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2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Review: Nip n’ Tuck

2022 Toyota Corolla Apex | Photo: D.Heyman
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Dan Heyman
Toyota previews some of what’s coming in the GR Corolla with this special edition
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, front
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, front | Photo: D.Heyman

Auto123 reviews the 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex.

The Toyota Corolla Apex, it has to be said, is a tantalizing preview of what’s coming for Toyota’s ultra hot-selling compact sedan and hatch. The variant gets many cool visual upgrades and some light performance mods we’ll discuss in a moment, but know that later this year Toyota will be releasing a GR version of the Corolla with a whole whack of high-level tuning – including the addition of AWD – that will bring it in to bona-fide performance compact territory.

So what of the Apex you see here, then?

Well, it starts life as a $22,750 Corolla SE, at which point Toyota adds special wheels, front splitter, spoiler and rocker panels. Chassis mods include added stabilizer bars and suspension tuning. It’s lower and firmer than other Corollas and that represents the extent of the performance mods, as the powertrain remains mostly untouched. The cost of all this? $4,310.

Past the suspension, the Apex is more of a styling package but man, it does look good.

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2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, three-quarters rear
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, three-quarters rear | Photo: D.Heyman

The current Corolla is already a looker – a surprising thing to say when one considers the model’s history – but the blacked and mirror caps and wheels it gets here, as well as the very cool black badging and Cement Grey colouring, take it up another notch. Add the more-aggressive lower splitter with some surprising copper accents, and you get one fun-looking hot compact. Somewhat sinister, too, when observed from directly head on and you can really take in those squinting headlamps and big grille and bumper openings.

Inside, the Apex packages adds a power moonroof, 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, wireless charging and 6-speaker audio.

Thing is, underneath all that it’s still a Corolla, still a Toyota. It gets an interior near the top of the segment in terms of space, large-size trunk and easy-to-live with ergonomics that the model is known for.

2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, interior
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, interior | Photo: D.Heyman

Unfortunately, it also gets the infotainment system that Toyota is known for, and it’s not the new one we’re seeing in the likes of the new Tundra or some Lexus products. In the Corolla, what we have is the older system complete with tame graphics, a touchscreen that’s a little slow to respond and a navigation system that makes you happy Apple CarPlay is compatible because it’s far superior.

Also included is Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety tech. It provides pedestrian and bicycle detection, dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert with steer assist, lane keep assist (easy to turn off, thankfully, by holding down a wheel-mounted button) and auto-dimming high beams.

Of course, the big draw for the type of folk that may be after one of these is that wonderful shift lever sprouting from the transmission tunnel there. That’s your connection to a 6-speed manual transmission – you can have it in auto but indeed, a car like this demands the respect of a manual ‘box (especially since the auto is of the less-than-fun CVT variety), and so Toyota has been happy to oblige.

2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, gear shifter
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex, gear shifter | Photo: D.Heyman

It’s a slick-shifting unit (though it could be a little shorter on throw) with short ratios that make for some sprightly acceleration. Of course, with 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, it’s not going to pull your face back, but the transmission is engineered so you get a fun, zippy romp through gears 1-3. It gets a little short of breath after that, but if you’re on a tight road with a generous selection of second- and third-gear turns and making use of the rev-matching downshift feature (heal-and-toers aren’t so keen on this tech, but I don’t mind it and it can be deactivated), there is some fun to be had from this powertrain. The manual also offers a hill-start assist feature, so it’s actually not a bad vehicle to use for teaching any young drivers in the family how to use a stick shift.

The Apex actually sounds surprisingly proper when you get on it, too; I won’t go so far as to say it’s touring car-like but it makes itself heard with an exhaust note that does the styling justice.

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Dan Heyman
Dan Heyman
Automotive expert
  • Over 12 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 70 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 150 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists