Toyota's timely reminder that Toyota can build fun cars when it wants.
Briefly about the content:
The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla's I3 sends 224 kw through a six-speed manual transmission to a standard all-wheel-drive system.
Toyota's GR Corolla starts at 34,390€ for its Core Grade but jumps to 40,900€ for the Circuit Edition and 47,410€ for the ultra-limited Morizo Edition.
The hot hatch goes on sale later this year.
Toyota has established a reputation for building boring cars. Though, that’s primarily because of an emphasis on pragmatic, reasonable, and reliable cars, likely on the input from their most important critic: the customer. Toyota hasn’t always shuffled front-wheel-drive sedans, minivans, and crossovers into family driveways around the globe. Toyota also used to build wild cars that captured the hearts of the public. It seems like Toyota is content with the former but is looking at its roster to flesh out the latter, which explains the reborn Toyota Supra, the second-generation 86 and, now, the GR Corolla.
Toyota’s GR Corolla is the latest entry in the Gazoo Racing portfolio and gives the American market a taste of the forbidden GR Yaris that Japan, Australia, and other markets outside of the United States get to drive. The GR Corolla uses a derivative of the GR Yaris’s powertrain, which means the fascinating 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder sits under the GR Corolla’s hood. In Corolla trim, this 1.6-liter monster makes 224 kw at 6500 rpm.
That power travels through a six-speed transmission feeding the standard all-wheel-drive system, which then pushes power through open differentials on the Core Grade or Torsen Limited-Slip differentials fore and aft on Circuit and Morizo edition cars. Core Grade models can add the limited-slip diffs when checking the reasonably priced Performance Package. Automatic rev-matching is standard across the board, thanks to Toyota’s Intelligent Manual Transmission, but can be flipped off if you’re confident in your heel-toe shifting.
If you merely wanted power, you could just buy a Camry. But the GR Corolla adds wild styling (slightly ostentatious, even) and suspension tuning designed to handle the rigors of performance driving. Managing the wheel movement is still a MacPherson strut suspension in the front and a double-wishbone setup at the rear, but Toyota revamped the springs and dampers to make the Corolla more track friendly.
That’s where we put the Corolla to the test, hot-lapping a fleet of GR Corollas on half of the Utah Motorsports Campus. The Core edition presents a basic and highly functional Corolla hatchback’s interior with a six-speed shifter stuffed in the center console and bolstered seats. On track, you feel the boost and the power build as the turbocharger spools up, but you don’t feel any outrageous torque steer or oddities while laying on the power. This fairly small track layout fit well with the engine’s power band, working mostly in third gear, with the occasional bump down to second or bump up to fourth to stretch the car’s legs. Shifts are crisp and short, but the aftermarket will undoubtedly deliver a shifter kit, same as for the six-cylinder Supra.
The all-wheel-drive system biases the torque split to the front wheels in Normal mode but bounces an even 50/50 split when you hit the Track button. For slightly more fun, you can throw 70% of the available power toward the rear wheels. With some coercion, the tail will slide out, but it’s most happy just attacking corners with a small hint of understeer. Still, the 235/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 wrapped 18-inch rims give good feedback through the steering wheel and instill confidence in the corners.
While the GR Corolla is certainly a fun car, the top-tier Morizo Edition is something truly special—much more than a hot or hyper hatch. The rear seat is deleted, speakers are gone, and this is looking like a track-rat special. The Morizo Edition also sees revised gearing inside the transmission, a different clutch, and an upgrade to wider Michelin Pilot Cup 2 rubber. The heavier clutch gives even more control over the friction zone than the standard GR Corolla’s hardware. The better, wider tires give even more confidence when approaching, attacking, and exiting corners. The extra torque helps you shuffle away from those corners with more oomph. The Morizo takes everything that’s good about the GR Corolla and makes it even better.
With Subaru’s legendary WRX STI out of the mix right now, this hot hatch is facing off against Honda’s new Civic Type R and Volkswagen’s Golf GTI and Golf R models respectively. This GR Corolla replaces the Subaru all-wheel-drive absurdity with a similarly odd powertrain. While feeling less mature than the Volkswagen or Honda, the Toyota makes up for that with a riotous experience and the hilarious snap and crackle from the 75-kw-per-cylinder I3 mill.
That comes with a price. While the base Core Grade GR Corolla is a somehow reasonable 34,390€ with destination and delivery, the price climbs quickly. The mid-level Circuit trim jumps to 40,900€, and the limited GR Corolla Morizo Edition ascends to 47,410€. Yes, €47k for a Toyota Corolla. Now, it might be hard to even find a GR Corolla Morizo Edition for that price with its 200-car production run—expect some, uhh, dealer adjustments when these go on sale later this year.