The Corolla's reputation as a reliable, value-oriented compact sedan has been established over 50 years of production. Although the GR Corolla shares its platform with the hatchback, it is a radically different car under the skin. Instead of an inline-4 and CVT powering the front wheels, the GR Corolla has a turbocharged inline-3 and 6-speed manual sending power to all four wheels. The fender flares, rear spoiler and other body modifications are proof this is no ordinary Corolla.
Toyota is already selling the 2024 GR Corolla in three variants: Core ($36,100), Premium ($39,920) and Circuit ($44,740). We tested a 2023 GR Corolla Morizo Edition ($50,995), a limited-edition model (200 units) discontinued for 2024. No options are available on the track-focused Morizo Edition. Significant mechanical differences exclusive to the Morizo Edition include different gear and final drive ratios, forged BBS 18-in. alloy wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, wider rear track, lower ground clearance, no rear seats, and reduced curb weight.
Standard equipment on the Morizo Edition includes a forged carbon fiber roof, aluminum hood and front doors, front and rear Torsen(R) limited-slip differentials, 8-in. touchscreen, 6-speaker audio system, Android Auto(TM), Apple CarPlay(R), sport seats, aluminum sport pedals, Ultrasuede(R)-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Active safety technologies include pre-collision system, lane departure alert, lane tracing assist, and dynamic radar cruise control. Some of the Morizo Edition standard equipment is available on other GR Corolla models.
Other Corollas are powered by a 1.8L or 2.0L inline four under the hood, but the GR Corolla substitutes a port and fuel-injected 1.6L inline-3 turbo developing 300-hp @ 6,500 RPM. The G16E-GTS engine in the Morizo Edition is rated for 295 lb.-ft. @ 3,250-4,600 RPM due to higher boost pressure (26.3 PSI). In the Core and Circuit Edition, the turbo is limited to 25.2 PSI, reducing torque to 273 lb.-ft. @ 3,000-5,000 RPM. A 6-speed manual sends power to the all-wheel drive system with a 60:40, 30:70 or 50:50 front/rear torque split. Both front and rear axles have Torsen(R) limited-slip differentials for maximum grip. First and third gears ratios in the 6-speed transmission are tuned specifically for the Corolla Morizo, along with shorter (higher numerical) final drive ratios. Toyota claims the GR Corolla Morizo can sprint from 0-60 MPH in 4.92 seconds, with the lesser GR Corollas just behind at 4.99 seconds. Top speed is limited to 143 MPH for all GR Corollas. Fuel consumption is estimated at 21/28 MPG (city/hwy.). We averaged 24-27 MPG in mixed urban and highway driving.
The GR Corolla retains the MacPherson front suspension from the base Corolla. At the rear is a double wishbone multilink suspension with coil springs and dampers. Stabilizer bars are at both ends. Steering is an electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion setup geared for 2.44 turns lock-to-lock. Brakes are ventilated discs: 14-in. dia. slotted front rotors (4-piston calipers) and 11.7-in. dia. slotted rotors (2-piston calipers). The Morizo rolls on forged 18-in. BBS alloy wheels and 245/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Other GR Corolla models are equipped with narrower 235/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires and 18-in. cast alloy wheels. The GR Morizo Edition weighs in at 3,186 lbs., significantly lighter than the Circuit Edition (3,285 lbs.) or the Core Grade (3,252 lbs.).
Inside the GR Corolla is a reminder that this sport hatchback shares its interior with the standard Corolla. Most interior panels are hard dark gray plastic, but build quality is excellent. Notable equipment unique to the GR Corolla are the red seat belts, sport seats, shifter boot and steering wheel covered in Ultrasuede(R) (Morizo Edition only). Toyota obviously spent most of the development budget on the engine, suspension and exterior.
After buckling in, the driver faces a three-spoke steering wheel with audio, phone and cruise controls integrated on the spokes. An electronic gauge cluster has a central tachometer and digital speedometer, bar graph fuel and coolant temperature indicators. Gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and g-force are accessible on the configurable display. The infotainment display is mounted awkwardly above the center dash vents. Toyota wisely located the power/volume knob on the lower left corner of the display.
The simulated suede and synthetic leather sport seats are exceptionally supportive and comfortable, but are contoured for slimmer occupants. Neither front seat has power adjustments, but the driver's seat is 6-way manually adjustable. Front headroom is adequate for occupants up to 6 ft. tall. A center armrest would be appreciated, but is unavailable. The rear door windows are locked in place, but the doors do open to access the additional cargo storage space that replaces the deleted rear seats. A U-shaped bracket prevents larger objects from impacting the front seats under deceleration. A rear strut tower brace increases chassis rigidity, but bisects the cargo area. The other GR Corolla models keep the rear seats, making the Core and Circuit Edition more suitable for daily use.
Driving the GR Corolla is a unique experience. The turbo inline-3 settles into a grumbly idle immediately after startup. Torque below 2,000 RPM is unimpressive, as expected from a small displacement turbo engine. As revs rise above 3,000 RPM, throttle response improves significantly, propelling the GR Corolla forward in a surge of acceleration. We rarely needed to rev to the 7,000 RPM redline, due to the robust midrange torque. Clutch engagement is somewhat abrupt, so executing smooth shifts can be challenging. The shifter has long throws, but positive gear engagement ensured no missed shifts. The powertrain has Normal, Sport and Track modes. In normal street driving, the difference between Normal and Sport modes was unnoticeable. We didn't use the Track mode since all our driving was done on public roads.
Toyota's engineers optimized the suspension for hot laps on the track, but the tuning is surprisingly compliant, although over frost heaves the Morizo Edition pitches and bounces around as expected. Steering response is exceptional, aided by the track-ready Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Minimal understeer is accompanied by moderate body roll, but after the chassis sets, the Michelins grip tenaciously. Highway tracking is just average since frequent steering corrections are required over patched roads. Performance tires like the Sport Cup 2 tend to be noisy over concrete surfaces, but they proved significantly quieter on asphalt. The track-ready disc brakes delivered exceptional braking performance at all speeds, accompanied by firm pedal actuation.
The GR Corolla is one of the most unexpected and exciting cars in the Toyota model range. This hot hatch is meant to take on winding back roads and its competition from Honda and Subaru. The Morizo Edition is the most uncompromising version of the GR Corolla, and for the few enthusiasts who own it, this car embodies the joy of driving.