Usually, when a carmaker announces something on or around April 1, it’s clearly a joke of some sort. But the all-new Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla is no joke. It’s a five-door hot hatchback for the Japan and USA markets. Following the success of the rally-bred GR Yaris, not offered in many markets including the USA, Toyota wanted to make something special for those who missed out. Here’s everything that makes the GR Corolla a special car to us:
Plenty of performance
The GR Corolla gets a more potent version of the same 1.6-litre turbocharged three-pot offered in the GR Yaris. Here it produces 300bhp and 370Nm paired with a four-wheel-drive system (GR-FOUR). The engine is only available with a 6-speed manual shifter, so it also appeals to purists. That kind of performance in a car that weighs just under 1,500kg is a very hoonable package.
Toyota has also worked on suspension and steering to deliver a truly engaging experience.
Like the GR Yaris, the GR-FOUR 4WD system of the GR Corolla comes with different modes that adjust the power and torque distribution. The modes allow the driver to switch between 60:40, 50:50, and 30:70 splitting between the front and rear wheels.
Levels of hotness
Yes, the GR Corolla is the spicy version of the sedate family hatchback, but Toyota offers further differentiation. There are two versions: the standard Core trim (as seen in red) and the hardcore Circuit Edition. The former works for those who want to keep it subtle while the latter is anything but. It gets more aggressive aero and improved driving dynamics as well. For instance, the GR Corolla Circuit Edition is equipped with Torsen limited-slip differentials front and rear.
You can also get the front and rear LSD on the Core variant with the Performance Package option.
The extra width of the GR Corolla is immediately noticeable, giving it an athletic presence. Its track is 60mm wider at the front and 85mm wider at the rear. The Corolla’s longer wheelbase already helps with high-speed cornering. Unlike the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla is not a bespoke hot hatch and is underpinned by the same race-tested chassis as its regular variants. That being said, it does get a host of design changes in pursuit of more performance.
The sporty front bumper has a large air dam with more vents on each side. Even the slits next to the Toyota badge are for channelling air. Its rear is even more distinctive with a triple-exit exhaust layout: two circular ones on each end of the diffuser and a wide one in the middle. Other sporty touches include red brake callipers front and rear with 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber.
This is a sporty version of the regular hatchback but doesn’t quite shout rally-bred. For that, the Circuit Edition has you covered. It gets a different bonnet with a raised hump and vents, a large rear spoiler added to the integrated roof spoiler, and a gloss black finish for the grille and diffuser. The coolest part of the Circuit Edition is the forged carbon fibre roof, just like the stuff you see on a Huracan Performante.
Still a practical family hatchback
It is not necessarily a unique feature of the GR Corolla. All hot hatches are expected to be practical to use when their silly performance is not needed. But this particular Toyota does it a bit better than some as it is not a particularly small car and can comfortably seat four people and their luggage.
The cabin features a decently premium upholstery with GR branding and sporty red stitching. It gets a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display with model-specific readouts, an 8-inch central touchscreen for the infotainment system, and Toyota’s suite of ADAS safety tech. There is enough simplicity and comfort on offer that you could easily use it for school runs or long stretches on the highway.
These were some of our favourite aspects of the new Toyota GR Corolla summed up. It still leaves the question of who all does this creation compete with? The most direct one is a European legend in the hatchback scene. We’re talking of the Volkswagen Golf R which has lost some of its fun in recent years while also getting a lot more expensive with all its tech and clever performance, and only comes with a DCT auto and an electronic parking brake. If 4WD is not that important to you, there are also the likes of the Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type-R with similar levels of performance but only FWD.
What do you make of the GR Corolla? Would you pick it over the proven hits like the Golf R and Civic Type R? Or would you rather find yourself an old Ford Focus RS? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons for more cool updates from the car world.