I can nonetheless really feel that bittersweet pang of enthusiasm and disappointment when Toyota introduced the GR Yaris — that homologation-special, all-wheel-drive three-door hatchback that appeared to ship all the things a rally fan might ever need in a each day driver. I used to be upset, as a result of I knew we’d by no means get it in the US. However Toyota promised one thing for us. We’d simply have to attend.
So we waited and waited, and waited some more. We waited so lengthy that, again in August 2021 after I obtained my first chance to drive the GR86, a Toyota engineer provided me a glimpse at a photograph of a GR Corolla prototype. The reveal couldn’t be greater than a month or two away, the engineer reasoned.
It proved to be a lot additional away than that, and now we all know why. It was round that point that Chief Engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto was given an edict by none apart from Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda: “Make it wider and wilder,” the executive and moonlighting race-car driver instructed him.
So Sakamoto’s group did, and so it’s. The crew managed to extract much more horsepower out of that turbocharged, 1.6-liter G16E-GTS three-cylinder — 43 hp higher than what the Yaris gives, for a pleasant spherical whole of 300 hp. This was the best problem of the GR Corolla’s improvement, Sakamoto-san instructed me as he snapped smartphone photographs of grinning journalists getting out of the track-ready Morizo Edition. His smile matched theirs; he appeared happy with his work. He has each cause to be: The GR Corolla is magnificent.
Full disclosure: Toyota flew me all the best way from Pennsylvania to Utah and put me in a lodge for 2 nights in Park Metropolis simply to drive the GR Corolla and manual-transmission Supra.
What Is the Toyota GR Corolla?
The GR Corolla is many issues. It’s the religious successor to the Celica GT-Four that brings Sega Rally youngsters like myself to our knees. It’s additionally the doubtless recipient of all of Subaru’s would-be WRX STI gross sales, now that Subaru has given up on the STI for causes the world’s biggest minds won’t ever perceive.
Firstly although, the GR Corolla is a 300-horsepower, all-wheel-drive, five-door hatchback derived from the smaller GR Yaris — which itself was born out of Toyota’s World Rally Championship program. The GR Corolla begins at $36,995 together with vacation spot. Efficiency upgrades, like entrance and rear limited-slip differentials and bigger brakes, in addition to upgraded inside facilities, can be found by way of optionally available packages. The $42,000 Circuit Version provides you all that and throws in suede seats and extra aggressive exterior trim. Take a look at my GR Corolla pricing post for a deeper breakdown on the dollars-and-cents entrance.
I received’t focus an excessive amount of on styling as a result of we’ve all seen the images by now, however I like the GR Corolla’s exterior, significantly in Supersonic Crimson. The hassle to maker the GR Corolla “wider and wilder” didn’t finish in comedy because it typically does with many performance compacts — the dramatic haunches categorical a transparent function, whereas little touches just like the “GR-FOUR” tattoo on the Circuit Version’s intercooler reward a perceptive eye.
How Does it Drive?
The venue Toyota selected for the media’s first one-on-one assembly with the GR Corolla was Utah Motorsports Campus — a observe most likely extra well-known beneath its outdated moniker, Miller Motorsports Park. For this occasion, Toyota divided UMC into two circuits: a tighter, extra technical East Course the place we obtained to grips with the Corolla, and a quicker, extra power-dependent West Course that we used for the Supra.
The East Course was the precise selection for the GR Corolla, and that claims one thing as a result of the Supra is not any slouch. Rallying roots apart, this can be a scorching hatch that feels sharp sufficient to assert the observe as its second dwelling. I felt assured of that within the first set of corners — a sequence of high-speed, light esses assured to elicit physique roll in a machine that isn’t dialed in for the duty. The Corolla remained poised, by way of and thru.
A part of that was all the way down to the torque break up of the GR 4 all-wheel drive system. With the twist of a dial situated aft of the shifter, you possibly can regulate the Corolla’s energy supply. The default setting sends 60 % of torque to the entrance axle; flip the knob to “Rear” and also you get a 30/70 front-rear break up. Push the “Monitor” button within the center and also you get a fair 50/50.
The consequences are predictable. The front-biased default mode, which Toyota considers optimum for on a regular basis driving, is a recipe for understeer. The rear-biased setting clearly isn’t your best option for these looking for quick laps, however there’s extra to life than numbers. I might see myself leaving it in 50/50 most of time, the place the Corolla simply by no means needs to let go — significantly when you get pleasure from these Torsen limited-slip differentials, normal on the Circuit Version or obtainable with the Efficiency Pack on the Core mannequin. For on a regular basis commuting, the LSDs aren’t strictly vital. However these planning to trace, or these involved about maximizing grip in slippery circumstances received’t wish to depart that efficiency on the desk.
I had the privilege of sampling all three grades of the GR Corolla, together with the ultra-limited Morizo Version. The powertrain is the fixed between all of them, although the Morizo receives a slight increase in torque — 295 lb-ft versus 273 lb-ft on the usual fashions — in addition to a close-ratio six-speed for improved acceleration.
The GR Corolla’s 300 hp and 273 lb-ft really feel completely suited to the automotive. It definitely doesn’t want extra energy, although I’m positive the chronically unsated will pine for it, simply as they nonetheless do with the second-gen Toyobaru. The Aisin-sourced six-speed handbook feels nice — notching it into gear strikes that satisfying stability between precision and heft, with a just-right diploma of progressive resistance. Beginning off from a cease is a bit more finicky than within the handbook Supra with its gobs of torque, however that’s to be anticipated. Third gear would possibly be a smidge too tall on these non-Morizo fashions, however then once more UMC’s East Course is heavy on third on this automotive.
