Changes to 2021 Toyota Models Shine a Spotlight on Safety and Hybrid Powertrains

Thom Blackett | Dec 21, 2020

Engineers and designers have been busy outfitting 2021 Toyota models with enhanced safety and, in some cases, bold new styling. There are more hybrid models than ever before, and special editions can be seen clear to the horizon. Toyota discontinues the Yaris subcompact car for 2021 and pauses the 86 until it returns with a redesign for 2022. 

2021 Toyota Mirai Limited Blue Front View At Speed

The big news for the Toyota lineup is electrification. The redesigned Toyota Sienna minivan returns with standard hybrid power, and the Venza SUV is back, also hybrid-only. The RAV4 Prime debuts as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), offering 42 miles of electric driving range before it resorts to gas-electric hybrid operation. And the automaker’s Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) gets a full and dramatic redesign, underscoring Toyota’s commitment to hydrogen powertrains.

We’ve got all of the details outlined below.

2021 Toyota 4Runner Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Toyota’s rugged 4Runner is mostly a carryover model from 2020, albeit with newly standard LED headlights and fog lights, an updated color palette, revised shock tuning for the TRD Pro trim level, and new Trail Special Edition. Slotted between the SR5 and SR5 Premium variants, the 2021 4Runner Trail Special Edition features blacked-out exterior details, all-season floor mats, unique wheels, a roof rack with a basket, and a sliding cargo floor that serves as host to a removable beverage cooler. 

2021 Toyota Avalon Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

While some automakers have abandoned the sedan market, Toyota improves its offerings, including the full-size Avalon. 

New this year, an available all-wheel-drive (AWD) system pairs exclusively with the base 4-cylinder engine on XLE and Limited trims. Also joining the lineup is the XSE Nightshade Edition, which provides black exterior trim pieces and an overall sportier look. The sport-tuned Avalon TRD is tweaked just a bit for 2021, with a redesigned instrument display and a new performance-tire option.

Android Auto capability is now standard on all 2021 Avalons, as are USB-C ports. The Avalon Hybrid gets a sound alert feature for pedestrian safety, and the battery pack now uses lithium-ion construction instead of nickel-metal hydride.

2021 Toyota C-HR Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Unlike many other compact crossovers, the Toyota C-HR is available only as a front-wheel-drive (FWD) model. For 2021, a new Nightshade Edition slots into the lineup between the XLE and top-of-the-line Limited trim levels. Buyers who opt for this version of the 2021 C-HR will get black exterior trim and their choice of four paint colors, three of which are two-tone with a black roof.

The C-HR’s standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 (TSS 2.5) collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) builds on Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) with bicyclist detection, low-light pedestrian detection, emergency steering assistance, and intersection collision avoidance assistance.

2021 Toyota Camry Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

There are no drastic changes for the 2021 Camry, though the sedan offers buyers several updates and minor lineup modifications. Toyota discontinues last year’s base Camry L, but there is a new XSE Hybrid variant with styling and equipment that largely mimics the non-hybrid XSE. 

Outside, the 2021 Camry features massaged styling, while the interior is treated to new trim, upholstery, and revised infotainment systems with an available 9-inch screen. All 2021 Camrys receive a standard rear-seat reminder designed to prevent children from being accidentally left in an unattended vehicle. Audiophiles who favor the sporty Camry TRD will be pleased to see the 800-watt JBL sound system added to that car’s list of options.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) is standard, upgrading the Camry with the same TSS 2.5 features listed in the C-HR section, plus faster response to a signaled lane change when using the adaptive cruise control and overtaking slower traffic ahead.

2021 Toyota Corolla Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

With hatchback and sedan body styles and gas and hybrid powertrains, there continues to be a Corolla for a broad swath of potential compact car buyers. Toyota redesigned the Corolla just last year but makes critical improvements for 2021.

This year, the company adds Android Auto and satellite radio as standard equipment, along with rear side-impact airbags and an automatic engine shut-off feature that, as its name suggests, turns the engine off after a set amount of time. This feature differs from the automatic stop/start systems that briefly shut down the engine at red lights or in stop-and-go traffic.

New Apex Edition versions of the SE and XSE sedan intend to give the Toyota Corolla an injection of performance credibility. They feature a unique cat-back exhaust system, lowered and retuned suspension, and a body kit. A total of 6,000 units are available, with 120 fitted with a 6-speed manual and the rest with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Under the Alex Edition’s hood, you’ll find the same 169-horsepower 4-cylinder engine shared with the SE and XSE.

