The Toyota Corolla has built a reputation for reliability and value, and now takes on more value with the partnership with Gazoo Racing.
Toyota’s performance arm has gotten its hands on the compact hatchback and given it an aggressive rally-inspired makeover. The end result is the 2023 GR Corolla and it’s coming to instill fear in the heart of the Subaru WRX and Volkswagen Golf R. And unlike its younger brother, the GR Yaris, ladies and gentlemen, it will actually arrive in North America.
A 300 HP Corolla
While the Corolla Hatchback has a perfectly acceptable 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower and about 205 Nm of torque, it doesn’t exactly accelerate the heart. To solve this problem, engineers have installed a turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder unit codenamed G16E-GTS that develops an impressive 300 horses and 370 Nm of torque.
It makes the GR Corolla almost twice as powerful as the standard model and even more powerful than the 275-hp (206 kW/279 PS) Hyundai Veloster N. The Toyota also outperforms the 271-horsepower Subaru WRX, as well as the N versions of the Hyundai Elantra and Kona. However, it falls short compared to the 315-hp (235 kW/319 PS) Volkswagen Golf R.
The engine is exclusively connected to a six-speed manual transmission and a GR-Four all-wheel drive system. As in the GR Yaris, the system is adjustable and offers front/rear power distributions of 60:40, 50:50 and 30:70. This means that the car can have front, neutral or rear polarization just by turning a knob.
Other technical qualities
The performance features don’t end there, as the GR Corolla has an aluminum hood and aluminum front door panels. They help minimize weight gain, as the model tips the scales at 3249 lb (1474 kg), which is 189 lb (85.7 kg) more than the standard Corolla Hatchback.
In addition to the weight-saving measures, the GR Corolla is mounted on a reinforced version of the TNGA-C platform. It has “significantly more” welding points than the standard model and also benefits from the “extensive use of structural adhesive, which increases the stiffness of the bond between components.”
The suspension was also revamped as the GR Corolla has a MacPherson strut configuration with coil springs, shock absorbers and circuit-tuned anti-roll bars to provide optimal cornering ability on all surfaces. At the rear, there is a double-wishbone multi-link arrangement that “adapts to the AWD system’s goal of maximum agility and stability.” In addition, the model can be equipped with front and rear limited-slip differentials.
Efficient brake system
Wrapping things on the performance front are the 18-inch glossy black wheels that are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. They are backed by a robust brake system that features four-piston aluminum calipers, which are fastened to slotted and ventilated front discs measuring 14 inches (356 mm). At the rear, there are two-piston aluminum calipers and smaller 11.7-inch (297 mm) ventilated discs.
New more aggressive design
Compact cars have largely been a phenomenon overseas, but when the GR Corolla arrives in the United States later this year, it will have an aggressive design that clearly means business. This is immediately apparent as the entry-level Core variant has a massive mesh input and a wide body kit with bulging fenders. The model also sports vertical air curtains, gloss black accents and functional vents. Designers also installed prominent side skirts with the “GR-Four” badge.
The sporty theme is repeated at the rear by a distinctive three-pronged stainless steel exhaust system. Toyota said its design reduces “exhaust pressure and outside noise, which are essential for back pressure performance.” Other notable highlights include a rear spoiler and a relatively modest diffuser, which is integrated into the black rear bumper.
A familiar, but renovated interior
Upon entering the cab, drivers will find a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that features a tachometer, as well as displays for turbo pressure, current gear and selected all-wheel drive mode. Joins un new 8-inch Toyota Audio Multimedia system, which offers cloud-based navigation, as well as an Intelligent Assistant that responds to the wake word “Hey Toyota”.
Screens aside, the GR Corolla comes equipped with fabric sports seats that feature contrasting gray stitching, as well as GR badges on the headrests. Drivers will also find a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, aluminum pedals and a six-speaker audio system.
Circuit Special Edition combines carbon fiber with exclusive features
To celebrate the introduction of the GR Corolla, Toyota will offer a Circuit edition that features a bulging hood with functional air vents. The model is also distinguished by a forged carbon fiber roof, which reduces weight and helps lower the car’s center of gravity. Other highlights include a huge rear spoiler and red brake calipers.
Interior changes are more modest, but the Circuit Edition has sporty suede seats and Brin Naub leatherette with red mesh inserts and contrasting red stitching. Buyers will also find a gear lever with the signature “Morizo,” which is the racing alias of Toyota President Akio Toyoda.
The Circuit Edition also comes better equipped, as customers will find heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and an eight-speaker JBL premium audio system. They are linked by an automatic climate control system and a wireless smartphone charger.
Lots of security features
Despite its aggressive nature, the GR Corolla puts safety front and center. As a result, it comes equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driver assistance systems that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane change alert with steering assist and lane-tracking assist. The model also has cruise control with dynamic radar, automatic high beams, traffic sign assistant and a rear seat reminder.
Other safety features include a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and hill start assist control. Each GR Corolla also comes with a one-year trial subscription of Toyota Safety Connect, which provides automatic collision notification, emergency assistance, roadside assistance, and a stolen vehicle location service.
Built in the former home of the Lexus LFA
The hot hatch will be built at a dedicated GR factory in Motomachi, Japan. While the plant isn’t entirely new, it has already given birth to legendary models like the Lexus LFA and Supra A80. The facility incorporates many manual assembly techniques and is more focused on quality than production numbers.
Prices will be announced in the coming months, but it looks like enthusiasts also have a lot to look forward to.