Have a brand new all-wheel drive sports car with manual transmission – and Also to be a hatchback – it is unheard of on this side of the new decade. The Ford Focus RS and Subaru Impreza WRX STI hatchback are dead and buried. Volkswagen Golf R is… okay? Taking advantage of this scarcity of AWD hot hatches, Toyota could easily call her and drop us off with a hot Corolla with a few screw-on tips and say thankful for what we got.
But it didn’t. Instead, it gives us a 21 gun tribute to driving, which was developed with Akio “Morizo” Toyoda himself closely involved at every turn. With such a driving force behind car development, how could it be wrong?
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Review Specifications
- Base price (Circuit and Morizo versions tested): $ 36,995 ($ 42,900; $ 50,995)
- Drive system: 1.6 liter turbo charged three cylinder | 6-speed manual | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 300 at 6,500 rpm
- Basic version and circuit editing: 273 lb-ft at 3,000 to 5,550 rpm
- Morizo Edition: 295 lb-ft at 3,250 to 4,600 rpm
- Basic version and circuit editing: 4.99 seconds (estimated)
- Morizo Edition: 4.92 seconds (estimated)
- Maximum speed: 142.9 mph
number of seats
- Basic version and circuit editing: 5
- Morizo Edition: 2
- Core and Circuit Edition payloads: 17.8 cubic feet
- Own weight: 3186 to 3285 lb.
- Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
- Length: 173.6 inches
- Width: 72.8 inches
- EPA Fuel Consumption: 21 mpg city | Highway 28 | 24 connected
- Quick Shot: Damn it.
- Result: 9.5 / 10
Poor and critically dehydrated, we sucked every drop of the GR Corolla information leaked in the months leading up to this.
We know it is offered exclusively with all-wheel drive (which can be adjusted for a torque split of 60/40, 50/50 or 30/70) and a six-speed manual gearbox. It has a rally turbocharged 1.6-liter 300hp three-cylinder engine called the G16E-GTS – which puts it in the same cylinder league as the Smart Fortwo, Ford Fiesta and Focus, and the BMW i8, if you want to think about it in this method. We know why it has three exhaust pipes and a manual handbrake, a rarity today! We know of the track-focused Morizo edition, with the rear seat removed and extra torque extra.
Laying a tire on asphalt
Most of the time Toyota gave us in the GR Corolla media preview took place on the sprawling two-mile track on the Utah Motorsports campus, so this review will be largely based on that.
With the helmet on, it was difficult to properly judge the NVH properties of the car, but who really considers the GR Corolla to be calm in the cabin?
Rolling the clutch – nicely balanced and with a progressive point of attachment – the GR Corolla hooks up smoothly. And since it uses an Aisin gearbox, itself a variation of the one found on the GR Yaris, the power shift was tight and precise. It’s the kind of clunky push and pull that makes you want to change just for the sensation. Naoyuki Sakamoto, the car’s lead engineer, told me that he and his team had added stiffer shifting bushings and that overall the GR shift gear travel was 25 percent shorter than a normal Corolla.
Rolling in second gear from pit to track, the engine buzzed with gassy anticipation and potential like a bottle of shaken ginger ale. Then I could knock him down, so I did.
All four tires jammed to launch the GR Corolla into the first corner, and the G16E-GTS hit the top of its rev range powerfully. A horizontal Formula 1 style RPM indicator flashed at the bottom of my field of vision, indicating it was time to shift gears. My first upshift was a bit sloppy than I intended – the accelerator pedal responds a little more than what I’m used to – but, man, that gear lever. Do it quickly or slowly, but buying new gear always feels like an event.
Rear Yaw All Wheel Drive meant I was able to take the car into the curve with less care; his quick hands rewarded him with a snappy dart to the nose and a healthy tilt on the outer rear tire. Despite being an electronically assisted system, the steering kept chatting about what the front end was doing, and provided good weight as well. I thought it took some effort on my part to push the car around a corner. At the same time, the seats were properly reinforced and held me in place well, unlike the new Nissan Z.
Braking felt very individual between the pressure on the pedal and how hard the calipers were tightening. There seemed to be no blind spot in the brake pedal, so balancing the brake with the throttle was a smooth affair.
The suspension has been damped for a firm ride, but without the fragility of other performance cars that throw you off the line if you like riding a lane rumble at the apex. Most of all, it seemed to be there to provide another point of communication.
