2021 Toyota Hatchback Corolla SE Nightshade - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Tasty price, MPG economy, and good handling
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Space utilization is the determining difference between the Corolla Hatchback and the Corolla sedan. Choose the hatchback and you instantly increase cargo volume by 5 cubic feet over the sedan. If that's not incentive enough, then compare the two body styles side by side. The sedan looks so much like all the other compact sedans on the market that its shape is virtually indistinguishable from the crowd. The hatchback, on the other hand, with its kicked up butt and tightly sculpted hindquarters turns a decent design into a great one. The Corolla Hatchback is a strikingly handsome package from any angle, especially the rear three-quarters view.
For 2021, Toyota offers a new look for the Corolla SE called the Nightshade edition. This glare-free cosmetic makeover, available on both the sedan and hatchback, blackens the following items: lower front grill surround, dual rear diffuser panel, rear spoiler, dual exterior rear view mirrors, outside door handles, side rocker panels, exterior badges and roof top shark fin antenna. Only three exterior colors are available - Super White, Midnight Black Metallic, and Classic Silver Metallic. Our test vehicle was finished in silver, which enhanced the sheen of the Nightshade appointments. To cap off the stealth illusion, Toyota fits the Nightshade with a set of gloss black 18 inch alloy rims mounting sticky (TW 280) Yokohama Avid GT radials (225/40R18).
For many potential buyers, the $22,485 base price of the Nightshade hatchback will be even more attractive than its appearance. Our test car carried not a single extra. With delivery and handling ($995), final total amounted to $23,460, making this Corolla one of the least expensive vehicles we have tested in the last calendar year. The fact that it's so fully equipped makes you wonder how Toyota can turn a profit when so many other similar compacts sell for close to $30,000. All Nightshade seats are covered with grippy black cloth. This material retains you especially well within the deeply contoured bolsters of the front seats. The 60/40 fold-down rear bench seat offers more limited accommodations. But up front, an 8 inch touchscreen provides easy access to a complimentary 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM. A similar 3 month run is also provided for 2GB of Wi-Fi Connect. Hands-free Bluetooth phone and music operation is always on tap at no extra charge, as is compatibility with Apple Car-Play, Amazon Alexa and Android Auto.
The retentive front seats proved quite handy when tackling twisty roads. The Corolla makes the most of its 168hp "Dynamic Force" 4 cylinder engine, by driving just the front wheels through a Constant Velocity Transmission (CVT). The steering wheel, nicely wrapped in leather, carries a pair of diminutive paddles for manual manipulation of the CVT's many speed ranges. The latest Corolla features a sophisticated combination of independent front and rear suspension that struts its stuff when the going gets twisty. The pliant Yokohama rubber combines with the nicely tempered spring and shock rates to produce a very lively and responsive sports package. The Nightshade Hatchback weighs just 3,060 pounds, so its power to weight ratio of 18.1 lb/hp is decent, if far from sizzling. Still, you will definitely have fun driving this responsive Toyota.
In addition to its good looks and good handling, one of the most enjoyable aspects of ownership will be the Corolla's gas mileage, which stands at 35MPG in overall driving. With its 13.2 gallon tank, the Nightshade should provide close to 450 travel miles between refills, a figure which the EPA says will save you $1,750 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle. So there are several compelling financial incentives to buy this tasty Corolla. First, there's the rock bottom sticker ticket. Then, there's the long-term dividend paid every time you don't fill up the gas tank. But there's also an emotional component that mitigates in favor of this Corolla. That would be the great design work that blesses its exterior, and the symphony of black accentuation that distinguishes the Nightshade Hatchback from any other Corolla on the road.
2021 TOYOTA COROLLA HATCHBACK SE NIGHTSHADE
- ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, 16-valve DOHC with dual VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 32MPG City/41MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $23,460
HYPES: Bargain of the Year
GRIPES: Hood Prop Rod Can Foul Fan Belt
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10