Toyota hopes its 2023 GR Corolla can replicate the critical and commercial success of the much lauded GR Yaris, and the good news is this one is actually coming to North America.
While American and Canadian Toyota fans have spent the last two years green with envy as the rest of the world lapped up Gazoo Racing’s take on the Yaris subcompact, this time the tables are reversed. The GR Corolla is confirmed for the U.S. and Canada, but won’t be sold in Europe.
But is the fact that you can finally buy a GR-branded hot hatch in North America reason enough to actually go ahead and do it? We picked through the details of the fastest ever production Corolla to see how it stacks up against its rivals.
Toyota GR Corolla
If you liked what you heard about the GR Yaris, you’ll be pleased to know that the Corolla sticks to a very similar recipe. It uses the same G16E-GTS 1.6-liter inline three, but modified with a multi oil jet piston cooling system, larger valves and worked intake port, plus a fancy triple-exit exhaust system that’s claimed to reduce back pressure.
That work lifts power from the Yaris’s 257-268 hp (261-272 PS), which varies depending on market, to 300 hp (304 PS). But the peak torque figure is the same 273 lb-ft (370 Nm) the Yaris serves up, and that could be an issue when it comes to hauling the extra 427 lbs (194 kg) mass of the 3,249 lbs (1,474 kg) Corolla’s body.
Toyota isn’t talking performance figures at this point, but the GR Yaris has a power to weight ratio of 10.5 lbs (4.8 kg) per hp and can reach 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.5 seconds, so we’d expect the 10.8 lbs (4.9 kg) per hp Corolla to lag fractionally behind in a straight fight from the lights.
Visually, the GR stands out from the Corolla crowd thanks to its fat flared arches and that three-pipe exhaust system, while inside you get GR-branding on the sports seats and wheel, plus aluminum pedals and, on Circuit Edition models, a gear shifter signed “Morizo”, the racing alias of Toyota president Akio Toyoda. Know what else you get that has us strangely excited? A good old fashioned hand/parking brake.
Power is sent to all four wheels through a mandatory six-speed manual transmission fitted with rev-matching tech. Like on the GR Yaris, the system is adjustable and offers front/rear power splits of 60:40, 50:50, and 30:70. The Circuit Edition car, identified by its functional hood vents, carbon roof, and big rear wing, adds a pair of Torsen differentials, plus an aluminum hood and doors.
Toyota hasn’t released prices for the GR Corolla, but expect it to come in around $42,000-44,000 when sales start later this year.
VW Golf R – $43,645
Arguably the Corolla’s closest rival, the fastest factory Golf looks about as race-ready as a Camry next to the the GR. It’s got the moody stare, but there are no bulging arch flares, no TV-sized grille monopolizing the front end real estate, and the rear wing is significantly smaller. Hood vents? As if!
But the 2022 Golf R does have four tailpipes to the GR Corolla’s three, and that’s not the only numbers game it wins. The VW’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four has a 400 cc advantage over the Toyota’s 1.6-litre triple, and its 315 hp (320 PS) and 280 lb ft (380 Nm) ratings when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission put it 15 hp (15 PS) and 7 lb-ft (10 Nm) ahead in a spec-sheet face off. Specify the optional dual-clutch transmission though, and you get an additional 15 lb ft (20 Nm).
Unfortunately, the Golf weighs in at 3,417 lbs (1,550 kg), or 168 lbs (76 kg) heavier than the Corolla, but it does come standard with rear-axle torque vectoring. And while VW U.S. doesn’t quote acceleration figures, we know the 316 hp (320 PS) European market car gets to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.7 seconds, so the GR Corolla is going to have its work cut out to keep up.
Audi S3 – $45,800
Volkswagen doesn’t offer a sedan version of the Golf R, but if you’re hell-bent on having four doors and not five, the Audi S3 might be the next best thing. It’s based around the same basic component set as the Golf, but comes with a smarter interior that features a better combination of touchscreen interface and old-fashioned hard buttons for its main controls.
The S3’s 306 hp (310 PS) 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four gives away 10 hp (10 PS) to the Golf, and there’s no manual transmission option to help send that power to the Haldex all-wheel drive system, or the Golf R’s clever drift-happy rear differential. But with 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of twist and a computer nailing those shifts, it’s certainly rapid. Audi says it can hit 60 mph (97 km/h) from rest in 4.5 seconds.
Subaru WRX – $29,105-41,895
With a model range stretching from below $30k for the base car to the wrong side of $40k for a fully loaded GT, the 2022 WRX is more accessible than any other car featured here. But where’s the top dog STI that would have really given the GR Corolla a hard time?
Subaru says it wasn’t worth making one, so that means even the most expensive WRX comes with the same 271 hp (275 PS) 2.4-litre boxer motor as the entry level car. Worse still, its 258 lb-ft (349 Nm) torque rating is up to 37 lb-ft (50 Nm) off the pace compared to its rivals.
Hyundai Veloster N – $32,500
Okay, so Hyundai’s Veloster N is front-wheel drive, but don’t let that put you off. No one ever got out of one, or a Honda Civic for that matter, and claimed it was boring to drive. Besides, the estimated $10k you’ll save versus a GR Corolla isn’t something you can easily ignore, especially since those awful cabin plastics will remind you of it every damn time you get behind the wheel.
The Veloster’s weird hatch-cum-coupe format makes it feel closer in spirit to the Corolla than the WRX does, and its 2.0-litre turbocharged four’s 275 hp (279 PS) is 4 hp more than you get in the Subie and has less wight to haul around.
Hyundai has already killed the rest of the Veloster line, and now the Kona N and Elantra N have been added to the ranks, we doubt the Veloster N will last much longer either. So if you want one, now’s the time.
Honda Civic Type R – $39,000 (est)
You can’t buy the 2023 Honda Civic Type R yet, and we can’t be sure of the exact spec, but knowing what you know about the last car, would you really bet against the new one giving the GR Corolla a seriously hard time?
We’re not expecting Honda to deviate far from familiar turf, which means a 2.0-litre turbocharged and VTEC-equipped inline four pumped up from the 306 hp of the outgoing car to around 320 hp. A six-speed manual and front-wheel drive should be a key ingredients again, as will a curb weight that makes every rival feel about as athletic as a patient from TV’s Half Ton Hospital.
If the GR Corolla is like a Nissan GT-R in hot hatch form, then the Civic Type R is your bargain-bucket Porsche 911 GT3. The question is, if you’re in the market for something like the GR Corolla, have you got the patience to wait until late 2023 to find out how good the Type R is?
Which would you choose? Leave a comment and let us know.