-spot monitor is now optional on LE Hybrid vehicles. All models gain auto engine shut-off functionality.
Finding a 2021 Corolla Hybrid for sale won't be an issue, as these cars are proving to be very popular amongst young families and older generations that appreciate its low cost, efficiency, and comfort. With an MSRP of only $23,400 excluding tax, registration, and a destination fee of $955, the Corolla Hybrid's price places it directly alongside competitors such as the $22,930 Honda Insight and $23,200 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
We've commented in our 2020 review of the Corolla Hybrid that it drives with comfort rather than dynamism, which is entirely understandable when you look at the package as a whole. The mere fact that this car drives on 15-inch wheels should give you an idea of what you can expect. Around town, the Corolla Hybrid loves to soak up slow speed bumps, and the cabin is beautifully isolated from the outside world, which makes the driving experience even more refined. The same can be said of the driving experience on the highway; it's surprisingly refined for a car in this price bracket. Don't push it too hard, though; those small wheels offer the grip of a hockey puck, and the brakes can be grabby as they switch between friction and regenerative braking.
While the Corolla Hybrid fails to live up to the level of enjoyment of the standard Corolla or the Corolla Apex, it far outshines the Toyota Prius, which handles like a blubbering mess. If you are coming from a Prius, the Corolla Hybrid will feel like a ray of sunshine in the handling department. With a new set of wheels and tires, we predict the Corolla Hybrid could almost put a smile on your face. The steering is surprisingly accurate, and the suspension doesn't roll too much before the eco tires decide to let go. For a vehicle that was designed purely for fuel economy, it doesn't leave you dreading every commute.
After spending a week in the Corolla Hybrid, we are convinced that this might quietly be the best car that Toyota makes right now. What we have here is a Toyota Prius that no longer carries the stigma perpetuated by its hideous styling. It may not be a beauty queen, but the Corolla Hybrid looks like something that could go without drawing attention to its miserly nature.
Bundled with Toyota's excellent hybrid lineup, we think the Corolla Hybrid is the perfect excuse for Toyota to phase the Prius out of its lineup for good. We'd like to see some higher trim levels above the LE model, but priced with an attractive MSRP of $23,400, the Corolla Hybrid is a bargain for buyers who just want to get from point A to point B by using the least amount of fuel possible. The Honda Insight offers more features and luxury at the detriment of fuel economy and the Hyundai Ioniq suffers from the same strange styling as the Prius. So if you want a fuel sipper that's affordable and full of safety tech, the Corolla Hybrid is a top option.
The 2021 Corolla Hybrid is exclusively available in LE trim, so you don't get a say in the matter. What you do get, however, is a well-specced mid-range car that offers excellent levels of tech and safety. Toyota doesn't give you much in the way of packages, but there is an option to fit a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert for an additional $500. For that small price, we'd do it. Everything else comes standard. The exterior of the LE Hybrid features 15-inch alloy wheels, while the interior gets manually-adjustable front seats, push-button start, and single-zone climate control. The infotainment system consists of an eight-inch touchscreen display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a six-speaker sound system. The Toyota Safety Sense suite adds forward collision warning with pedestrian warning, attention assist, lane keep assist, and traffic sign assist. We'd toss on a nice set of aftermarket alloy wheels, but those would hurt the car's stellar fuel economy numbers by a small percentage.
|Toyota Corolla Hybrid||134 hp||50/43 mpg||$23,050|
|Honda Insight||151 hp||55/49 mpg||$25,760|
|Toyota Prius||194 hp||57/56 mpg||$27,450|
The eco-friendly sedan is getting cheaper and more stylish by the year. But one such model that proves just how far we've come in the battle against dull hybris is the Honda Insight. The Insight is based on the venerable Honda Civic and has seen the addition of many new standard features for 2021. Power is provided by a 1.5-liter petrol engine and electric hybrid system. Total power output is 151 hp and 197 lb-ft, which is significantly more than the Toyota Corolla. This makes the Insight a better car to drive and live with on a day to day basis, and the best thing is, despite this power advantage, the Insight will still deliver 55/49/52 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The Insight is a much more fun car to drive on the road, the interior is well specced, and there are more options on offer than the Toyota. The interior space and trunk are also more spacious, and the Insight has been awarded a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, making it the safer car. We'd go with the better-looking Honda, despite the Corolla's benefits.
The Toyota Prius has been around since 1997 and is still one of the ugliest cars in the Toyota fleet, although it is one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road - its biggest selling point. The fact that competitors, and Toyota itself, are offering more hybrid models puts into question the future of the Prius, but for now, it is still an excellent eco-warrior. Powering the both is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine producing 96 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. That power is supplemented by an electric motor for combined system outputs of 121 hp. Power is sent to the front, or all four wheels via a CVT transmission. The fact that the Prius is offered in AWD is a major benefit over the Corolla. Fuel consumption is an amazing 58/53/56 mpg city/highway combined for the L Eco trim, which trumps the Corolla by a fair margin, although AWD variants don't fare quite as well. On the interior side, the Prius has a more modern design which we prefer, and features are comparable with the Corolla. Maximum cargo capacity is 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats which eclipses the 13.1 cubic feet on offer in the Corolla. Both are sedate in terms of dynamics. We'd choose the ugly but capable Prius here.
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