The Toyota GR Corolla is the most exciting car to bear the name since the AE86 Levin and Sprint Trueno, but like those icons it's not for European consumption

hot hatchbacks

This is the Toyota GR Corolla, an ajoining model to the GR Yaris, Supra and GR86 under the Gazoo Racing brand that prioritises engaging, thrilling driving dynamics over everything else. The specialised hot hatchback will be built in both left- and right-hand drive, with varying specifications available depending on its intended market, but consistent to all is the turbocharged triple, all-wheel drive and wide-body stance.

Yet Toyota insists there are no plans to bring the GR Corolla to the UK or Europe, even once the GR86 is removed from sale once the new safety regulations take hold. This isn't due to build constraints, as Japanese domestic market (JDM) right-hand drive production means its sale is at least technically feasible – rather it's that Toyota just doesn't need to, with the GR Yaris already selling at above production capacity. 

Still, we can still revel in what we're missing, starting with the JDM models. In Japan, they will be available in two specifications: a standard GR Corolla RZ that mimics US-market models, and a stripped-out, even more hardcore range-topper called the GR Corolla Morizo.

Specific to the Morizo are some additions to its technical package that go even further than the RZ and US models, starting with the structure itself which has been stiffened on account of its extra 3.3 metres of structural adhesive and the addition of body reinforcement braces – one of which makes its way between the rear strut mounts thanks to the removal of the rear seats. Whilst we’re inside, the front seats are a new set of buckets with even more substantial bolsters on the seat back and base, and there’s extensive use of Ultrasuede on the doors, seats, console and steering wheel. Thanks largely to the changes inside the cabin, the Morizo is 30kg down on the RZ and USA-spec cars, sitting at 1440kg. 

hot hatchbacks

There have also been changes to the powertrain and drivetrains, as there’s yet another new tune to the G16E-GTS turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine found in the Morizo. It doesn’t differ in power from the base RZ and USA-spec models, which produce a peak power figure of 296bhp (a 39bhp rise over a EU-spec GR Yaris, and 28bhp up on the JDM GR Yaris), but it does have slightly more torque, with 295lb ft now available at a slightly higher 3250rpm in comparison to the base car’s 273lb ft available between 3000-5500rpm.

Toyota explains the extra power found in all GR Corollas over the GR Yaris 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.

To make the most of this extra grunt, the Morizo has lower-geared limited-slip Torsen differentials on both axles, as well as shorter ratios for the first three gears for that ‘90s Group A homologation special-feel. There are no official acceleration figures as is also true of its other specifications, but with shorter gearing we’d suggest that a third gear change to reach 62mph would scupper any headline-grabbing figures. 

hot hatchbacks

All GR Corollas feature the same GR-FOUR all-wheel drive system 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.

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, with wider tracks front and rear on modified MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension layouts. Morizo models come with new Monotube dampers on both axles, which also lowers the ride height by 5mm, but all GR Corollas otherwise utilise passive dampers.

hot hatchbacks

Both JDM spec models feature familiar 18-inch forged wheels from the GR Yaris, with RZ models running 235-section Yokohama Advans, while the Morizo packs a more serious set of 245-section Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.

In the USA, there are three different variants available: Core, Circuit and its own Morizo variant. 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 those 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.

Topping the range is the Morizo model, which mimics the JDM specification by removing the rear seats, fitting an Enkei wheel package, offering an even more track-focused suspension tune and swapping out the high-spec infotainment system for something a little more basic. The steering wheel, gear knob and unique bucket seats are also finished in Alcantara. It also removes the Circuit Pack's rear spoiler for that ultimate JDM base-model aesthetic that gained popularity in the '90s and '00s when Subaru and Mitsubishi would sell bare-trimmed versions of their STI and Evo models to be converted to rally cars. 

hot hatchbacks

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 and Morizo models have an identical setup, but swap the standard-finish calipers with red-painted GR-branded units.  

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. Options differ across the two different markets, but Morizo and Circuit models can be specified in a new matt-finish grey colour, the former bearing the signature of its namesake, a nickname of Toyota’s boss and semi-professional racing driver Akio Toyoda.

Pricing for models in the USA start at $35,900 for the Core model, rising to $42,900 for the circuit pack and topping out at $49,990 for the Morizo. The new Honda Civic Type R is priced from $42,695 in the USA for context, so even if the Corolla was making its way to the UK, we suspect it wouldn't be quite the bargain a GR Yaris is by comparison.

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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