Toyota GR Corolla revealed – 297bhp hot hatchback to give Golf R nightmares

Toyota GR Corolla to pack 297bhp and and four-wheel drive, but Europe misses out

Toyota has revealed its next Gazoo Racing model in the form of the GR Corolla, a larger but no less exciting hot hatchback designed chiefly for the North American market. Key elements under the pumped-up skin include a more powerful version of the G16E turbocharged three-cylinder engine that you’ll find in the GR Yaris, Toyota’s GR-FOUR all-wheel drive system and a two-model range structure. Unfortunately, Toyota UK has confirmed that the GR Corolla will not be available in Europe or indeed the UK, citing that the GR range will always be limited to no more than three models, made up here by the GR Yaris, GR Supra and incoming GR86.

Still, there’s plenty to unpack with the new Corolla, including that new tune of G16E-GTS turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine that now produces a peak 296bhp power figure – a 39bhp rise over a EU-spec GR Yaris (and 28bhp up on the JDM GR Yaris) which also makes it the most powerful three-cylinder production engine in the world. Peak torque is also up to 273lb ft, 8lb ft up on the European spec Yaris, available at the same spread of revs between 3000-4600rpm. 

> 2022 hot hatchback battle: the final

Toyota explains the extra power has largely been derived from a new and distinctive triple-outlet exhaust system that reduces back pressure, but now that UK-based tuners have started to crack the standard G16E’s ECU tune, it appears that upwards of 300bhp is reliably achievable without any hardware upgrades. As with the GR Yaris, the GR-FOUR all-wheel drive system is employed through three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track – each featuring the same torque-splits of 60:40, 70:30 and 50:50 respectively. For now, there’s only a six-speed manual transmission available, although we know Gazoo Racing is developing a high performance-oriented eight-speed automatic that might materialise later in the model’s life cycle. Also bespoke to the GR is a manual handbrake that, like the Yaris, disconnects the rear driveshafts – standard Corolla’s otherwise feature an electronic unit.

There will be two distinct variants available: Core and Circuit. Core models will be available from launch, and will be equipped with open differentials on both axles and more subtle body styling. Circuit models will be available in 2023 as a limited-run model, and include Torsen limited-slip differentials on both axles. An optional Performance Pack on base Core models will be available bundling in those diffs if customers miss out on the Circuit model. The brake package is also familiar from the GR Yaris, with Core variants running 14-inch front discs and four-piston calipers at the front and 11.7-inch units on the rear with two-piston calipers. Circuit models have an identical setup, but swap the standard-finish calipers with red-painted GR-branded units.  

Unlike the GR Yaris’s chassis that combines a mix-and-match of elements from both the standard Yaris and larger C-HR crossover, the Corolla’s structure is closer to the base car. Suspension at both ends is new and closely related to the GR Yaris, with wider tracks front and rear on a modified MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension layout. Dampers are passive units, with 18-inch cast wheels wrapped in Michelin PS4 rubber standard on both Core and the Circuit models. Kerb weight is rated at 1473kg, around 50kg up on the heaviest front-wheel drive Corolla, and a fair hike on the GR Yaris’s 1280kg.

In terms of styling, any notion that the GR Corolla was going to be a watered down take on the recipe is certainly not the case, with a bold collection of huge intakes, flared wheel arches and aggressive wings changing the otherwise pedestrian Corolla’s aesthetic. Core models keep things calmer with only basic bodywork changes around the front wings, rear arches and bumpers, but Circuit models turn the wick up with a vented bonnet, a pressed carbonfibre roof (incidentally, the same as the GR Yaris’s roof under the fake carbon wrap), stacked rear wing and Alcantara-aping interior trim. Toyota will build the GR Corolla alongside the GR Yaris and its competition cars in Toyota City’s Motomachi plant, the small on-site facility originally constructed to build the Lexus LF-A.

Pricing in the USA is still to be confirmed, but the GR should reach customers later this year. Toyota has since confirmed that right-hand drive markets like Australia have been confirmed to be in the queue for the Corolla, meaning there's still potential for its application in the UK market, even if Toyota UK has firmly denied it. Still, with the lighter and even more specialised GR Yaris here to enjoy, we can’t be too disappointed – especially if it eventually picks up the Corolla’s extra grunt. 

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