A few years ago, Toyota decided to re-enter the World Rally Championship and start winning titles again. A year later, they won the championship with the WRC Yaris. They made road versions of that car but we never got it here in North America. Instead, Toyota took the powertrain of that car, bumped up the power a bit and put it into the Corolla to make the GR Corolla. A rally car for the road, or a marketing tactic to generate more revenue for the company?
Engine – Like the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla is powered by a tiny 1.6L turbocharged 3-cylinder engine. But despite its size, it produces 300 hp & 273 lb-ft of torque (224 kW & 370 Nm). The car is relatively light too, by modern day standards, with a curb weight of 1,480 kg (3,263 lbs). This weight & power allows it to accelerate from a stop to 100 km/h in around 5 seconds.
This engine likes to rev. The redline is at the 7,000 mark and it produces its peak power at 6,000 rpms. Peak torque is between 3,000 to 5,500 rpms. Below the 3k rpm mark, the engine has no power at all. There’s a huge boost threshold below that mark. But above it, the turbo spools up fairly quickly for punchy acceleration.
Fuel Economy – Furthermore, with a 3-cylinder engine, the fuel economy is not too bad. It’s rated for 11.1 L/100km (21.2 MPG) in a city and 8.3 L/100km (28.3 MPG) on a highway. I managed to average 9.7 L/100km (24.2 MPG) during my time with the car.
Transmission – Whether you choose the Core, Circuit, or Morizo (if you’re lucky enough), the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. This 6-speed feels “old school”. The shifter is a tad notchy when slotting it into the next gear but glides in afterwards. The clutch pedal provides a firm feel until the halfway point, then it goes light so that you know exactly where the bite point is. Additionally, the transmission is equipped with a rev-match feature when downshifting. This will blip the engine for smoother downshifts. By default, this system is off so you always have to press the little i-MT button that’s by your left knee.
Braking – Stopping this car are 14-inch, 2-piece front rotors that are clamped down by 4-piston calipers and 11.7-inch rear discs with 2-piston calipers. In everyday traffic, it doesn’t take much effort from your foot to bring the GR Corolla to a quick stop. During more spirited drives, the pedal remains firm with a solid brake feel. I unfortunately could not take the car to a track to see if the brakes had any fade in that environment but what I can say is that the standard pads produce a lot of brake dust. At the end of my week with the car, the front wheels looked more bronze than black.
Handling – This is the party piece of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. It uses a clever GR-Four all-wheel-drive system with two Torsen limited slip differentials; one in the front and one in the rear.The limited slip diffs are standard on the Canadian spec GR Corolla. These control the power delivery to each wheel and the driver can choose between more power to the front wheels or the back wheels. By default, this AWD system will send 60% of the engine’s torque to the front wheels and 40% to the rear wheels. At the turn of a knob on the center console, 70% of the torque can go to the back and 30% to the front. Or the power distribution can be split evenly, 50/50, when it is in Track mode.
The 60/40 configuration makes the GR Corolla feel like a front-wheel-drive hatch. It has hefty steering with more of an emphasis towards understeer. The 30/70 setting unloads the front a bit and allows the car to better rotate as it exits a corner. Additionally, with traction & stability turned off, you can powerslide the GR Corolla in this AWD configuration. In Track mode, the even power distribution provides maximum grip and this car has a lot of it despite having normal street tires, Michelin Pilot Sport 4. You can push this car through corners much more quickly than you’d imagine you could and the car continues to hold on firmly to the road like a kitten holding onto its mother. I can only imagine how much more quickly the Morizo Edition can corner with its stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. On a twisty mountain or canyon road, the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is the most fun you can have short of two-wheeled modes of transportation.
Ride Comfort – There is a price to pay for the cornering grip. The Toyota GR Corolla has a stiff ride. I will admit, it’s not as bad as I was expecting it to be as the suspension can soak up small to moderately sized potholes and manhole covers. But driving over a deep pothole feels as though you’re driving without any tires on the wheels. On longer journeys, the ride can be punishing.
Furthermore, the seats hold you in really well when you’re in the back-country. But they do not have any lumbar adjustments and after an hour-long commute to work, I felt my lower back hurting a bit.
Interior Space – As is the norm, front occupants have the most amount of space. Even at 6’4”, I didn’t struggle to find a comfortable seating position. The driver’s seat is manually adjustable and it can be raised or lowered if you’re shorter than I am. The passenger seat is not height adjustable. One annoying thing is that there are no arm rests in between the seats. This means that if you drive with one hand, like how I do on highways, you’ll have to keep your hand on your lap or on the shifter. The latter of which you should not be doing as it can put excess pressure on components in the transmission.
