In today's automotive world, true car enthusiasts are simply struggling. Yes, we can get our acceleration from electric cars, better than any internal combustion engine, but we want raw driving experience. When Toyota released its Supra, which we recently reviewed, we were simply exhilarated. The only problem is, the Supra lacked some rawness to it. It is one of the best performers on the market today, but it's just too refined, unlike the all-new Nissan Z, which brings a more engaging experience. If there is one thing we know about Toyota, it's that they always offer something for everyone. This couldn't be more true with the introduction of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. We got our hands on the Circuit Edition for a week, and it's safe to say giving it up with a struggle. Here's why the GR (Gazoo Racing) Corolla is the hottest hatch in the world today.
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Circuit Edition
9.30 / 10
- Turbocharged Engine
- 6-Speed Manual Transmission
- GR-Four AWD System
- Trim: Circuit Edition
- Model: GR Corolla
- Engine/Motor: 1.6-Liter Turbocharged 3-Liter
- Horsepower: 300 @ 6,500 RPM
- Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 3,000-5,500 RPM
- Drivetrain: AWD
- Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
- Selectable Torque Distribution
- Great Performance
- Great Handling
- Good Exhaust Note
- Open Differential
- GR Badging And Styling
- Lacks Low-End Torque
- Average Cabin
- Limited Availability
GR Corolla's Rally-Inspired Engine And Performance
Remember not too long ago when Toyota announced that the GR Yaris will make its debut sporting a 3-cylinder turbocharged engine? All Americans were jealous. We wanted a taste of a 3-cylinder turbocharged engines, too. Well, the same engine powering the GR Yaris is now in the AWD GR Corolla. This is a 1.6-liter turbocharged Inline 3-cylinder engine, which works collaboratively with a 6-speed manual transmission, and it happens to be the only transmission option in the GR Corolla. The GR Corolla comes with Toyota's GR-Four all-wheel drive system, which features three torque distribution settings. You can drive the GR Corolla in 60-40 torque distribution, 50-50, or 30-70 (Front-Rear) - all with a flick of a switch. The GR Corolla delivers 300 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, and 273 lb-ft of torque at 3,000-5,500 RPM with an RPM redline of 7,200 RPM. If these numbers and specs aren't getting you excited yet, read on to see how this hot-hatch does on the road.
Aggressive Styling For The GR Corolla Hot-Hatch
The entire exterior of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla just screams rally. It is compact, aggressive, and simply beautiful. The Circuit Edition, which is the one we are reviewing, gets you four 18-inch, 15-spoke cast alloy wheels, with Michelin Pilot Sport tires wrapped around them. Our loner came in the Supersonic Red paint, with the red-painted GR 4-piston calipers in the front. Imagine how these calipers would pop on the Heavy Metal paint color, though. Since this is a rally-bred animal, the GR Corolla Circuit Edition sports the forged carbon-fiber rood, and while it looks untreated, it's in fact finished with UV protection. If you didn't know this hatch had a forged carbon roof, you'd think it's dirty until you're close enough to realize this is simply for weight-reduction. The bulged hood features two functional air vents. The air vents are in a good location, but we wish they were slightly bigger. Finally, the rear features a spoiler, which completely changes the look of the hatchback, especially when your eyes catch the triple exhaust tips below. All in all, the GR Corolla's styling is an absolute slam-dunk, and we have no real complaints.
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GR Corolla Has An Average Cabin For A Future Legend
Despite having the GR badge all over its cabin, the GR Corolla's cabin could use some spicing up. In all fairness, this is a performance hatchback with track-use in mind, which is apparent in the lack of an armrest. If you haven't driven a car without an armrest in a while, your right arm will feel so awkward for a while before you find a place for it. However, having an armrest could get in the way of quick shifting on the track, even if it's pulled up. The infotainment screen is large, and slightly in the way, but it features completely wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The infotainment system is easy to use and extremely functional. The gauge cluster is sporty with enough features for both your daily-driving and track driving, with important data like temperatures, boost, and g-force. The interior is functional. It won't blow your mind, but once you feel what this nimble hatch can do, you won't think twice about material, which actually happens to be better than the Audi A3 we just reviewed.
The GR Corolla Is A Blast On The Streets
It's been a while since we had this much fun on the streets. It doesn't take much to have a blast in the GR Corolla, even when you're driving the speed limit. The GR Corolla weighs just 3,269-pounds, which makes for quite the light drive. It sounds good enough, although it could use some pops and bangs like the Veloster N, but sound is not what we're thinking about in this car. It is truly a fun car to drive; however, it takes some learning. This means that on your first drive, you won't truly feel the potential of this hatchback. The GR Corolla thrives when revved up, and the real fun doesn't start until 4,000 RPM.
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The Intelligent Manual Transmission will help you rev-match, and it does it brilliantly. The throttle and the brake pedal are quite far from each other, and it actually presented some problems when we tried to heel-toe shift. This is why the I-MT came in handy. Annoyingly enough, you have to turn it on each time you start the car, which you will always forget until the first downshift of your drive. Shifting is crunchy in a good way, and you never really feel like you will miss a shift. Compared to the Civic Type R, the GR Corolla isn't as crisp, or even as light, and it certainly doesn't have nearly as appealing of a cabin as the Honda, but it does offer all-wheel drive and a range of torque distribution that make for a truly fun experience.
Between the all-wheel drive, the track-tuned suspension, and the numerous chassis rigidity upgrades, the GR Corolla truly handles like a champ. It's lightweight, and you can throw it around corners in confidence. When you feel you may lose it, the traction kicks in to get you back on track and make you feel like a pro. If you learn how to drive this car, which is the higher RPM range, you will never complain about acceleration. It's quick, it's nimble, and it stops as good as it goes. With that in mind, it's not the most comfortable hatchback. The GR Corolla lacks an adaptive suspension system, which means it's track-focused even on the road. If you choose to get this car, however, you won't be thinking about comfort, even during your daily-drive to work. This is a fun car, and you should own it and enjoy it the way it's intended.
Related: The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Is Japan's Answer To The Volkswagen Golf R
Limited Production Will Present A Huge Supply And Price Problems
I drive cars for a living. This year, I've reviewed tons of cars, and it's truly extremely rare to want to buy a car after reviewing it. I reviewed a Maserati Quattroporte Trofeo, and I didn't really feel that I'd want one after I gave it back, even if price wasn't an issue. This was different, however, and I had a truly hard time giving the key back. I want to buy a GR Corolla. Want isn't enough to get you one, unfortunately. Toyota announced that there will only be 6,600 GR Corolla produced for the US market. This presents a real issue in both supple and price. We live in weird times and dealerships have been going absolutely nuts with their markups. So, for the Circuit Edition, which starts at $42,000, you can only imagine how much they would charge you over the MSRP. Even if you opt for the base Core trim, which starts at $35,900 and offers the same performance, you will need a miracle to be able to get your hands on one. If supple issues and limited availability were non-existent, however, then go buy a 2023 Toyota GR Corolla and you won't regret it.