The new Toyota GR Corolla is taking the automotive enthusiast world by storm and for good reason. We have been waiting for something like this from the company for a long time especially after seeing the GR Yaris offered overseas. Aside from the recent Supra comeback Toyota’s offering here in the US has been pretty vanilla. I suppose you can throw the FRS/GR86 out there as a sportier offering in recent years but the new Corolla offering is what sensible enthusiasts want. I love hatchbacks for their practicality, maneuverability, and daily commuting usage and hot hatchbacks are even better. It's almost like getting your cake and eating it too!
While I'm still not 100 percent sold on the styling of the new GR Corolla I haven't seen one in person and really the only thing that bugs me is the rear haunches. In pictures, they just look a little out of place like a body kit or something but again maybe my opinion will change once I see one in person. I love the front-end styling and I've seen some other Corolla hatchback sport trims that look pretty good so we will see. Toyota has made the car look more aggressive and special so it's not to be confused with a standard hatchback offering. The interior is basically the same as the standard Corolla but with better seats. Infotainment features Apple car play, Android Auto, and satellite radio which is a pretty standard thing on new cars these days. The instrument cluster is a single screen with a graph-style tach which I'm not totally sold on. I like my dials for tach and speed but that's just me and nobody cares about what I like. The car will feel like a much more solid car than the run-of-the-mill Corolla as they took special care in solidifying and enforcing the chassis. The car has 349 more spot welds over a standard Corolla as well as more glue. It's also built in a completely different special GR factory where the LFA and A80 Supra have been assembled.
Let's talk about performance which is what most of us care about with a car like this. Toyota implemented the same turbocharged 1.6L inline 3-cylinder engine from the Yaris overseas. It's still crazy to me that companies are getting such good reliable power out of such small displacement engines these days. The little G16E-GTS engine in the Corolla makes a stout 300 hp and 273 ft lbs of torque with the help of around 25 lbs of boost. The red line is 7,200 RPM and the engine uses a balance shaft and liquid filled engine mounts to help with NVH. This is routed through a six-speed manual transmission. A manual transmission is the only transmission available which is great and while the car does come with auto rev matching it defaults to off which speaks to the engineer's intent for this car and their drivers' experience. This powertrain routes to all four wheels which is awesome and there are three bias modes for the all-wheel-drive system. Those are 60-40 front bias, 50-50, and 30-70 rear bias modes. 0-60 times are in the high fours but you have to shift to third to hit 60 so that number is misleading. The top speed is 143 mph not that anyone cares. It will be interesting to see how these drivetrains hold up but they are built by a company with a reputation for building good engines and cars that can take a beating.
Let's talk about competition. There aren't that many cars offered in the states right now in this genre. I think its closest competitors right now are the VW Golf R and Subaru WRX that's only because of their standard all-wheel-drive. The WRX is down on power at least on paper. Stop powering the front wheels and you have cars like the Hyundai Veloster N, Elantra N, and the Honda Civic Type R, which I would lump into a similar performance economy car type group. Since Subaru nixed the STI for now and the Focus RS was short-lived, I think it’s closest competitor here is the Golf R. I like my Golfs so it would be a tough choice between the two. The GR is more special and potentially a more engaging drive so it might edge it out if I wanted to spend 40K on a hatchback haha. Speaking of pricing there will be 3 models offered. The Core will be the base model and it will set you back 36k. Next up is the Circuit edition which adds a forged carbon-fiber roof, bulged hood, rear wing, and most importantly limited slip differentials front and back. It's probably the best one to get in my opinion. The highest-end model is the Morizo edition which adds different wheels, stickier tires, 20-ish more ft lbs, and some other unimportant things and that one rings in at 50k.
Unfortunately, as with all cool things the GR Corolla will be a limited production car with 6,600 units for 2023 with only 1,500 of which will be what I'd buy, the Circuit edition, and an even fewer 200 Morizo editions. I think I’d take one over a Golf R but my chances of getting a Golf R at MSRP would be much better. I know why they make them in limited numbers but it kind of sucks because it's going to drive markups and if you're not on a list you aren't getting one. I'm still glad they built it and I look forward to similar performance models from Toyota and its competitors in the future. Long story short, I think the new GR Corolla is going to be a huge hit and a collector's item someday. You can mark my words on that one!