Toyoda’s toy, GR Corolla rewrites the uber hatch rules
Akiyo Toyoda is a passionate man. Scion of the Toyota powerhouse, he’s a petrol head of note. His Gazoo Racing brand is not only ruling every form of motorsport from the World Endurance and World Rally Championships to the Dakar and beyond, but his GR range of performance Toyotas is becoming an immense force to be reckoned with. This new GR Corolla rides the crest of that Gazoo wave.
We’ll spare you the family tree, it’s just getting too big now, but the new GR Corolla slips in just below the top branch GR Supra and above the wicked little GR Yaris. It also reverberates to the tune played by great South African Corollas once called RSi and TRD. Now based on the latest incarnation of the world’s favourite car, GR returns Corolla right to the top of the performance pile.
The most important bits lurk under the 25mm raised bonnet with functional air vents on Circuit models. GR Corolla borrows its 221 kW 360 Nm 1.6-litre turbo petrol three-pot from the Japan-only apex Yaris GRMN. It has a thin wall cylinder head with two-level cam caps, eccentric pressed intake valve seats and an extra exhaust cam bearing. Specific injector spray, intake port, and combustion chamber shapes promote increased tumble, flow, and optimised combustion. And spherical pistons and combustion chambers reduce knock.
All-wheel drive Corolla GR adapts to you
A sophisticated all-wheel drive system adapts to what you want to do. Track mode brings a 50:50 front rear split. Sport mode brings 30:70 rearward bias. GR Corolla also has Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes. VSC Off sets a range of vehicle stability and traction control parameters. If you need it, Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance includes emergency steering assist, high-speed active cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and a reverse camera. There are seven SRS airbags too.
The GR takes Corolla’s light, rigid and sophisticated TNGA-C architecture and adds 349 spot welds and an extra 2.75 metres of structural adhesive, while trimming weight by 13kg. Lighter and rigid MacPherson strut front and modified trailing double-wishbone rear suspension has reduced rigidity torsion bars. Add performance dampers, coils, spacers and knuckles, increased camber, and optimised aggressive track and stage geometry geometry
Increased-ratio Speed-sensing ECU-integrated brushless-motor electric power steering has a braced gear to lighten low speeds effort but increase high speed feel. Stopping is courtesy of red GR monobloc four-piston aluminium front callipers with 356 mm ventilated two-piece discs up front. And two-piston aluminium monobloc callipers and 297 mm vented discs at the rear.
Gazoo and Toyota’s finest made GR Corolla
A team effort by Gazoo and Toyota’s finest engineers, designers, drivers and minds, GR Corolla stands well apart from its general kin from the first glimpse of it. A far more aggro face comes courtesy of a functional fins, spats, underspoiler and matrix GR grille and vents to cool everything from the radiator to the turbocharger and brakes. Flared arches house 60 mm wider front, and 90 mm broader rear tracks and emphasie its wide, low stance.
The GR has signature DRL LED headlights, shortened fenders, entry and exit vents and ducts, GR-Four embossed skirts, a new rear diffuser and signature triple-exit exhaust. 18-inch 15-spoke ENKEI cast aluminium wheels have 235/40R18 Yokohama Advan rubber. Riding 10 mm lower, GR Corolla is 35 mm longer than the regular hatch thanks to 10 mm longer front and 25 mm longer rear overhangs GR Corolla comes red, black, white, or grey on Circuit models.
A driver-focused GR-themed suede and leather two-tone cockpit is headlined by the GR Yaris’ chunky 3-spoke leather steering wheel, alloy pedals and front bucket seats. A short-throw GR gear knob and a manual handbrake delightfully top the redesigned silver stitched leather centre console. A charging pad, USB-C and 12V ports sit far enough away not to bother manual shifting, beneath the 7-inch CarPlay Auto multimedia touchscreen.
GR Corolla really shines for the driver
Track-focussed 12.3-inch digital gauges have two themes. A linear tachometer caressing speed and gear displays. Or a circular tacho around the speed and gear. Configurable multi-info screens can be brought up on each side. They show everything from economy to G forces, boost, oil and coolant pressures and trip data. A lightweight air conditioning unit powers the dual-zone climate control.
But what’s it actually like. We went to Zwartkops Raceway to take a closer look. Fantastic to look at, wide arches and that aggro front end give it mega road presence. The cabin is, well, still a Corolla with a few fancy bits bolted in. Nothing too fancy in there. Or blasé. Just what you really need. It’s practical too, with more than expected passenger space. And a sufficient boot. Perhaps the biggest surprise, GR Corolla is actually a great all round motorcar. Even more so than its hoodlum kid brother GR Yaris. Ride quality is plush. The cabin quiet.
Near perfect suspension and diff settings make GR Corolla so well balanced. It only starts to understeer really close to the limit. Making a small adjustment to your driving style, it is possible to turn it with the rear. That’s where GR Corolla really shines for the driver. Get on it far earlier than you’d normally dare thanks to that exceptional lateral grip, and literally claws into the track. It will even light up all four tyres to exit in a fantastic 4 wheel drift.
Push it hard and this car is a gem
On the road, there’s virtually no turbo lag when you push it. It spools up quickly, even at low revs. And then bolts to the 7000 rpm redline. So there’s more than enough grunt down low to overtake and merge, even in 6th. But drop the clutch in anger and the throaty little 1.6-litre turbo triple barks to life. Push it hard and GR Corolla is a gem. Its wide track makes it incredibly agile. If you drive it right, its dimensions help you rotate the car perfectly on the apex. And the brakes are fade free.
Most controls fall right into your hand, when you need them. There are a few cons. We wish it sounded a bit better. And fuel economy. They claim 8.4 litres per 100 km at 191 grams per kilometre of CO2 emissions. Good luck to them! We hate touch screens! But who cares when the rest of it is just so extraordinarily brilliant?
GR Corolla comes with a 9-service 90,000 km service plan and a 3-year 100,000 km Warranty can be extended at your Toyota dealer. The million buck question? Not quite a million, the GR Corolla 1.6T Core will set you back R841K. And the full cream GR Corolla 1.6T Circuit R902K.
Considering that’s cheaper than a Golf R, we’d call it right in the ballpark. It will be like hen’s teeth though, so better you find a GR accredited Toyota dealer and secure yours now to avoid bitter disappointment. Because the Toyota GR Corolla is a one of kind car. It’s reinvented the hot hatch for once and for all. This really is a once in a lifetime performance car. We’d go as far as to say it’s already collectable. So yes, the King is dead. Long live the new King of Hatches – Michele Lupini