I’ve always been a big fan of the Toyota Corolla for being a great compact sedan all-arounder. Corollas have always focused on good looks, packaging value, fuel economy, and safety features. Going back into the archives of Corolla history, you even had sport compact models that checked the performance box like the 80s Corolla AE86 and FX16 GT-S Hatchback. There was even the late 80s Corolla GT-S Sport Coupe that is still one of my favorite designs.
Aside from the early 2000s Corolla XRS, there’s been a long drought of enthusiast-oriented Corollas lately. This is going to change, of course, with the introduction of the Toyota GR Corolla, but the GR isn’t for everyone.
For individuals looking for something between the GR and the regular Corolla, Toyota has introduced the Corolla Apex Edition for 2022. While not an outright performance model, the Apex Edition aims to add a bit of spice to the relatively bland but safe Corolla.
The Corolla Apex builds on the SE and XSE trim levels and is powered by a DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 169 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, which drives the front wheels. This is the same engine as the regular SE and XSE models and has plenty of pep to have a fun driving experience.
My Corolla Apex tester had a CVT transmission, and a CVT is all that appears in the Toyota configurator, but six-speed manual transmission models were making the rounds in the press fleet. Toyota said only a “small number of SE grade units” would see a six-speed manual, but some manual transmission Apex Editions exist, if only a few.
Fuel Economy is rated at 34 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving, and I could easily match the EPAs numbers in my driving loops.
To separate the Apex from more pedestrian models, Toyota equipped the Corolla Apex Edition with a black body kit with bronze accents, a lower chin spoiler, body side moldings, a rear diffuser, and unique fog lights. An optional rear trunk spoiler is also available.
In the suspension department, Toyota gave the Corolla Apex Edition unique coil springs, which lower the car by 0.6 inches, with an increased spring rate to stiffen the ride in corners. Shock absorbers have been tuned to improve rebound and increase damping forces around vertical and roll movement. The Corolla Apex also gets unique stabilizer bars and jounce bumpers. Toyota says the changes account for a 47% increase in roll stiffness up front and 33% in the rear.
Corolla’s electronic power steering has been tweaked for the Apex Edition to provide a sportier response. A model-specific sports exhaust gives the Apex Edition a deeper tone and more volume when under wide-open throttle.
Corolla Apex receives a set of gloss black 18-inch aluminum wheels, which are 2.2lbs lighter per wheel than the standard offerings. All-season tires are standard, but Dunlop SportMaxx performance summer tires are optional.
The Apex Edition upgrades work together to give the car a more engaging driving experience. This isn’t a full-on sport compact car like the Corolla GR, but it’s still a noticeable difference in handling. The Corolla Apex is much flatter in the corners and provided enough confidence that I pushed the car much harder than I’d ever consider pushing a normal Corolla.
Inside, my Corolla Apex XSE tester featured black SofTex fabric upholstery on the seats, which is a very nice looking and feeling material. XSE models also have heated front seats and an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat.
The rest of the interior is standard Corolla fare. There’s plenty of shiny black plastic, but switch gear and materials are generally high quality throughout the cabin.
Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and can be controlled via the Corolla Apex’s 8-inch touch screen. The infotainment interface is a bit dated and could benefit from an update, but is otherwise functional and fast.
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition is one of the best sporty compact sedan values currently on the market. My XSE tester had a price-as-tested of $30,037 (including $995 destination) and included all the bells and whistles available on a Corolla. The Corolla Apex SE starts about $3k less and features the same driving dynamics of the XSE but misses a few of the niceties. That’s one hell of a value for a new car.
Performance-wise, the Corolla Apex isn’t going to compare to something like a Civic Si or Volkswagen GTI, but it’s not meant to. The Corolla GR will fill that niche and then some. The Corolla Apex is meant to add a level of fun and excitement to the Corolla lineup without losing out on value or practicality. In that sense, Toyota accomplished what it set out to with the Corolla Apex.