Skip to main content

It is NOT what you think: 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE

Turn heads with a 2021 Corolla XSE. It may surprise you in many ways.

I know quite a bit about Toyota Corollas. After all, I have been studying them for about 15 years and reviewing them for my “Toyotajeff” YouTube channel for the last seven.

Corolla is impressive by sheer volume alone. The top selling sedan of all time. In fact, 46 million of them have found new homes all over the world. Corolla has lasted over five decades and is on its 12th generation body design.

Impressive in so many ways.

One thing I did not have as much experience with is the 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE. It was not a Corolla trim level I have tested as much for one random reason or another.

Until recently, that is.

2021 Corolla XSE Performance

So unbelievably smooth. As I discuss how Toyota Corolla XSE drives, rides and feels please do not forget this word – smooth. I just could not believe how smooth XSE feels, both at in-town speeds and at highway cruising speeds.

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Blueprint front end profile view

My wife is a tough vehicle critic and has high standards. It is a Corolla after all, she told me. But what we both found was this 2021 Corolla XSE in Blueprint color felt like it was gliding on the road at times. Surprising in a very good way, quite frankly.

You should test it on your own and tell me your impressions.

Look for this trim level (as well as SE) to have more power and acceleration than other trims like L, LE and XLE. It drives with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder dynamic force engine and produces 169 horsepower, along with 151 lb.-ft. torque.

This engine gives drivers that added kick while cutting back on fuel costs. Estimated mpg is 31 in the city / 40 on the highway / 34 combined. During my evaluation I got closer to 36-37mpg combined, but I was focusing on efficiency versus adrenaline to see what I could get.

The other Corolla grades (L, LE, XLE) feature a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and deliver 139 horsepower and 126 lb.-ft. torque.

XSE Corolla utilizes a dynamic-shift continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front suspension for XSE is MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar and multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar rear suspension.

This translated to a smooth acceleration from zero to full speed for me. Also, I really enjoyed how tight and responsive the car handled while driving back and forth on winding country roads.

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE styling

Not your typical Toyota Corolla. I have had that thought since the 12th-generation Corolla was launched a year ago.

Toyota Corolla, and especially XSE Corolla, is sleek and sporty and aerodynamic and streamlined.

Own a car like this and you might just turn some heads. Just look what some of my YouTube viewers had to say about XSE.

Michelle is thrilled. “Hi Jeff. I want to say I love this car from watching your videos. I went and got this car in Blueprint. I’m in love.”

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Blueprint front end profile view

“I always liked Toyota Corolla and now!!! With the new look and tech woooow.” Marveled Henos.

Joseph might have changed his opinion on something. “First time saying this, but it seems like a better deal and more attractive than a Honda Civic.”

“I want to thank you Jeff. You convinced me to give Corolla a try, and I did last weekend. I bought a Silver XSE and it is hot. I love it!” Beamed Andrew.

I am glad I could help you Andrew. Congrats!

2021 Corolla XSE exterior highlights

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Blueprint front end

Perhaps these people were drawn to the standard high-grade LED headlights, or maybe the LED daytime running accent lights. Corolla XSE has these lights configured in what is called a “Triple-J” pattern. Look for three swooshes. Yes, I said it NIKE.

Or maybe eyes were drawn to the LED taillights and stoplights. They look cool, especially at night.

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Blueprint back end rear end

The 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE features 18-inch machined alloy wheels with dark gray painted accents. You will find matching gray accents in the side rocker panels and rear spoiler as well.

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE interior

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE front seats

Seating for 2021 Corolla XSE is black SofTex with black and blue sport fabric inserts. This theme is carried throughout the cabin with blue accent stitching.

The specific Toyota Corolla I reviewed came with the optional Connectivity Package. This upgrades your sound system to JBL speakers. In fact, nine speakers (including subwoofer) and an 800-watt amplifier. Crystal clear sound. Also included in the package is Qi wireless smartphone charging station.

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE interior

Expect a standard 8-inch raised multimedia touch screen utilizing Audio Plus system. It is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and SiriusXM. This can be upgraded, as mine was, to Premium Audio, which includes dynamic real-time navigation.

There are times when you may want more power or better gas mileage. You can change your driving modes on the fly to accommodate these objectives. Electronic parking brake and brake hold buttons are standard too.

Also, paddle shifters provide a way for drivers to simulate manual transmission and have a more interactive driving experience.

Other 2021 Corolla XSE notes

So much to talk about here.

Like standard smart key push button start, power driver’s seat with heated front seats, 7-inch multi-information display, and power moonroof. Look for Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and 10 airbags.

A 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE has a starting factory MSRP of $25,825.

RELATED VIDEO: Take a tour of XSE in my 2021 Corolla XSE review.

Available color choices are Barcelona Red Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Blueprint, Blizzard Pearl, Blue Crush Metallic, Celestite Gray, Classic Silver Metallic, and Super White.

Time for your thoughts on 2021 Corolla

Thanks for reading everyone. What do you think of Toyota Corolla, and how about the XSE?

Is this a vehicle you would consider for yourself or a family member? Do you own one and what has your experience been so far.

See you next story when I discuss a potential 2023 Toyota 4Runner Hybrid.

- 2021 Sienna makes life easier for families. Here is how.
- 2022 Tundra needs these 3 changes to compete.
- The 1 feature next-gen 4Runner fans want to keep.

Follow Jeff Teague on social media:

- My website
- My Torque News / Toyota News column
- YouTube channel - My "Toyotajeff" Toyota reviews
- My Facebook page
- Instagram page @toyotajeff1
- Twitter @toyotajeff1

Thank you everyone for following me.


jg (not verified)    November 25, 2020 - 2:56PM

I haven't done an extensive comparison, but some time ago when I was in the market for something different, I was very impressed with the Corolla Hybrid in the same manner as is written about the XSE.

As I recall there as some unique offerings in that model (kind of like they did with the RAV4), but overwhelmingly the 53/52 MPG ratings are phenomenal. It was a HUGE leap of faith back in 2000 when I got a 2001 Prius and I would argue the Corolla hybrid is essentially the same entry-level offering that it was. To see the plethora of features available in a car that is a great deal larger, with better mileage, and about the same cost is astounding.