The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has everything it needs to become a cult car, from the unique 3-cylinder turbo engine to the trick AWD and… the fact it’s a Corolla. But before it gets turned into phone wallpapers and hyped Instagram posts, we need to know how it compares to rivals, such as the Volkswagen Golf R and the WRX STI (which Subaru stopped making).
The GR Corolla is a pretty unusual hot hatch. Most rivals use 4-cylinder turbocharged engines with at least a 2.0-liter displacement. Usually, they also come in FWD, like the Golf GTI or Honda Civic Type R. But Toyota built a sort of rally car for the road with unusual tech.
The 1.6-liter turbo engine is shared with the pints-ized GR Yaris and it makes a whopping 300 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque thanks to 25 psi of boost, which is amazing for any production car. But its rivals for this drag race are frankly frightening.
Officially, the new Volkswagen Golf R is rated at 315 hp. However, dyno tests have shown it makes closer to 335 hp, and when equipped with the DSG gearbox it can take on all kinds of BMW and Audi sports models. This isn’t a DSG model; it’s manual, just to make it fair for the Corolla. Also involved in Throttle House’s drag race is a Subaru WRX STI equipped with the legendary 2.5-liter boxer engine.
Fun over performance?
The STI is no longer available, and it’s a sedan, not a hatchback. But Subaru is pretty much synonymous with AWD rally cars for the road, so it’s THE rival the GR Corolla needs to take on. The drag race itself ends pretty much the way you expect it, with the Golf R pulling ahead due to its superior firepower.
However, the GR Corolla is just so special that you’ll instantly forgive its loss against the Golf R. It’s got a manual gearbox that’s been compared to the one in the Miata and an AWD system that can send 70% of the power to the rear wheels. Unfortunately, this doesn’t turn it into a drift machine on a dry track. But we’ve seen enough GR Yaris videos to know its big brother will be fun in the snow.
The basic GR Crolla is the Core trim and it costs $37,000 at that price you’ve got a real Civic Type R alternative. But this is the Circuit edition costing $44,000 and its upgrades include the front and rear Torsen diffs we talked about, upgraded brakes, a hood bulge, a carbon fiber roof plus some nice-looking bucket seats with heating. The good news is that you can get the Torsen diffs on the Core model with the $1180 Performance package.
There’s also an ultra-limited Morizo Edition which costs a whopping $51,000. They’re only selling 200 of those in America, and they’ll have aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a rear seat delete and extra chassis bracing.