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2021 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Photo: Toyota

Let's be honest: the Toyota Corolla has never excited me much. But the 2021 Corolla hatchback was a surprise.

The big picture: Corollas are practical and efficient, and always reliable, but you don't really aspire to own one. Then a guy driving a Cadillac Escalade stopped to tell me, "I really like your car — a lot," and I knew I wasn't alone. When it's a sporty and stylish five-door hatchback, you can't help but look twice.

Details: And with a 169-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder and optional six-speed manual transmission, it's fun to drive, too.

  • But it's up against some tough competition in the Honda Civic and Mazda 3.

Of note: Every Corolla has a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a subscription-based WiFi hotspot.

A bundle of driver-assist technologies is standard on all Corollas, including:

  • forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking
  • adaptive cruise control (on automatic transmissions only)
  • lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist

My Corolla hatchback test vehicle was priced at $23,415, and had an EPA-rated 31 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

The bottom line: Don't overlook the Corolla hatchback if you're looking for a small, fun car.

Go deeper

Biden blindsides Europe with new AUKUS alliance on China

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden is constructing and deepening new alliances to strengthen the U.S. position in its showdown with China, but he risks alienating longstanding allies in the process.

Why it matters: Biden heralded a new agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines as part of a trilateral security pact with the U.K. and the U.S. as an "historic step" to update U.S. alliances to face new challenges. The message from French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was quite different.

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.