And the engine? Stellar. With the high torque that Robert Kelly Slater would crave, the GR Corolla’s power delivery is fierce but smooth. She likes to be floorstanding, likes to ping the RPM limiter (which makes it amazing and mechanical braap noise).
Here, too, was the proof that they were Toyota: we threw out the always-lovable shit out of those cars at a media event. Outside temperatures remained at 95 degrees Fahrenheit all day, and we followed the GR Corollas non-stop, most of them with AC on. After a short 30 minute lunch break everything was going well until it was time to leave around 4pm. At the end of the clutches it was a bit hot though.
I feel compelled to split the limited edition of Morizo into a separate section just because it deserves some extra attention. I was so offended when I first saw its price – $ 51,000 for fucking Corolla, are they crazy !? – but after a few laps of Morizo, I remembered an important lesson: drive before you throw. Essentially, the car does indeed provide a $ 50,000 driving experience.
Just as the GR Corolla is not just a Corolla with a few bolt-on high-speed beats, the Morizo Edition is not just a GR Corolla with some mods at a higher price. Its engineers have really worked it out and created a track car that probably even the most dedicated modders won’t be able to easily (or cheaply) recreate with just a few aftermarket parts.
The Morizo Edition not only has a weight-reducing rear seat, two structural brackets and a carbon fiber forged roof, but also front and rear LSD Torsen, stiffer springs, forged alloy wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, more boost, which means 22Nm more torque and a shorter gear ratio.
In practice, it drives like a completely different car.
Nothing – and I mean Thread– I felt as if it might disturb this matter. Brake in the last millisecond, tug at the steering wheel and gearshift as if they owed you money, hit the gas back – none of that mattered. The Morizo edition did not want to lean, not slip, not let go of the grip. In fact, he seemed to be able to do some ghastly spells, even magically still a handle where there shouldn’t be any.
The car was so unfazed that I felt myself relaxing around it, trusting it more and more, and nudging it more and more willingly. It was like coming back to the playground during a break and someone had encouraged me.
Coming back, I had no words for what I had just experienced. I could only laugh.
I defined the ideal specification of the GR Corolla
Like any good sports car, there aren’t many options to adorn the GR Corolla. The biggest differences come down to the different finishes. But considering that both the Circuit and Morizo editions will be sold in very limited quantities – 1,500 and 200 units respectively – I expect most people to end up with Core gear for $ 36,995. It’s a great place.
Sure, it lacks a forged carbon roof and forged wheels, but it has all the basics of good things like the engine axle socket, AWD system and gearbox. As for the optional packages, I would recommend the Performance Package, which provides Double LSD for $ 1,180, and the Cold Weather Package, if you live in the Northeast, like me, which provides heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Forget the technology package; Why listen to music when you have the rumble of a three-cylinder engine?
Again, as long as the dealer doesn’t interfere, my suggested specification is my suggested retail price of $ 38,675. VW Golf R begins for over $ 44,000. And it’s not GR Corolla.
If you visit the track often, I’d say Morizo Edition for the rest. But if you just want to live with the car, the entry-level Core with these two packages will be fine.
The GR Corolla is one of those rare sports cars that works With you rather than against you. Seeing it has the right amount of horsepower, you never feel the engine snap when you sense its limits (as well as your own), nor do you ever feel that you are disappointing the car if you don’t go fast enough. He keeps pace with pleasure youas the most laid back and supportive professional dance partner in the world. All he cares about is whether you have fun. Most of us don’t even have such good friends.
I like to bask in the contentment of “I told you” as much as the next person, so let me go here: Since 2018, I knew that offering a Corolla hatchback with instructions would be a big deal. Just because it’s an affordable economy car doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun either. (Our own Peter Nelson agrees and sees the tuning potential of the base Corolla.)
But I never thought in my wildest dreams that something like GR Corolla would ever happen – and for us here in the United States! When I volunteered for the car’s official presentation at the end of March, I called it the STI Killer. But after I have ridden and now sit here thinking more about my experience, I take it back.
You win a little and lose some; the new GR Corolla is a monstrous deal as it could be Toyota’s farewell to ICE-powered performance – and what a great middle finger for electrification and autonomy. However, it is also unlike any STI I have ever ridden. It’s actually not like that everyone a car that I have been driving for a very long time.
Instead, the ghosts of the old Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, namely the X Final Edition, live in this car. Suddenly his spontaneity, tendency to abuse, and the Herculean level of his embrace become an echo, but familiar intonations of a long-lost, almost forgotten language. Realize this and we will understand that GR Corolla is not new territory. We’ve been here before.
It just really feels good to be back.
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