Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Toyota Corolla 2021 review: ZR Hatch

The Corolla plays it safe with styling, which is what it's known for.

It looks small on the outside, but once you're in it the Toyota Corolla is a zippy little thing, designed to be easy to drive and nifty to get around in.

It works for families as a second car, and even if you want to use it as your primary car it certainly has its benefits, especially if your family is you and one child.

I test drove the top-of-the-range Corolla ZR which costs $36,487 drive-away (though that differs state to state, so check with your dealer). It competes with cars like the Hyundai i30, Mazda3, VW Golf, and Kia Cerato. Here's how the Corolla fared over seven days for this week's family review.

ShowHide all sections

How does it look?

There's a cool set of headlights and fairly snazzy front grille section which spice up the otherwise ordinary looking Corolla. This helps bring it into the new decade but when you compare it to the Mazda3 for example, it's not as forward thinking in design. It plays it safe with style, which is what it's known for.

The headlights and front grille section spice up the otherwise ordinary looking Corolla. The headlights and front grille section spice up the otherwise ordinary looking Corolla.

Inside the Corolla ZR is quite fun though, with leather accented seats in this range-topping model that come in black or red, a premium steering wheel, which still feels good to touch, and sports front bucket seats that are quite comfortable.

The centre console is nicely designed and it all works well while driving. It feels good to drive this car.

It plays it safe with style, which is what it's known for. It plays it safe with style, which is what it's known for.

How spacious is it?

Interestingly, the Corolla hatch doesn't feel as small as it looks from the outside. I fit quite comfortably with my two young children and didn't feel as though it was a super cramped experience.

Even my taller husband was able to fit nicely into the driver's seat, though the same can't be said for the rear seats.

  • The Corolla hatch doesn't feel as small as it looks from the outside. The Corolla hatch doesn't feel as small as it looks from the outside.
  • The back row is ok for kids, but not great for adults. The back row is ok for kids, but not great for adults.
  • The boot is decent but not large. The boot is decent but not large.
  • With 333L of space available, you can fit a pram in (just, depending on your pram's size) or a suitcase. With 333L of space available, you can fit a pram in (just, depending on your pram's size) or a suitcase.

At 161cm (5'3") I could fit in the back seats, and taller teenagers might be happy squeezing lanky limbs in, but tall adults might not want to rest back there on long journeys. You're not going to fit a third child seat across, either.

The boot is decent but not large, with 333L of space available for you to fit a pram in (just, depending on your pram's size) or a suitcase. Groceries and school bags will easily slot in as the boot is a good shape, so even if you get your fruit and veg in a box (like we all should be doing!) it will slide nicely into the boot.

How does it drive?

The Corolla ZR zips around town happily, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that provides  plenty to power this size car up hills and it cruises nicely along highways.

It's the kind of car you can jump into without giving a second thought. The steering turns easily, it handles nicely, and while it's not the fastest car on the block that's not really why you're looking at a Corolla, is it?

The Corolla ZR zips around town happily, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. The Corolla ZR zips around town happily, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine.

Being a small car it fits neatly into car parks and there's a reverse parking camera to help out, though it's not the highest resolution.

Still, it's very convenient to drive, especially if you're used to large cars, the feeling of being able to sneak in and out of traffic and score parks you'd normally never fit into is actually super helpful for day-to-day living.

Being a small car it fits neatly into car parks and there's a reverse parking camera to help out. Being a small car it fits neatly into car parks and there's a reverse parking camera to help out.

How easy is it to use every day?

The amount of automation surprised me, but then, you are paying for it, so it should all be included!

There's keyless entry, the park brake turns on and off by itself and the front seats are power operated. If they are priorities on your checklist then the Corolla ZR ticks them off. The tailgate is manual though, and not heavy, so it makes sense to use your hands to open and shut it.

Both front and rear passengers score two cupholders. Both front and rear passengers score two cupholders.

There's a Qi (chi) charger in the front for your phone, two cupholders, a small centre storage bin and bottle holders in the doors.

Rear passengers also score two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in the doors, but miss out on directional air vents, which is a fairly standard omission in this category.

How safe is it?

Every Corolla comes with the 'Toyota Safety Sense' package which includes active cruise control, auto emergency braking with pedestrian (night and day) and Cyclist detection (day only). Plus 'Lane Trace Assist' and 'Lane Departure Alert.' The ZR also has blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

You'll get seven airbags throughout the car plus two ISOFIX points and three top tether points in the back row to fit kids car seats in. The Toyota Corolla scored a full five ANCAP stars when it was tested in 2018.

What's the tech like?

While the interface of the multimedia system still has the clunky old Toyota technology, it now does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug in for instant access to your phone's main apps.

It's not too bad switching between the radio and CarPlay, either. There's an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and in this model you'll get eight JBL speakers rather than the standard six in models below.

The Corolla now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Corolla now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

How much does it cost to own?

The Toyota Corolla ZR costs $36,487 drive-away. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.0L/100km, and when I drove it over the week it averaged 9.8L/100km with a lot of suburban driving, not many highways.

It's covered by Toyota's five year/unlimited km warranty which is not the best on the market compared to Kia's seven years, but still a good option. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km.

The Toyota Corolla ZR costs $36,487 drive-away. The Toyota Corolla ZR costs $36,487 drive-away.


The Wrap

The Toyota Corolla ZR is a much more enjoyable car to drive than previous versions of the Corolla. There's more style, more zip and it just feels like a better car to drive, one that you're happy to be in rather than have just settled for. This model is quite pricey and if I was paying this much I would be looking at their three hybrid versions, rather than this full petrol model.

Still, it has good space for a small car and is a great second runaround for a family.  I gave it a family rating of 7.3 out of 10 and my kids gave it the same, they quite liked the front bucket seats.

Likes

Interior space
Comprehensive safety
Standard equipment

Dislikes

High price bracket for a small car
Safe (exterior) styling
Modest res reversing camera

Scores

Nedahl:

3.7

The Kids:

3.7

$32,695

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.