This 2021 Toyota Corolla Trim Is a Consumer Favorite, but Reviewers Avoid It

by Gabrielle DeSantis

It’s always interesting to see when reviewers and consumers disagree. Each has their own opinion and sticks by it no matter what anyone else says. That’s what’s happened with the 2021 Toyota Corolla. On the one hand, Edmunds shows the LE sedan is the model that most consumers purchase. On the other hand, Car and Driver deems the SE the best Corolla trim. So, who’s right? 

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The Toyota Corolla LE is the trim one level above the base-model L. The LE offers a few extra perks, including heated side mirrors, automatic climate control, a USB port for rear passengers, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Those are in addition to coveted driver assists like forward-collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Sure, the Corolla LE’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 139 hp, can’t compete with a Porsche. But for the price point, it gets the job done. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also nice touches in any modern vehicle.

Edmunds likes the wide range of options available on all the trim levels. The site also shows that consumers pick the LE sedan more than any other Corolla model. But Car and Driver recommends another trim.

Car and Driver picks the Toyota Corolla SE sedan

The Toyota Corolla SE sedan boasts a ton of high-end features. On top of what the LE brings to the table, the SE provides blind-spot monitoring, a sunroof, an upgraded driving information display, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, simulated leather, sportier exterior trim accents, and sport front seats.

The SE engine also gets a boost. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 169 hp. This gives it an extra burst of speed that the LE lacks. The SE also looks better doing it.

Car and Driver chooses the Corolla SE sedan because it comes with a manual transmission. Of course, this model costs $700 more, but for manual enthusiasts who are sick of the lack of options, it’s a small price to pay. 

However, the publication warns that getting the stick shift means you miss out on once-standard features like the continuously variable transmission, but otherwise doesn’t seem to be too bothered by this. The Corolla SE sedan offers enough bells and whistles to keep most driving enthusiasts satisfied.

Why do consumers prefer the LE?

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In its review, Edmunds states, “The Corolla is a model of affordability and efficiency. But for a small price increase over the base L or LE trim level, we’d take the SE trim. We like the more powerful engine and its longer list of standard features. It also gives you more flexibility for adding options.”

So, why do consumers still prefer the LE trim over the SE even though Edmunds and Car and Driver have a soft spot for the more expensive trim? Yes, the SE boasts more features. But it’s also $2,000 more than the LE. And if you opt for the manual, that price difference jumps to $2,700.

For some consumers, that’s a lot of money. With bills to pay, kids to feed, and the unexpected disaster that always happens at the worst possible moment, Corolla buyers prefer the more practical LE sedan.

The SE’s simulated leather and more powerful engine are attractive perks, but the LE offers plenty in its own right. So that’s probably why most consumers choose the 2021 Corolla LE, even if experts disagree.

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