27 September 2023

PSN: Road Test: #02 2023-2024 – Toyota Corolla GR4

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By Paul Gover

The Toyota Yaris GR is a 100 per cent, certified, all enjoyment, pocket rocket.

Developed at the personal direction of Toyota boss, Akio Toyoda, it was to signal success in the World Rally Championship and also prove that Toyota could build cars which were more than just bland transport.

The Yaris GR has been a sellout around the world – with only 700 cars for Australia – and proves it’s still possible to create fun with a car that’s really just an upgrade of the starting-price Yaris.

Even so, it has some significant flaws. There are the too-high seats, the cramped cabin, the non-existent boot, and the sniggers that come when you’re driving a car with a Gazoo Racing label.

So, what next?

Toyota has taken the same mechanical package, dropped it into the larger Corolla, and found people who want the same performance without the Yaris-sized compromises.

So now we have the Toyota GR Corolla and the car is same-same but better, thanks to its extra size and a bunch of added refinement.

It only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, although there is talk of an automatic in 2024 for the Corolla and Yaris, and there is a switchable four-wheel drive system that changes the torque split for regular, sporty and fun driving.

It also ticks the boxes for big alloy wheels and grippy tyres, sports seats and steering wheel, and an old-school handbrake that has a clever system to unlock the four-wheel drive if you’re off-road and wanting to do some skids.

The GR Corolla will definitely get up and go but, like the Subaru WRX, it’s not just for kiddies who want a play car.

Driving slowly, the three-cylinder is gruff but not anti-social like an Mercedes-AMG with its pop-bang-thunder exhaust set to fully loud. The ride quality is pretty good for its low-profile tyres, and the cabin is well equipped and nicely comfortable.

The Corolla is definitely brisk, with a claimed 0-100km/h sprint in 5.4 seconds, but it can also mumble along without causing any fuss or bother.

The body changes for the GR pack, including a three (count them) pipe exhaust system, also help it to stand out in a commuter crowd.

But the real deal is the performance, which the GR Corolla definitely delivers.

It can sprint with real enthusiasm, it has brilliant turn to corners with great grip, and you can go fully old-school with the crisp manual six-speed shift.

The gearbox alone will get some buyers, as even the brilliant Volkswagen Golf GTI is no longer available with a manual gearbox.

The bite from the brakes is good, the torquey turbo is strong for overtaking and lunging out of second and third-gear corners, and the fuel economy is good at around 9 litres/100km, although it takes 98 premium fuel. On the downside, the boot is stupidly tiny and there is no spare of any sort.

Best for the GR Corolla is the driving enjoyment.

You don’t have to be going fast, or pushing to the redline, to have fun. The shortest commute is a little bit special with the turbo triple making its unique engine sounds, as you handle your own gear selection and the degree of grip you want around your local roundabout.

The GR Corolla is old-school in many ways but is proof that even the world’s biggest carmaker can still provide modern driving enjoyment.

It’s a car to celebrate driving and the 700 lucky Australian owners are a happy group.

Toyota GR Corolla
Position: compact performance car
Price: from $62,300
Engine: 1.6-litre 3-cylinder petrol turbo
Power: 221kW/370Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Plus: quick, rewarding, roomy cabin
Minus: no boot, no spare, only 700 available
THE TICK: definitely a winner
Score: 8.5/10

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