The Toyota GR Corolla is a thrilling hot-hatch version of the iconic Corolla, built for speed and fun
The Toyota Corolla has long held a well-earned reputation for practicality and low cost.
But forget about all that you’ve heard about Corollas if you check out the Toyota GR Corolla. It’s the hot-hatch version priced at about double that of a basic, conventional Corolla hatchback.
I recently test-drove a Corolla GR Core, the base trim level, which had the optional $8,755 GR Corolla Circuit Special Edition package and included a premium colour (called Heavy Metal) and GR Sport Fabric with Suede Trim and a Carbon Fibre roof.
The base price was $45,490, and with options, various fees, freight, and PDI, the total price comes in at $56,134. That might seem high for a Corolla – but then this car is really nothing like a standard Corolla.
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The GR doesn’t offer popular drivetrain options, like a hybrid version or an automatic transmission. The GR Corolla is about speed and the fun of driving; it’s powered by a 300-horsepower, 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbo engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission (the only transmission available) and all-wheel drive. Not surprisingly, this makes for extremely fast transportation. The six-speed is very smooth and is one of the nicer manuals I’ve driven. The steering and handling are excellent.
Fuel consumption is rated as 11.1 litres per 100 km (25 mpg) in the city and 8.3 litres per 100 km (34 mpg) on the highway, well below a non-GR Corolla. But it’s no surprise there are trade-offs between performance and economy – and the GR is about performance.
About all the GR Corolla and a regular Corolla hatchback share are a wheelbase of 2,640 mm (103.9 in) and an overall length of 4,410 mm (173.6 in). The GR is slightly wider than a regular Corolla hatchback at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), up from 1,791 mm (70.5 in). The extra width is because of fender flares at the back. There are plenty of other exterior trim touches to indicate this is the sporty version of the Corolla, with scoops on the front and side and three exhaust pipes. There are lots of GR graphics, so this won’t be confused with any standard Corolla.
My only beef about the test vehicle was the colour – Heavy Metal, or dark grey. While that has become a more popular colour in recent years, I think a car with this much performance, sportiness and sheer fun should be a brighter colour, like red, yellow, lime green, or purple – but not grey. Colour choices are highly personal.
Toyota isn’t the only automaker to offer sporty, high-performance versions of its small sedans and crossovers, and among the competitors to the GR Corolla are the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai Elantra N, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen Golf R.
Many of the GR Corolla cabin basics are shared with a standard Corolla hatchback, but the difference comes when you get behind the wheel. The driver’s position is excellent, and the bucket seats are extremely comfortable. While there’s ample leg room up front, it’s a bit cramped for rear-seat passengers. But then, this really isn’t the type of vehicle you would get for carpooling.
Convenience and entertainment features are all good. It’s got the eight-inch nav screen in the middle of the dashboard, right below are the vents, and below the vents are the heating and air conditioning controls, including a digital display of the fan speed and temperature. Thankfully, there are also buttons to press for heating and ventilation controls instead of having to go through the nav screen. It’s also got heated seats.
Some people may find the ride a bit choppy, especially on gravel side roads – but then that’s part of having a vehicle of this size with these sporty touches. There are plenty of other choices in the marketplace for a smoother ride. But there are not a lot of cars on the market that are as much fun to drive as the Toyota GR Corolla.
When it comes to measuring smiles per mile, the GR Corolla is a bargain – even with a price tag of over $50,000.
Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.
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