Before my review of the new Toyota Corolla GR, I would like to give you my own
experiences of a Corolla. Way back when I bought one in 1971, I didn’t have any
connection with the motoring business but chose it because it looked better than others
in the class – which is as good a reason as any I reckon…
I didn’t have a family then, but three children arrived over the following six years. All
came home as tiny babies in the Corolla. As they grew up there wasn’t a lot of space
for the three of them in the back seat. They were OK while very young but could argue
a lot when they got older and space became a priority for them. Ahh, the joys of kids…
With close to 135,000 kilometres on the clock I finally sold it and bought a bigger car.
Not a Toyota but I won’t say what it was, other than that it was made in Germany not
But enough of my reminiscences – onto the 2023 Corolla GR hot hatch which I’ve been
reviewing for the past week. It’s significantly larger than our 1971 car and has plenty of
The GR’s engine has three cylinders – that’s right, three. Its 1.6-litre capacity is boosted
to the heavens by a large turbocharger so there’s a power peak of 221kW of power at
6500rpm and top torque of 370Nm from 3000 to 5550 revs.
GR stands for Gazoo Racing and the Corolla opens to a dynamic Gazoo Racing
startup animation with the 12.3-inch head-up display shows your speed and engine
revs. You can toggle between a horizontal, circuit-inspired tachometer or a single-dial
layout. If you’re considering buying one make sure the sales folks give you plenty of
time behind the wheel so you can check out everything.
This is a great looking machine with plenty of shapes pointing out it’s a serious sports
machine not just a dressed-up hatchback.
The front is dominated by an extra-large grille painted in shiny black. There’s a narrow
horizontal strip above the grille that’s finished in body colour and houses lights that go
well back towards the windscreen. Twin black outlets make a prominent statement but
aren’t just there for appearance as they add extra air to keep the area from the hot
engine cool. (‘Hot’ in both senses of that word.)
The flares over the front wheels are large, those over the rears are extra-large and go
all the way to the back where they meet the tail in a very purposeful manner.
There are three exhaust outlets to match the three cylinders in the engine.
The leather accented GR sports seats are covered in suede with silver stitching and
accents. Again, they say that this car means business.
The rear seats have limited legroom if the fronts are set back for tall occupants. If the
driver is tall and needs to sit back then there’s a real squeeze for anyone behind them.
This is partly due to the large size of the sporty front seats.
The boot is relatively shallow as the floor is set high to make space for various items
under them. With the rear seat backrests down the floor isn’t level. If you may need to
carry bulky items you might have to consider this as part of your initial check before
closing to buy a Corolla GR.
An eight speaker JBL sound system provides excellent quality entertainment. However,
we didn’t listen to it a lot, preferring to hear the purposeful sounds of the engine. The
Corolla GR has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The three-cylinder engine sits across the underbonnet area. Its power peak is 221kW
at 6500rpm and maximum torque of 370Nm is over a wide spread from 3000 to 5550
revs. It drives all four wheels.
Toyota safety sense systems include lane departure alert with steering assist, pre-
collision safety system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, intersection turn
assistance, emergency steering assist and road sign assist (speed signs only).
What a brilliant little rocketship this is. It reacts virtually instantly to movements of the
throttle and is happy to get close to the redline every time you want to get the best from
Electric power steering has good feedback through the wheel and the car talks to you
at all times, and seems even more ‘talkative’ the harder you push the car.
If you don’t have a smile on your face when driving the Toyota Corolla GR, you aren’t
trying hard enough to get the best from it. So, give it another go…
The six-speed manual gearbox has close set ratios and is light and easy to use. The
car rev matches for you to make shifts smooth and easy. If you pride yourself on being
able to heel-toe in a manual car you may find the GR may frustrate you as you can’t
show off your skill.
Then again, if you do want to show off your skill why not join a club and take in on
driving days a racetracks? If you’re really serious you may want to take a set race tyres,
that is without treads, in the boot and change onto them when you get there.
There’s a GR-Four all-wheel drive controller behind the gear lever to let you adjust the
bias of the four-wheel-drive system. A drive mode selector gives you the choice of Eco,
Normal, Sport and Custom.
The official fuel consumption is 8.4 litres per hundred kilometres. On test we were using
about ten litres per hundred around town and seven litres per hundred kilometres on
the motorways and in easy country road cruising. These are impressive numbers for a
heavy high-performance machine like this.
Toyota Corolla GR is a brilliant machine that’s enjoyable to drive in the way that it
provides instant feedback to the way you control it. Other than being pretty expensive I
would be happy to turn over my hard-earned to have one in our garage.
AT A GLANCE
Toyota Corolla GR GTS 1.6-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatchback: $62,300
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your
local Toyota dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Toyota Corolla GR GTS 1.6-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatchback:)
Capacity: 1.618 litres
Configuration: Three cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 221 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 370 Nm @ 3000 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.4 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 191 g/km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed manual
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4407 mm
Wheelbase: 2640 mm
Width: 1851 mm
Height: 1479 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1470 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres