2021 Toyota Corolla vs 2021 Toyota Prius

2021 Toyota Corolla
2021 Toyota Corolla
$20,025MSRP
Overview
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2021 Toyota Prius
2021 Toyota Prius
$24,525MSRP
Overview
Overview
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2021 Toyota Corolla
$20,025MSRP
Overview
Overview
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2021 Toyota Prius
$24,525MSRP
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Overview
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CarGurus highlights

Winning Vehicle Image

According to CarGurus experts, the overall rating for the 2021 Toyota Corolla was 7.8 out of 10, while the 2021 Toyota Prius scored 6.2 out of 10. The higher rating for the Corolla reflects its better blend of aesthetics, driving dynamics, infotainment technology, and overall value. Although the Prius excels in fuel efficiency and cargo space, its unconventional design and lower-rated driving experience cannot match the Corolla's more balanced offering. Therefore, if you are looking for the best overall vehicle between the two, the 2021 Toyota Corolla emerges as the more compelling choice.

Overview

MSRP

$20,025

MSRP

$24,525

Average price

$19,324

Average price

$23,773

Listings

2462

Listings

179
Ratings & Reviews
User Reviews
User Reviews

Expert reviews

7.8 out of 10

Expert reviews

6.2 out of 10
Pros
  • Standard advanced safety features
  • Fun to drive
  • Manual transmission available
Cons
  • Noisy
  • Outdated technology
Pros
  • Fuel-efficient
  • Quiet cabin
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Potentially polarizing design
  • Sluggish performance

2021 Toyota Corolla Reviews Summary

Everybody knows somebody who owns or has owned a Toyota Corolla. Thanks to a deserved reputation for affordability, reliability, and efficiency, the Corolla is what comes to mind when all you want is a cheap, dependable, and thrifty set of wheels.

Over the nameplate’s 55-year history, Toyota built a handful of Corollas that were anything but rolling appliances. But those fun-to-drive gems were relative rarities. Under the tenure of Akio Toyoda, the automaker’s current president and a man who loves to drive, the Corolla has become something more than a bore. It’s a car that makes you want to cruise instead of snooze.

We’re talking about the Corolla SE and XSE, of course. Toyota still makes dull and duller versions of its compact car, but the SE and XSE trim levels add some spice to the basic commuter-car recipe.

This year, the 2021 Toyota Corolla SE and XSE are available in a new limited-production Apex Edition flavor. It’s got a track-tuned sport suspension, a lowered ride height, revised steering calibration, a sport exhaust system, and lightweight 18-inch gloss black aluminum wheels that you can wrap in optional summer performance tires. Unfortunately, it also comes with a “Lookit me, Officer, I like to go fast!” body kit.

Fearing this would be the example Toyota sent to us for review, we instead happily accepted the key fob to a Barcelona Red Corolla XSE and discovered that you don’t need the Apex Edition treatment to enjoy driving this car.

2021 Toyota Prius Reviews Summary

To many people, cars are appliances made to serve a function. These consumers own a car because they need to get from where they are to where they’re going, and with a minimum of hassle, expense, or discomfort. Reliability, efficiency, safety, and economy are the critical deciding factors, and the 2021 Toyota Prius delivers on all fronts.

Confusingly, for 2021, the Prius lineup offered a 2020 Edition. Toyota built just 2,020 examples to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first Prius sold in the U.S. market. It has blacked-out trim, black 17-inch wheels, a body-color rear spoiler, and comes in Supersonic Red or new Wind Chill paint colors.

Additionally, Toyota improved the 2021 Prius’s driving-assistance systems by making Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 standard across the board. Android Auto is also standard (joining Apple CarPlay), except for the unique infotainment system in the Prius Limited.

No video found
Popular Features & Specs

Engine

1.8L 139 hp I4

Engine

1.8L 121 hp I4 Hybrid

Drive Train

FWD

Drive Train

FWD

Seating Capacity

5

Seating Capacity

5

EV Battery Capacity

EV Battery Capacity

0.7 kWh

MPG City

30

MPG City

58

MPG Highway

38

MPG Highway

53
2021 Toyota Corolla
2021 Toyota Corolla
$20,025MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Toyota Prius
2021 Toyota Prius
$24,525MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Toyota Corolla
$20,025MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now
2021 Toyota Prius
$24,525MSRP
Overview
Overview
OverviewShop Now

CarGurus highlights

Winning Vehicle Image

According to CarGurus experts, the overall rating for the 2021 Toyota Corolla was 7.8 out of 10, while the 2021 Toyota Prius scored 6.2 out of 10. The higher rating for the Corolla reflects its better blend of aesthetics, driving dynamics, infotainment technology, and overall value. Although the Prius excels in fuel efficiency and cargo space, its unconventional design and lower-rated driving experience cannot match the Corolla's more balanced offering. Therefore, if you are looking for the best overall vehicle between the two, the 2021 Toyota Corolla emerges as the more compelling choice.

Overview
MSRP
$20,025
$24,525
Average price
$19,324
$23,773
Listings
Ratings & Reviews
User reviews
4.2
4.8
Expert reviews

7.8 out of 10

Read full review

6.2 out of 10

Read full review
Pros & cons
Pros
  • Standard advanced safety features
  • Fun to drive
  • Manual transmission available
Cons
  • Noisy
  • Outdated technology
Pros
  • Fuel-efficient
  • Quiet cabin
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Potentially polarizing design
  • Sluggish performance
Summary

Everybody knows somebody who owns or has owned a Toyota Corolla. Thanks to a deserved reputation for affordability, reliability, and efficiency, the Corolla is what comes to mind when all you want is a cheap, dependable, and thrifty set of wheels.

Over the nameplate’s 55-year history, Toyota built a handful of Corollas that were anything but rolling appliances. But those fun-to-drive gems were relative rarities. Under the tenure of Akio Toyoda, the automaker’s current president and a man who loves to drive, the Corolla has become something more than a bore. It’s a car that makes you want to cruise instead of snooze.

We’re talking about the Corolla SE and XSE, of course. Toyota still makes dull and duller versions of its compact car, but the SE and XSE trim levels add some spice to the basic commuter-car recipe.

This year, the 2021 Toyota Corolla SE and XSE are available in a new limited-production Apex Edition flavor. It’s got a track-tuned sport suspension, a lowered ride height, revised steering calibration, a sport exhaust system, and lightweight 18-inch gloss black aluminum wheels that you can wrap in optional summer performance tires. Unfortunately, it also comes with a “Lookit me, Officer, I like to go fast!” body kit.

Fearing this would be the example Toyota sent to us for review, we instead happily accepted the key fob to a Barcelona Red Corolla XSE and discovered that you don’t need the Apex Edition treatment to enjoy driving this car.

To many people, cars are appliances made to serve a function. These consumers own a car because they need to get from where they are to where they’re going, and with a minimum of hassle, expense, or discomfort. Reliability, efficiency, safety, and economy are the critical deciding factors, and the 2021 Toyota Prius delivers on all fronts.

Confusingly, for 2021, the Prius lineup offered a 2020 Edition. Toyota built just 2,020 examples to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first Prius sold in the U.S. market. It has blacked-out trim, black 17-inch wheels, a body-color rear spoiler, and comes in Supersonic Red or new Wind Chill paint colors.

Additionally, Toyota improved the 2021 Prius’s driving-assistance systems by making Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 standard across the board. Android Auto is also standard (joining Apple CarPlay), except for the unique infotainment system in the Prius Limited.

Video
No video found
Popular Features & Specs
Engine
1.8L 139 hp I4
1.8L 121 hp I4 Hybrid
Drive Train
FWD
FWD
Seating Capacity
5
5
EV Battery Capacity
0.7 kWh
MPG City
30
58
MPG Highway
38
53
Look and feel
2021 Toyota Corolla
8/10
2021 Toyota Prius
5/10
The 2021 Toyota Corolla stood out as one of the most visually appealing Corollas in recent years, particularly in its 12th-generation design. When opting for the SE or XSE trim levels, buyers were treated to sportier design elements such as sport-design bumpers, a mesh grille insert, a matching diffuser panel, a subtle body kit, twin-outlet exhausts, and sharp-looking 18-inch aluminum wheels. The Celestite Gray metallic paint, with its beautiful blue undertone, provided a genuinely attractive finish. However, there were design quirks that detracted slightly from its appeal. The hood shut line, for instance, extended to the headlight assembly and merged into the jutting bumper, giving the impression of an unintentional overbite and an unnecessarily large front grille. The rear quarter view was the Corolla's best angle but was also slightly over-styled, even in its standard versions. The new Apex Edition exacerbated some of these design oddities. For those seeking a less conspicuous presence on the road, the Corolla L, LE, or XLE were ideal choices. Toyota also offered a Corolla Hybrid, primarily in the LE trim, for those wanting a budget-friendly path to over 50 mpg. The Corolla SE and XSE, priced between $22,375 and $25,825 respectively, provided a sportier driving experience with a more powerful engine and different driving modes. The XSE with the optional Connectivity Package and additional floor mats brought the total cost to a competitive $28,704. Inside, the Corolla XSE impressed with its high-quality materials, including leatherette for the dashboard and dense padding for the upper door panels. The simplified and minimalist layout added to the car's intrinsic appeal, although storage for everyday items was somewhat lacking due to the form-over-function center console design. The 2021 Toyota Prius, conversely, retained its signature boomerang-shaped hood and roofline, a design choice that has been part of its identity for more than 15 years. While this look was once necessary for maximizing aerodynamic efficiency, other manufacturers had since found ways to achieve similar results without such unconventional styling. The interior of the Prius was equally unconventional. Instrumentation was centrally mounted near the windshield, and the transmission controls were a dashboard toggle lever and a "Park" button. The dashboard curved dramatically into the door panels, with a central infotainment pod jutting toward the front passengers. Gloss-black trim ubiquitous throughout the interior was a magnet for dust and fingerprints. Toyota offered the Prius in multiple trims, each with varying levels of equipment. The car ranged in price from $24,525 to $32,650, with our 2020 Edition test model clocking in at $31,295. Despite its odd interior design, the Prius provided substantial utility typical of a crossover SUV without the accompanying rugged looks or ground clearance.
Performance
2021 Toyota Corolla
8/10
2021 Toyota Prius
5/10
The 2021 Toyota Corolla SE and XSE models were powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 169 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. The Dynamic Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT), paddle shifters, and a Sport driving mode were standard, offering a drivetrain that provided more sportiness than one might expect. For those inclined, a six-speed manual gearbox was also available with the SE trim for an additional $200. The XSE's Dynamic Shift CVT proved to be a superior example of this transmission type, eliminating much of the typical drivetrain slip thanks to a mechanical first gear. Even with occasional droning, it managed to remain reasonably smooth thanks to its ten programmed ratios. Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform shared by various models, the Corolla boasted a low center of gravity and enhanced driving dynamics. Its mechanical components included electric steering, vented front brakes, solid rear disc brakes, and a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. The XSE's 18-inch wheels and aggressive all-season tires added to its sporty appeal. Despite limited power, the XSE demonstrated reliable handling characteristics, making it comparable to cars like the Honda Civic or Mazda3. In terms of fuel economy, the Corolla XSE returned an average of 34 mpg in combined driving per EPA estimates, although our test revealed a slightly lower 31.1 mpg under mixed conditions. In contrast, the 2021 Toyota Prius emphasized efficiency over performance. The L Eco version boasted an impressive 56 mpg in combined driving, while other front-drive models achieved 52 mpg, with AWD-e models averaging 49 mpg. During testing, the Prius 2020 Edition averaged 47.5 mpg, below the EPA estimates. The Prius paired a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 53-kilowatt electric motor, using an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT) and either a lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride battery, depending on whether the vehicle was FWD or AWD.e. With a total system output of 121 horsepower, it felt modest at best, although the immediate torque from the electric motor provided decent low-speed acceleration. Its electric-only driving mode at speeds under 25 mph was designed to conserve fuel further. The inclusion of Eco, Normal, and Power driving modes aimed to optimize either efficiency or responsiveness, but Power mode mainly added noise without a perceivable increase in acceleration. The car also offered an increased regenerative braking mode to help capture more energy during deceleration. The Prius, like the Corolla, used the TNGA platform, enhancing its agility and allowing it to handle twisty roads with unexpected enthusiasm. Although the driving experience was somewhat marred by the powertrain's droning noise and its economy-focused tires, it still managed to offer predictable handling and commendable brake pedal feel due to regenerative braking.