2021 Toyota GR Supra Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Thanks to the debut of a new entry-level 2.0 trim, the base price of a 2021 Toyota GR Supra is $7,000 less than the 2020 model. The catch? The engine is a 255-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder instead of a turbocharged inline-six. The latter enjoys a significant power boost for 2021 and now delivers 382 hp and 368 lb.-ft. of torque. All versions of the Toyota GR Supra use an 8-speed automatic gearbox to deliver the output to the rear wheels. 

Positioned atop the lineup is the new-for-2021 A91 Edition, based on the 3.0 Premium trim but tricked out with carbon-fiber accents and blue Alcantara seat inserts.

2021 Toyota Highlander Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Redesigned for 2020, the Toyota Highlander returns for 2021 with a new XSE trim level. It’s available with FWD or AWD and the standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine. There are no lineup changes for the 2021 Highlander Hybrid. 

The new Highlander XSE dials up the sport factor with retuned steering and suspension systems to improve handling, black-accented 20-inch alloy wheels, a reshaped grille and lower splitter, a rear diffuser, and dual exhaust tips. Inside, faux carbon-fiber trim decorates the XSE, and you can upgrade this version of the SUV with red/black leather upholstery.

Like the Toyota Camry, the Highlander and Highlander Hybrid add TSS 2.5+ for 2021.

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Essentially a direct carryover from 2020, the 2021 Land Cruiser arrives with new exterior paint colors and a third-row seat option for the Heritage Edition. All Land Cruisers can now seat up to eight passengers. This is the final year for the Land Cruiser in its current form.

2021 Toyota Mirai Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles have consistently been odd ducklings, but the drastically redesigned 2021 Toyota Mirai may change that perception. Sharing a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) architecture with the Lexus LS sedan, the four-door Mirai moves upscale in terms of content and style. This four-door coupe, available in XLE and Limited trim levels, is larger and heavier than its predecessor, features a standard 12.3-inch center display screen, and employs more compact and efficient powertrain components. A larger hydrogen storage tank helps extend the driving range to a Toyota-estimated 402 miles with XLE trim.

2021 Toyota Prius Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Confusing as it may be, the big news for the 2021 Toyota Prius is the arrival of the 2020 Edition. The automaker will build 2,020 examples, all highlighted by black accents and meant to commemorate the Prius’s 20th anniversary. All Toyota Prius and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid variants offer TSS 2.0 technologies for 2021, while most examples offer standard Android Auto compatibility.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Toyota is broadening its hybrid reach with new versions of its popular RAV4 crossover. Joining the lineup is the XLE Premium Hybrid, which earns its rank above the XLE Hybrid with standard amenities like a power moonroof, leatherette upholstery, and a 7-inch infotainment display.

More significant is the launch of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid. Offered in SE and XSE trim levels with standard AWD, this model delivers 302 net horsepower and an EPA-rated 94 miles per gallon-equivalent (MPGe). Toyota says it supplies 42 miles of electric-only range on a fully-charged battery.

And, lest we forget, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road model features a new standard steel front skid plate. 

2021 Toyota Sequoia Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Long overdue for a redesign, the Sequoia full-size SUV carries over into 2021 mostly unchanged except for a new Nightshade Special Edition trim. Based on the Sequoia Limited and featuring various black accents, a total of 2,500 RWD and four-wheel-drive (4WD) examples will be produced. 

2021 Toyota Sienna Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Toyota doubles down on the minivan segment with the debut of its redesigned 2021 Sienna. For 2021, this people mover is offered only with a 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain, but buyers do choose between FWD or AWD. All versions feature more aggressive styling highlighted by sculpted quarter panels and sleek headlights resembling other updated Toyota models. The base L trim is history, while a more upscale XSE variant replaces the SE. Toyota claims all versions handle better than the previous Sienna while returning an EPA-rated 36 mpg on the highway. 

2021 Toyota Tacoma Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

The midsize Toyota Tacoma pickup truck gets more standard features for 2021 and comes in new Trail and Nightshade Editions. Interestingly, these are available as packages on the Tacoma rather than as distinct trim levels.

2021 Toyota Tundra Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

As with the Tacoma, the Toyota Tundra is now available with Trail Edition and Nightshade Edition packages. This is likely the last year for the positively ancient Tundra before a redesigned truck arrives for 2022.

2021 Toyota Venza Changes - Find the best Toyota deals!

Yet another hybrid-only vehicle joins the Toyota ranks this year in the form of the 2021 Venza. This five-passenger AWD crossover is slightly larger than the RAV4, provides more premium content, and costs about $6,000 more. Trim levels include the LE, XLE, and Limited, all of which deliver 219 net horsepower and an EPA-rated 37 mpg on the highway. 

Toyota is the source of information in this article. It was accurate on December 17, 2021, but it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker’s website or your local dealership.

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