The much-anticipated hot hatch of the GR Corolla appeared, with a bulging body that concealed a high-performance 224kW powertrain, a conventional manual transmission and an intelligent all-wheel drive system.
With mechanics largely derived from the GR Yaris, Toyota’s strapped Corolla not only offers a larger and more practical companion to the compact Yaris, but it’s finally giving the Japanese automaker a worthy contender to other hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R.
It’s a space Toyota hasn’t played before, much to the chagrin of company president Akio Toyoda. Toyoda, grandson of Toyota Motor Corporation founder Kiichiro Toyoda, has spent the past decade rebuilding the company’s suite of performance products, beginning with the first-generation Toyota 86 launched in 2012, with the ultimate goal of decimating the brand’s gentle—but dependable—reputation. – Vehicles.
With the GR Corolla bringing Toyota’s global performance lineup to four cars (the GR 86, GR Yaris, GR Corolla and GR Supra), Toyoda can be said to have achieved that goal. But besides simply increasing the number of fast Toyotas, the GR Corolla also boasts performance credentials that you should see rock the hot hatch hierarchy.
Powered by a 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo engine based on (but not identical) to the GR Yaris engine, the GR Yaris produces 224 kW at 6000 rpm and 370 Nm between 3000 and 5500 rpm. That’s 24 kW more power than the Yaris provides, and while the peak torque is the same, the Corolla produces that figure over a wider rpm range – the Yaris’s peak torque tapers off from 4,600 rpm.
Some of this added appeal may be due to the faster-flow plumbing on the exhaust side, as the GR Corolla features a funky three-spoke exhaust arrangement that is claimed to reduce exhaust back pressure and reduce noise when the bypass valve is set to Quiet.
A six-speed manual transmission is the only transmission option at the moment, although it receives a short stroke engagement for faster gear changes compared to regular manual-equipped Corollas.
Connected to the latest evolution of the GR-Four all-wheel drive system used by Yaris, drivetrain is transmitted to all four wheels with torque-variable front-to-rear via a multi-plate electronic clutch. However, unlike the Yaris, the GR Corolla releases torque bias settings over other drive mode configurations, allowing throttle response and steering tuning to be adjusted independently of how much drive is sent to the rear axle.
Torsen limited-slip differentials are fitted on both the front and rear axles, and the car’s 18-inch alloy wheels are trimmed with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires.
While the powertrain and drivetrain differ subtly between the two, suspension hardware and platform geometry are perhaps the biggest differentiators between the GR Yaris and the GR Corolla. Built entirely on Toyota’s modular GA-C platform, the GR Corolla offered a practical five-door and five-seat chassis, while the GR Yaris was a hybrid of the smaller front-end GA-B and rear-end GA-C, and had a more compact three-door and four-seat configuration .
At 1850mm wide and 4410mm long, the GR Corolla is not only significantly larger than the Yaris, but is also 60mm wider than the regular Corolla bore thanks to its grooved body.
These wide fenders allow track widths to be tightened by 60mm in the front and 85mm in the rear, while finer cushion ball joints replace foam rubber bushings for greater suspension precision and interact with mounting springs, performance-tuned shock absorbers and unique suspension geometry for enhanced handling.
The standard Corolla chassis also gets some extra help in the form of stiffness-enhanced body reinforcements between the rear wheel wells, inside the transmission tunnel and in front of the fuel tank, providing the power needed to harness the GR-spinned rear wheels and provide better handling and more. The standard steel roof was also replaced by a carbon-fiber panel, which reduced weight and increased the rigidity of the structure even more.
Enthusiastic drivers will appreciate the presence of a conventional handbrake, and Toyota even goes so far as to specify in their press release the usefulness of that special feature when drifting. It’s clear that Toyota is eager to cash in on the demographic meltdown.
Other braking hardware includes a set of disc brakes with opposite calipers, providing enough stopping power to match the mechanical muscle under the GR Corolla’s swollen hood.
Australian sales are expected to begin sometime in the last quarter of this year, but Toyota Australia has yet to announce whether it plans to retail the GR Corolla via an online ordering system, as it initially did with the GR Yaris.
Pricing is also a mystery nowadays. With GR Corolla Torsen differentials and Michelin tires bringing it closer to the 54,500 GR Yaris Rallye rather than the entry-level 49,500 GR Yaris, the $50k to mid-$60k price tag feels realistic.
With the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R being offered at $66,990 before driving on the roads, it’s not unreasonable to expect Toyota’s first performance five-door to land somewhere near that number.