This is the new 2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Edition, which is a limited-edition model that will be sold in the United States as part of the Corolla’s 2021 model year update. Only 6,000 Apex Editions will be offered and it is available on either the SE or XSE grades of the Corolla Sedan – the US gets a different face from us.

So, what makes the Apex Edition special? Well, the company says it “has a message to driving enthusiasts looking for a head-turning, corner-carving affordable sport sedan,” so let’s break that down bit by bit.

To turn heads, the model gets a sporty, aerodynamic black body kit that consists of a front splitter, fog lamp covers, side mouldings and a rear diffuser, along with some bronze accents. The car also comes with black mirror caps, a throatier catback exhaust system with a 3.5-inch stainless steel tip, and smoked taillights to give it a more menacing look.

Those who want to “display even more attitude” can also specify an optional boot spoiler as well, while the list of body colours includes Cement, Super White and Black Sand Pearl – the first two options are paired with a Black Sand Pearl roof.

Meanwhile, to carve corners, the Apex Edition comes with new coil springs that lower the vehicle by 15 mm (0.6 inches) and boast an increased spring rate to reduce vehicle roll and better steering response. To ensure the lowered ride height doesn’t hinder ride quality, jounce bumpers have also been fitted.

Further upgrades include dampers with internal rebound springs provide increased damping force that controls vertical and roll movement, while stabiliser bars help increase rigidity. Altogether, the suspension changes increase roll stiffness by 47% in the front and 33% in the rear.

If that isn’t enough, a set of 18-inch flow-formed cast aluminium wheels in gloss black help to reduce unsprung mass by one kg (2.2 lbs) per wheel, and they can be paired with either all-season or summer tyres. The car’s electric power steering also gets a retuning to comply with the aforementioned suspension enhancements.

Moving side, the Corolla SE Apex Edition will feature premium fabric upholstery, while the XSE Apex Edition gets black SofTex-trimmed fabric upholstery. The XSE Apex Edition will also feature heated front seats, including an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support.

Under the bonnet, the 2.0 litre four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine remains unchanged, as it continues to deliver 169 hp at 6,600 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. The mill is mated to either a Dynamic-Shift CVT or six-speed Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT), although the latter is severely limited in its availability, as only 120 Apex Editions will come with it.

Aside from the Apex Edition, the 2021 Corolla line-up will retain the same 1.8 hybrid and non-hybrid powertrains as before. Equipment updates for the range includes Android Auto compatibility, joining the Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa systems that were already standard on the 2020 model, while new rear side airbags bring the total count to 10.

All Corolla models for 2021 also gain Automatic Engine Shut-Off, which will automatically turn off the engine after a pre-determined period of time in the event the vehicle is left running. The LE grade can also be ordered with a new Convenience Package that adds on a blind spot monitor, keyless entry and 16-inch alloys. Rear cross-traffic Alert with blind spot monitoring will be standard on the XLE and XSE grades and optional for the LE and LE Hybrid and SE grade with CVT.

Other improvements include an Audio Plus infotainment system for the XSE, which is optional on the SE grade with CVT and includes Service Connect and Remote Connect. A Premium Audio package for both grades adds a nine-speaker, 800-watt JBL sound system and navigation function with connected services.

For the SE grade, a Nightshade Edition returns for the 2021 model year, sporting black accents to contrast the Super White, Classic Silver Metallic or Black Sand Pearl exteriors. These can be seen on the 18-inch alloy wheels, black bumpers, front grille surround, mirror caps, side rockers, door handles, rear spoiler, shark fin antenna and exterior badges.