As for that Morizo? It’s a dream. However then how might it not be, given the deleted again seat, further bracing and weld factors, stickier Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber (in contrast with the Pilot Sport 4 on Core and Circuit variants) and aforementioned torque and gearbox optimizations. The Morizo shaves off greater than 100 kilos in comparison with the three,252-pound Core, and the upshot of each nip and tuck was whole bliss on the desert tarmac. No notes. I’ve a passion for hatchbacks so hell-bent on efficiency that they completely crater the practicality everybody expects from them ( you, Clio V6). I’m baffled and delighted that Toyota, of all manufacturers, is promoting a automobile so singularly targeted — even when solely a fortunate few will carry them dwelling.
How’s the Inside?
There isn’t all that a lot separating the GR Corolla’s inside from that of a daily Corolla hatch, and I really discover that to be a aid. Strip out the drivetrain and this actually is an financial system automotive, constructed by the automaker that actually invented the modern method of assembling cars. The supplies aren’t dazzling and the inside design is hardly stirring, however that blandness gives its personal consolation, as a result of Toyota clearly targeted on the necessary stuff.
After spending a week with the Volkswagen Golf R just lately, I entered the GR Corolla’s cabin overjoyed for my fingers to satisfy bodily buttons and knobs controlling just about all the things — sure, even the local weather stuff. The present-gen Corolla employs the brand new Toyota Multimedia System interface that debuted within the 2022 Tundra. As my friend José discovered last year, it would simply be the best infotainment software program within the business right this moment.
There’s a column of 5 classes on the left, tied to clear, apparent icons — navigation, media, telephone, automobile and settings. Every incorporates simple menu choices, specified by a monochrome interface with easy-to-read fonts. Remarkably, there isn’t a complete lot you are able to do with this method, and that’s stunning, and albeit pleasant, to have the ability to say about an automaker’s in-dash software program in 2022.
The entrance seats in each the Core and Circuit editions are snug sufficient and well-bolstered, however the latter’s win as a result of they’re lined in perforated suede. Right here’s hoping that turns into an possibility on decrease fashions after the 2023 mannequin 12 months — proper now, suede isn’t obtainable on the Core, even when you go for the chilly climate or tech packages.
In actual fact, Toyota would possibly’ve gone a bit of too far with the cost-cutting on the cut price GR Corollas — the bottom fabric seats don’t even include seat-back pockets, and all of the Circuit’s crimson stitching is absent, in favor of grey. No model of the GR Corolla is very luxurious, however the Circuit Version at the very least reminds you that you simply’re not sitting in an strange econobox. It additionally provides an eight-speaker JBL audio system, providing two further drivers over the Core — and, amusingly, six greater than the stripped-down Morizo Version.
Competitors and Ultimate Ideas
Simply two weeks in the past, I drove the Volkswagen Golf R. The timing was purposeful, as a result of I knew I’d be trying out the GR Corolla quickly after, and the 2 vehicles are very related in specs and proportions. Because it seems, they’re fully completely different in spirit.
The Golf R definitely feels a smidge quicker, particularly on sprints from a standstill, because of the dual-clutch computerized transmission. Volkswagen quotes a 0-60 time that beats Toyota’s by only some tenths — 4.7 seconds for the Golf R versus 5 flat for the GR Corolla, although some outlets have found the Golf to be even quicker than that.
So long as we’re right here, I’ll relay one other element which may be of significance to cross-shoppers: gas financial system. Toyota charges the GR Corolla at 21 MPG metropolis, 28 freeway and 24 mixed. On paper, the Golf R bests these numbers by one or two MPG relying on the transmission. I didn’t drive the Corolla on public roads in any respect — Toyota’s media occasion was strictly on observe — however I lived with the Golf R within the suburbs, mountains and on the freeway, and I nonetheless averaged a formidable 31 MPG. With each of those vehicles requiring 91 octane or higher, the Corolla’s obvious thirstiness is a bit of regarding.
However the Golf R additionally feels prefer it’s attempting to maintain part of itself from you. Vibrations are all a bit of too deadened, and the powertrain’s character — profoundly succesful although it’s — doesn’t shine by way of as readily amid the numerous technological efforts to make all the things really feel clean and quick. It has the soul of a grand tourer, not a gravel-spewing hellion.
The GR Corolla strikes as harsher and extra trustworthy. Missing luxuries just like the Golf R’s adaptive damping, it doesn’t slip as effortlessly into on a regular basis driving. But it surely additionally begins at $8,000 lower than the $45,000 Volkswagen. Ultimately, the GR Corolla may even should reply to Honda’s extra highly effective however strictly front-wheel drive 2023 Civic Type R, whose pricing continues to be a thriller.
It’s humorous. Had Toyota given us this automotive 5 years in the past, we’d be sizing it up in opposition to the Focus RS, Veloster N and WRX STI. In actual fact, ignoring the plain variations in drivetrain, this Corolla jogs my memory of my discontinued five-door, the Fiesta ST. An strange compact with a rare drivetrain; an accessible path to on a regular basis pleasure in a bundle you possibly can really use on daily basis — as long as Toyota’s supplier community doesn’t render MSRP a pipe dream. Isn’t that precisely what brings us to collect on the altar of the recent hatch?