Road Test: 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE


by Kivi



Who Doesn’t Like 52 MPG?

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
More mpg than advertised

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid sedan is rated at a stellar 52 mpg. We didn’t believe it, and we were right. In 286 miles of cruising Southern California freeways, Clean Fleet Report averaged 56.4 mpg, which is good but we knew not good enough. Over a 100-mile, all-freeway run with the dynamic radar (adaptive) cruise control set at 65 mph, we got a very robust 58.2 mpg. Sure, we know that 65 mph on SoCal freeways is just asking for trouble, but coming ever-so-close to 60 mpg is seriously impressive.

Smooth Acceleration and Efficient Performance

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system of a 1.8-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine combined with the 53-kilowatt electric motor for a total system 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with three driving modes of Eco, Power and EV.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Smooth until pushed

Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine and gasoline-only engine power. Fuel economy for the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is rated at 53 mpg city/52 highway/52 combined. Running on regular unleaded, the hybrid system was smooth, with the CVT programmed to err on the side of fuel efficiency. For more spirited performance, such as merging into freeway traffic, opt for the driver-selectable Power mode setting. This is where we kept the Corolla Hybrid for all in-town driving and hard acceleration. Otherwise, Eco was more than adequate for cruising along at-or-above highways speeds. The engine was quiet, except when under the most demanding acceleration, at which point the 1.8L engine was buzzy.

The lithium-ion battery is charged when applying the brakes or coasting through the regenerative charging system that converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.

When driving a hybrid, selecting the EV mode, primarily around town, forces the car to run solely on electric power. The Corolla Hybrid has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is a short .6 of a mile. So driving silently with zero emissions will be a very short proposition; it’s best saving that battery juice for parking garages or sneaking in late at night.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Subtle–the Toyota way

The 2,850-pound Corolla Hybrid was well-balanced and confident, considering it was not built for handling prowess. The independent MacPherson front and multi-link with stabilizer bar rear suspension made for a stable and controlled ride that absorbed most of the freeway bumps and dips. Overall, we were surprised with the ride of the Corolla Hybrid.

Stopping comes from Toyota’s electronically controlled brake system that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The stops were straight and consistent, producing a satisfying regenerative whirring.

One Model: Exterior

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid only comes in the LE trim line, with no option packages. Painted in Classic Silver Metallic, our Corolla Hybrid LE had a completely redesigned exterior from 2020, which has added a sleeker style and appearance than the outgoing model. The front end is dominated by the large grille, with a mesh insert, bordered by slim LED headlights and attractive LED accent lights. The side view is clean with color-keyed door handles and power exterior mirrors. Black B-pillars and 15-inch machined alloy wheels on 195/65 all-season tires complete the unadorned look.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Smooth sailing

The sweptback windshield seamlessly leads into the roof that peaks above the driver’s head. Finished off with a color-keyed shark fin antenna, the roof leads to the quickly sloping rear window, then onto a short trunk lid. LED tail and stoplights, connected by a slim accent strip, frame the rear end. Subtle “Hybrid” badging on the trunk and the Toyota logo on the nose, with a blue background, tell the world you are not stopping very often for fuel.

One Model: Interior

The Corolla Hybrid interior is clean and basic, but is very well-equipped with features such as push button start/stop and one-touch power windows. The gauges are large and well-placed for ease of viewing with white numbers on a black background. Visibility from all angles is excellent. The driver seat is six-way manually adjustable with the passenger getting four-way adjustments. The fabric-trimmed seats looked good and were comfortable to the touch. The rear fold-down seat, with a folding center armrest, splits 60/40. The soft-touch center console and dash, the frameless rear view mirror and the piano black trim accents were nice touches.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Knobs & buttons & ease of operaton

The tilt and telescopic three-spoke steering wheel has controls for audio, hands-free Bluetooth telephone operation and cruise control. The centerpiece of the Corolla Hybrid is the 8.0-inch touchscreen that rises from the dash. Here you will find controls for the eight-speaker AM/FM radio with Siri Eyes Free, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SiriusXM comes with a 90-day trial. There are two USB ports (one for power and one for connectivity) and the Toyota Safety Connect system.

A big thank you to Toyota for having volume and channel selection knobs. It may seem like a simple thing, but Clean Fleet Report reviews hundreds of cars a year, and our single most common challenge is operating an infotainment system without knobs. Sitting just below the sound system is the automatic climate control that had both push buttons and knobs for easy operation.


2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Style + fuel economy

The 2021 Corolla Hybrid LE is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, featuring advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. Additional active and passive safety features include 10 air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and an engine immobilizer.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE has a base MSRP of $24,455, including the $995 delivery and processing fee. Clean Fleet Report’s Corolla Hybrid LE, with $1,639 in options and the $995 delivery fee, had a final price of $26,094.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE comes with these warranties.

  • Hybrid Battery – 10 years/150,000 miles
  • Hybrid Components – Eight years/100,000 miles                     
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Basic – Three years/36,000 miles      
  • Maintenance Plan – Two years/25,000 miles
  • Anti-perforation – Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Two years/25,000 miles                                  

Observations: 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE

The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling vehicle in the world, according to Toyota. And Toyota is the largest seller of hybrid vehicles in the world. In its 12th generation and with 46 million in sales since 1966, the Corolla is the hands-down king of compact cars. But to keep that lofty perch, sitting still will not do. So what could be more logical than to completely redesign the Corolla and offer it for the first time ever as a hybrid.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
MPG–an added selling point

Built in Aichi, Japan, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE is an extremely economical vehicle that should cover all your driving needs, whether it’s commuting, in-town errands or long road trips. It also is competitively priced, especially when considering the standard safety and convenience features, as well as the vaunted Toyota build quality and reliability.

Visit your Toyota dealer and request to speak with one of their factory trained hybrid specialists. Then, take the Corolla Hybrid out for a lengthy test drive. See how this fuel sipping compact sedan fits your driving style and needs. If you don’t like spending money on fuel, it should fit your needs quite well.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.

Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Toyota.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy—Compact Hybrid Options

Road Test: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid (last year’s model)

Road Test: 2020 Honda Insight Hybrid

Road Test: 2020 Toyota Prius Hybrid

Road Test: 2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

The post Road Test: 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE first appeared on Clean Fleet Report.

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