The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is proof that small and affordable doesn’t have to mean low-rent and boring. The Corolla Hatchback is surprisingly stylish, well built, practical, and fun to drive around town. Overall, the Corolla Hatchback is a solid pick for those looking for a compact car that stands out in a sea of sameness.

Style

While the Corolla has long been lauded as a great car to get you from place to place without drama, the 2021 Corolla Hatchback does so while looking great. The Blue Flame paint is one of my favorite shades of paint found on any car at any price and reminds me of the optional Porsche Miami Blue found on Caymans and 911s for around $4000. Toyota, meanwhile, offers Blue Flame as a standard paint color.

Photo: Toyota

Automatic headlamps and LED taillights/DRLs are standard on all trims, while XSE models add LED foglamps with chrome upper grille surrounds. SE models are equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, while XSE models get sporty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels.

Power and Handling

The 2021 Corolla Hatchback is fitted with a 2.0-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder engine that makes 168-horsepower and 151lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a Dynamic Shift CVT transmission.

As with most cars of this class, the power is plenty to get the job done, but only just so. The Corolla Hatchback never feels sluggish, pulling away from stoplights or accelerating to pass on the highway, but this is not a hot hatchback. The CVT transmission does a good job of simulating a 10-speed automatic transmission and keeps the engine in the optimal place in the powerband without continually hunting for the right gear.

Photo: Toyota

For those looking for a more exciting Corolla experience, rumor has it that a GR hot hatch variant will be coming to the United States soon. (editor note: Toyota confirmed a GR Corolla for the US market in April of 2021)

On the driving side, the Corolla Hatchback is not as fun as the Honda Civic or the Mazda3, but still manages to keep a comfortable ride on all road surfaces. I experienced significant rain during the week I had with the Corolla, but the car handled really well in wet weather, and I never once felt anything but confident even at highway speeds in the wet. Unfortunately, a fair amount of wind and tire noise makes its way into the cabin.

The EPA rates the Toyota Corolla Hatchback fuel economy at 32 city, 41 highway, and 35mpg mixed. I observed 33.3 mpg during my week of mixed driving.

Interior & Cargo

Photo: Toyota

The interior of the Corolla Hatchback is very modern and fresh-looking and manages to look upscale. The materials themselves are of good quality but not as high-end as what can be found on competitors like the Mazda3. Seats are very comfortable and will serve backs well during long driving stints. Corolla Hatchback SE models receive manual six-way driver/four-way passenger seats wrapped in sport cloth, while XSE models get SoftTex leather with eight-way adjustable front seats.

Space in the Corolla Hatchback front seats is ample for average-size adults, but the back seat can get cramped if the driver or passenger are over 6-feet tall. The Corolla sedan has slightly more rear legroom than the Corolla Hatchback but at the expense of less cargo space.

Speaking of cargo space, the Corolla Hatchback boasts 17.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 23.0 cubic feet with the enhanced cargo kit (which replaces the spare tire with a tire repair kit). Toyota does not publish the EPA volume numbers for cargo space with the 60/40-split folding rear seats down but adds significant additional cargo room.

Features and Amenities

The Corolla Hatchback comes with the standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite, featuring pre-collision with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and road sign assistance.

Photo: Toyota

All 2021 Corolla Hatchback models have a standard eight-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. All models also receive a USB and Aux input in the lower part of the center stack and a USB port in the center console. In addition, XSE models add optional navigation voice recognition and a JBL audio system.

Final Thoughts

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a great car and should be on the list for any buyer looking for a capable, practical, stylish, safe, and affordable compact car. While the Corolla Hatchback doesn’t quite have the space the Honda Civic and Mazda3 offer, nor the performance of the Mazda3, the Corolla is probably the best all-around offering in the class.

Prices for the Corolla Hatchback range from $20,565 for a manual transmission SE to $23,515 for the XSE models.

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Zerin Dube