The First-Ever Toyota GR Corolla

The high-performance hatchback is clear about its sporty intentions

When Akio Toyoda took control of the company that bears his family name his stated goal was to transform Toyota from a rational brand to an emotional one. Toyota, he decided, would need to push its product into new frontiers of performance, design and technology to achieve it. The brand’s newly announced sports car—the first-ever GR Corolla—does all three.

Toyota’s first sports all-wheel-drive in 20+ years, the GR Corolla signals a daring new direction for the carmaker. Mechanically, it’s a proven quantity, sporting an uprated version of the powertrain found on the lauded GR Yaris—a rally-inspired hot hatchback sold seemingly everywhere but the United States and Canada.

The engine is a 1.6-liter, inline three-cylinder that has been turbocharged and tuned by the company’s Gazoo Racing division (the “GR” in “GR Corolla”) and is rated at 300 horsepower and 273lb-ft of torque. The only transmission choice is a six-speed manual and its rally-derived GR-FOUR all-wheel drive system can send as much as 70% of engine power to the rear wheels. To say that this drivetrain was designed with the enthusiast in mind would be an understatement.

Every GR Corolla will come equipped with a “circuit-tuned” suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The limited Circuit Edition of the vehicle will also include a Torsen limited slip differential on both the front and rear axles, helping to further push this vehicle’s limits of traction.

Visually, the GR Corolla still feels like a standard Corolla hatchback, yet its aggressive design is sure to polarize. All exterior modifications are a matter of function dictating form, with everything serving a real, measurable purpose. Bodywork, including the flat under-tray, has been sculpted and shaped to help optimize downforce and overall stability. The hood, fender and bumper ducts are also designed to further optimize overall aerodynamics, and the hood and front door panels are constructed of aluminum to further reduce weight. The Circuit Edition’s forged carbon roof is one of its most distinguishing features. Punctuating the rear is a unique triple-exhaust system, which places an exhaust outlet at each rear corner of the vehicle, as well as one directly in the center.

Despite the wildly different drivetrain and bodywork, the GR is still very much a Corolla. The interior feels like the Corolla hatch available today, but with a few interior upgrades suited for spirited driving. Aggressively bolstered front seats feature the Gazoo Racing logo and nicely compliment the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. In the Circuit Edition, a 12.3-inch, GR-themed TFT display replaces the standard analog gauges.

On paper, the GR Corolla promises the type of driving experience enthusiasts have been clamoring for: highly responsive, joyfully unrefined and fast enough to stir up some trouble. If the GR Corolla does exactly what the GR Yaris does, just in a slightly bigger body, it will surely become a modern-day motoring icon.

The Toyota GR Corolla unapologetically wears its sporting intentions on its sleeve, promising the type of connected drive that has endeared us to the iconic hot hatchbacks of old, all while offering modern-day levels of safety, performance and refinement.

The base Core Grade GR Corolla will go on sale later this year with the Circuit Edition set to be released in 2023.

Images courtesy of Toyota