Form and function
2021 Toyota Corolla
6/10
2021 Toyota Prius
6/10
Interior space and comfort in the 2021 Toyota Corolla SE and XSE trims were noteworthy, especially with the added luxury features of the XSE. The SofTex leatherette seats with striped fabric inserts and heated front seats, combined with an eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment, significantly enhanced the driving experience. These features made the Corolla more comfortable and accessible, even though the front passenger seat lacked a height-adjustment feature. The rear seating, though offering solid support, was somewhat cramped in terms of headroom and legroom, with no rear air conditioning vents. Nevertheless, the Corolla’s trunk provided a decent 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space, although this fell short compared to some competitors. The hatchback variant did better with 17.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats, though no interior handle was present to close the trunk lid easily. People often underestimated the interior space of the 2021 Toyota Prius. It comfortably seated five adults, although Toyota’s soft but sticky SofTex synthetic leather seats were not universally praised. Our test model included heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, making it relatively easy to find a good driving position behind the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. However, the cabin's low seat positions made entry and exit a bit challenging. In the back, the Prius provided adequate foot room, legroom, and headroom for adult passengers, though the absence of rear-seat air conditioning vents could make for uncomfortable rides in warmer conditions. The Prius excelled in cargo space, offering between 24.6 cubic feet and 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, depending on the trim level. With the back seats folded, this expanded to a generous range of 47.9 cubic feet to 50.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Technology
2021 Toyota Corolla
9/10
2021 Toyota Prius
4/10
The 2021 Toyota Corolla came equipped with an impressive array of standard technology. New for the year was Android Auto integration, complementing existing features such as Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Additionally, every Corolla came with a free year of Safety Connect services and a three-month Wi-Fi hotspot trial. The SE trim offered an 8-inch touchscreen (larger than the base model’s 7-inch display), while the XSE added features like Service Connect and Remote Connect for remote engine starting, guest driver notifications, vehicle location, and more. Both SE and XSE trims could be upgraded with a nine-speaker JBL premium sound system and other advanced features like dynamic voice recognition and navigation, although the radio knobs in the system could be more ergonomic, and the JBL sound system lacked perfect clarity. For the 2021 Toyota Prius, the standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system was user-friendly and included knobs for stereo volume and tuning, shortcut buttons, and standard features like Bluetooth, SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The car also included Safety Connect and WiFi Connect with free trials. Sound quality from the stereo was disappointing, particularly on the highway where road noise was evident. A higher trim level like the Limited added a 10-speaker JBL premium sound system paired with an exclusive 11.6-inch portrait-style touchscreen and a navigation system, though this higher-end system strangely lacked Android Auto. The digital instrumentation on the Prius’s dashboard appeared dated and featured cheesy graphics that did not reflect the high-tech image expected of hybrid vehicles.
Safety
2021 Toyota Corolla
9/10
2021 Toyota Prius
8/10
Toyota equipped the 2021 Corolla with its comprehensive Safety Sense 2.0 package. This suite of advanced driving assistance systems included adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping and lane-centering assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, and more. For 2021, Toyota added rear side-impact airbags and enhanced the available blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. These features generally performed well, although adaptive cruise control could sometimes exhibit uneven braking, and lane-centering assistance occasionally needed driver intervention. The 2020 Corolla earned top safety ratings, including a “Top Safety Pick” from the IIHS and a 5-star overall rating from NHTSA, although the 2021 model required re-testing due to new airbag additions. Similar to the Corolla, the 2021 Prius came standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 features. Highlights included adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keeping and centering assistance, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition. Higher trims also included a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. While the safety systems worked efficiently, the lane-keeping and centering systems added an artificial feel to the steering, and the lane-departure warning beeps could become irritating. Safety Connect services were standard for three years, providing emergency assistance, collision notification, and similar features. Interestingly, the NHTSA had not yet rated the 2021 Prius at the time of review, while the IIHS had given it favorable marks, although improvements were needed for it to qualify as a “Top Safety Pick.”
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