Road Test Review – 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition – The Budget Alternative To The GR Corolla?

The Toyota GR Corolla is a feisty track focused corner carving machine that aims to take names and earn spots on the time trial charts thanks to its turbocharged three-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and a time honored six-speed manual. But what if your an enthusiast that wants a performance focused Corolla but you don’t have the money for the full GR Corolla experience? Toyota thinks it has the perfect solution for these buyers with the 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition (our example was a late 2022 model). But can a performance suspension and snazzy paint help this Corolla be the perfect GR alternative? Or is it half-baked.


Apex Edition Is Sedan Only

The GR Corolla is a hatchback only offering so it seems fittingly ironic that the Apex Edition will be a sedan only experience. The exterior styling doesn’t stary too far from the standard Corolla four-door but the Apex version gets black and gold trim accents and 18-inch blacked out aluminum wheels. Our XSE grade tester also arrived with Cement Grey paint which is exclusive to the Apex as well as an optional trunk mounted spoiler. The rear also gets a lightly reworked diffuser and a tweaked exhaust system.

The Apex Edition’s light touches allow it to walk a delicate tightrope in design with the model dialing up the sporty touches a bit but without going too far down the rabbit hole. That might please some buyers especially those that don’t want to draw unwanted attention to themselves when going about their daily routine. While the overall look as a whole doesn’t have as much sizzle as its GR badged counterpart, it still has enough flavor to win over budget minded enthusiasts.


Apex Edition Interior Has Performance Intentions, Lacks Identity

The interior of the Toyota Corolla Apex Edition is a mirror image of what you would see in a standard Corolla model with the cabin adopting a basic design that still manages to be a comfortable place to spend time in. All the touchpoints here are soft to the touch and the materials on hand here feel like they will be able to endure the rigors of driving and father time. The Toyota Corolla in all of its forms has always managed to walk this quality tightrope well and the Apex Edition marches in firm lockstep.

All Apex Edition models get an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto being bundled in standard. The front seats also offer a good amount of comfort but we wish that the bolstering was more pronounced with the seats themselves not having enough side support to help keep occupants in place when doing sharp turns. Rear seat room is commendable for the Corolla’s size, but taller occupants will not be pleased with the tight amounts of rear head and legroom especially if the front passengers have the seats moved all the way back. A JBL premium audio system is standard on the XSE Apex model but SE grade variants don’t offer it and buyers looking to upgrade the stereo have to trade in the manual transmission to do it.

The main problem here with the interior is that it does not do enough to visually tell you that your in a special version of the Corolla. The floormats, headrests and the seatbacks don’t have Apex Edition logos and as a result, passengers might think that you bought a standard issue Corolla instead of a special Apex Edition model.


Suspension Is A Double Edged Sword

Performance upgrades for the 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition are limited to the suspension which benefits from firmer springs and tweaked tuning. The suspension allows the Apex Edition to have better corner carving ability than lesser Corollas despite retaining some body roll. However, the firmer tune also proves to be the biggest drawback of the car with our tester broadcasting bumps, potholes and ruts violently to occupants through the seats. The suspension is happy when its moving over glass smooth roads, but Metro Detroit’s crater filled landscape made these occasional moments of respite few and far between.

The engine on the other hand will be very familiar to Corolla fans, with the Apex model being powered by a 169-horsepower, 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder. A CVT is standard on the XSE model but go for an SE version and you can equip it with a six-speed manual transmission. The throws are still longer than they should be, but we always appreciate a compact offering that still allows drivers the opportunity to be directly involved in the driving experience. The engine itself is lively enough for most buyers but we’ll admit it does little to replace the turbocharged snarl that the GR Corolla brings to the table. The exhaust note is also louder than a standard model and the brakes here are strong and poised.

Value Quotient

The 2022 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition starts at $26,735 for an SE model with XSE variants getting a slightly higher bump in price. The Apex Edition will be limited to a small batch of SE and XSE models. As a result, they will be hard to find and while Toyota’s configurator doesn’t show the Apex Edition in the lineup for 2023, and intrepid buyer might get lucky and find one in dealer inventory if they are willing to put in the time and effort to search around.

Overall, the Toyota Corolla Apex Edition is a compelling option for budget enthusiasts thanks to its unique combination of performance and value. However, it also suffers from being too generic for its own good outside its exterior styling updates and when you add that in with some minor quirks, the Apex comes up a bit short. Buyers looking to replicate some of the Apex’s magic can equip the model’s wheels and rear spoiler as add-on accessories for their 2023 Toyota Corolla purchase.