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First Drive Review of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla: Maximum Comfort With Greater Power Than Any Other Toyota Vehicle

Image Source: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock

Enthusiasts have not been particularly intrigued by the Toyota Corolla since the days of the AE86. However, Toyota has been making efforts to enhance the Corolla’s appeal by infusing more sportiness into it. With its latest generation, Toyota introduced the sportier Corolla Apex and even offered a manual transmission in the Corolla hatchback. Now, Toyota has answered the calls of hot hatch enthusiasts with the introduction of the 2023 GR Corolla.

The GR Corolla is Toyota’s response to the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R. The specs of the GR Corolla are quite impressive on paper. It is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that delivers 300 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. If you opt for the Morizo version, the torque increases to 295 lb-ft. This power is transmitted to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Toyota estimates that the GR Corolla can accelerate from 0-60 mph in under five seconds. If those specifications caught your eye, there’s more to reveal.

Alongside the upgraded powertrain, Toyota made other enhancements such as a sportier non-adaptive suspension featuring improved coil springs, shocks, and stabilizers. The Morizo edition also receives stiffer spring rates. To enhance rigidity, the body of the vehicle has 349 additional spot welds and extended feet of structural adhesive. Additional bracing is present in the underfloor tunnel and rear wheelhouse. Stopping power is handled by 12-inch front brakes and 11.7-inch rotors at the rear.

One notable feature is the availability of three different settings for distributing torque between the front and rear wheels. The default setting allocates 60% of the power to the rear wheels, but you can choose a 50:50 setup or a 30:70 setup for more power to the rear wheels. During our time with the GR Corolla on the track at the Utah Motorsports Campus, we tested out the three different modes. In the default setting, the GR Corolla performed admirably on the track. Opting for the “rear” setting that sends up to 70% of the torque to the rear wheels made it more enjoyable to navigate corners, although it resulted in slightly slower speeds on the track due to increased play at the rear.

Additionally, there is a Track mode that evenly distributes power 50:50. With the balanced torque distribution in this mode, the GR Corolla displays enhanced control on the track, leading to higher speeds. The Circuit and Morizo Edition variants also come with front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials, while they are optional on the base Core trim level.

On the track, it is evident that the Morizo Edition stands out as the superior variant thanks to its stiffer springs and weight reduction of 100 pounds. The Morizo Edition sheds weight by eliminating the rear seats, rear wiper, rear speakers, and rear window motors. It also features lighter forged wheels equipped with Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and a carbon fiber roof. The Morizo Edition distinguishes itself with functional brake ducts and a hood bulge that integrates functional ducts. Its interior boasts seats upholstered in synthetic suede and leather.

While the elusive Morizo Edition may be hard to come by due to its limited production, the good news is that the GR Corolla Circuit trim level offers most of the same features as the Morizo Edition, albeit without the weight reductions and suspension upgrades. The only downside to the Circuit Edition is its exclusive availability on the 2023 GR Corolla, with Toyota yet to announce the lineup for subsequent years.

You may be pondering how the GR Corolla feels behind the wheel. The acceleration is potent but may not deliver an astonishing experience. Turbo lag is noticeable, the steering feels slightly light, and the gearbox operates adequately. The GR Corolla is equipped with the iMT rev-match system that can be easily deactivated with a button. Being a Corolla at heart, it remains quite manageable with a suspension setup that leans towards comfort. While Toyota did not provide us with off-track time, the GR Corolla appears to offer a user-friendly everyday driving experience.

The 2023 GR Corolla will come in three versions: Core, Circuit Edition ($43,995), and Morizo Edition ($50,995). The Core version offers three packages: Performance, Technology, and Cold Weather. The Performance package ($11,80) adds front and rear limited slip differentials, 4-piston aluminum fixed-caliper disc brakes with red calipers, and upgraded brakes. The Technology package ($770) incorporates an enhanced JBL audio system with navigation and a wireless charger. The Cold Weather package ($500) includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

In conclusion, the GR Corolla is a remarkable hot hatch that injects excitement into the Corolla lineup. With a lower starting price compared to the VW Golf R, the GR Corolla is more accessible. The question remains: how will the GR Corolla stack up against the 2023 Honda Civic Type R? Regardless, the GR Corolla is an impressive hot hatch deserving of the Gazoo Racing emblem.

Image Source: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock

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