Toyota seem to have the Midas touch when it comes to the Gazoo Racing moniker. The 2023 GR Corolla GTS is no different, and in fact could be the best thing to come out of its performance stable to date.
Forget the car maker’s push into the EV market, this is all about the flipside of the coin, and its desire to build sporty performance models. It’s a journey that began with the GR Supra, in partnership with BMW, and the GR86, alongside Subaru.
Both are hugely popular, but it’s the rally-inspired GR Yaris that stands out from the crowd for its insane performance. What they’ve done now though is take what’s best recognised as a common daily driver and turn it too, into a total track weapon.
Starting with a normal Corolla chassis, Gazoo Racing strengthen this up with an extra 349 spots welds and 2.8-metres of structural adhesive. They then take the Torsen LSDs and the 3-cylinder 1.6-litre motor and gearbox from the Yaris, and give them a tune and tweak.
From there they add some massive 356mm front brake rotors with four-pot callipers, and 297mm offerings on the rear, those with two-pot callipers. 18-inch wheels shod with Yokohama Advan Apex sticky rubber adds the ultimate grip.
The end result is a car that offers 221kW of power and 370Nm of torque in an impressive 1,475kg package. While its 0-100km/h time of 5.29 seconds might not sound impressive, it’s not designed for outright pace – rather, it eats up corners like it’s going out of style.
The small engine, which offers decent fuel consumption of a claimed 8.4-litres/100km (in real world testing we saw 9.1-litres), despite its large displacement, makes a pretty decent noise that will keep you grinning from ear-to-ear, even in traffic.
There’s a nice balance of technology and safety goodies too, which only serve to enhance the driving experience. Among them are front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and a lane keep assist setup that isn’t too strict, for a change.
That last one means when you are driving on the fun roads, it doesn’t ruin your mojo. Toyota’s connected services are also included, and in a nice touch, despite being a manual, you’ll also find adaptive cruise control.
Fitted with the car maker’s impressive all-wheel drive system, the GR Corolla also sports a cool feature that acts as a soft rev-limiter, ensuring you don’t do any damage when it’s still cold. In a nutshell, it caps the rev limit to around 5,000rpm until the temperature is right.
Once it is, the Corolla is quite happy to let you hit the rev limiter, with no fuel cut off in sight. Launch control is impressive too, once you get the hang of it. A smooth clutch release is key to the setup in the GR machine, and the payoff is well worth it.
Now all that power is great, but you’ll also be pleased to know the front seats are heated, comfortable, and hold the body well, particularly at speed. They’re manually adjustable to save weight.
The heated steering wheel feels small, but lends itself well to the Toyota’s direct steering and nimble handling. Gear shifts are short and feel good. Most of the controls are here too, except the one that lets you mess with the intelligent manual transmission.
That’s weirdly on the other side of the steering wheel. The gauge cluster has a reasonable level of adjustment, with two pre-set templates, with a host of options for the central information display.
The infotainment system is pretty decent too, although the standard satellite navigation is a little confusing, seeming to struggle with pinpointing your actual location sometimes. That’s particularly so in Sydney’s high rise encircled CBD.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto features, and there’s cord free charging for your smartphone as well. The back seats are cosy, shall we say, in a similar vein to say the GR86. While it’s not a glorified parcel shelf situation, it is a little cramped.
The boot space is on the small side as well, at 213-litres, but is still perfectly fine for daily duties and shopping runs. Let’s face it though, are you really buying a GR Corolla GTS for its boot space or back seats – for most people, we think not.
Overall, the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla GTS is an epic hot hatch, that’s track ready. Feeling very much like the go fast icons of years gone by, like the Subaru WRX STI, it’s a testament to the car maker’s commitment to performance into the future.
Although it seems a tad pricey at $67,800 drive away (depending on the colour you choose), anyone who forks out the cash is truly in for a fun time behind the wheel.
Covered by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty (7-years on engine and driveline). Capped-price servicing is offered for the first 3-years or 60,000km (whichever comes first). It comes in four cool colours, including Liquid Mercury (as tested).
Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla GTS, contact your local Toyota dealer.