The back seats are tight for someone of my stature. They have the same amount of legroom and headroom as the standard Corolla Hatchback which is less legroom than the Corolla sedan. I had a decent amount of space in that car but in this one, I wanted to get out as quickly as possible. In the Morizo Edition, you don’t have to worry about rear space because it has no back seats.
Behind the seats, the GR Corolla has 503 L (17.8 cu-ft) of space. The back seats can fold down 60/40 but you may have to move the front seats forward in order for them to fold flat. Underneath the floor you’ll find the battery, a tire repair kit and a small cubby for small items.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – In addition to having a stiff ride, the Toyota GR Corolla has a very loud cabin. Of course you’ll hear that 3-cylinder engine when you put your foot down and it has a growly sound to it. Plus, everytime that you lift off the throttle pedal under boost, you can hear the blowoff valve. But when you’re not pretending to be Mika Hakkinen, a lot of tire noise intrudes into the cabin. You’ll have to turn up that radio in order to drown out the noise.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – Compared to the other GR vehicles in the Toyota lineup, the 2023 GR Corolla slots perfectly in between them. This Core trim starts at $45,490 CAD ($35,900 USD) for this 2023 model year. For 2024, it received a $1,000 price bump. The 2023 Corolla Circuit will cost you $53,990 CAD ($42,900 USD) with the 2024 being $2,600 more expensive. As for the Morizo, the only price I was able to find was $59,990 CAD ($49,900 USD) for the 2023 model year. Toyota doesn’t list it on their website for the 2024 model year and only 10 were available in all of Canada for the 2023 model year.
Gadgets – For the money, the 2023 GR Corolla comes equipped with heated front seats, a single zone automatic climate control, an 8” touchscreen with Toyota’s latest infotainment system which allows for wireless CarPlay & Android Auto, a backup camera, a 12.3” driver display with 3 different zones that allow for custom gauges and information, auto high-beams, power mirrors, power windows, power locks, push button start with keyless entry, and adaptive cruise control that does not deactivate if you push the clutch pedal to upshift or downshift.
The Circuit Edition adds a wireless phone charging pad, an 8-speaker JBL audio system, a heated steering wheel, 18” forged wheels, and suede trim on the seats. These features are for the Canadian spec cars and are different for the American spec.
Interior Design – The interior looks very much like a normal Corolla that has been spruced up a bit with sporty features. The sport seats with the GR logo, the 6-speed shifter, the GR-Four knob, and the fully digital driver display are the only differences between this car and the normal Corolla Hatch. The materials are hard or soft plastic and the seats are upholstered in fabric which I don’t mind as it holds you in better than leather. The interior looks cheap but if Toyota spruced it up, then this car would cost almost as much as the GR Supra.
Exterior Design – To the untrained eye, this is a normal Toyota Corolla with a big body kit on it. But there’s more to it than just that. It is 2.3-inches wider than a standard Corolla and 1.1-inches taller. The grille is larger to allow maximum airflow for the intercooler and the Circuit Edition receives cooling ducts for the brakes along with hood vents. Around back, this car has big hips and it’s impossible to miss the triple exhaust pipes. To gearheads, this is a cool looking car. To everyone else, it’s a Corolla with a bodykit.
Safety – Standard on every GR Corolla are 10 airbags and Toyota Safety Sense 3.0. This suite of safety & driver aids include pre-collision with pedestrian, bicycle, & intersection support with emergency steering assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, auto high beams, and adaptive cruise control. The car is also equipped with a backup camera and blind spot sensors.
Warranty – In the past, sports cars would receive a shorter warranty period. But this 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has the same warranty period as every other new Toyota vehicle. 3 years / 60,000 km comprehensive and 5 years / 100,000 km powertrain. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here. (Scroll to bottom of page)
Conclusion – This car reminds me of sports cars from the 2010’s. It feels as though it belongs in comparisons against the likes of the Mitsubishi Evolution X, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, and Ford Focus RS. But although it didn’t exist back then, I’m glad that it exists now. Cars are only getting more complicated and going electric in 2023. So it’s nice to see that some manufacturers are still offering fun, practical, and relatively affordable cars for driving enthusiasts.
Thank you to Toyota Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Toyota.ca