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2023 Toyota GR Corolla First Drive Review: Utmost Comfort With More Power Than Any Other Toyota Car

Image Source: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock

The Toyota Corolla hasn’t really sparked the interest of enthusiasts since the days of the AE86, but lately Toyota has been trying to improve the Corolla’s image, by adding more sport to the equation. With the latest generation, Toyota has introduced the sportier Corolla Apex and even put a manual in the Corolla hatchback. But now Toyota has finally given hot hatch enthusiasts what they’ve been asking for with the debut of the 2023 GR Corolla.

The GR Corolla is Toyota’s answer to the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R. On paper the GR Corolla’s specs are quite impressive. It’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that generates 300 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, but if you’re lucky enough to get the Morizo version, the torque rating increases to 295 lb-ft. All that power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Toyota estimates that the GR Corolla will accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds. Hopefully those specs got your attention, but there’s more.

Toyota didn’t just stop with the upgraded powertrain, since there are other upgrades, like a sportier non-adaptive suspension with better coil springs, shocks and stabilizers. The Morizo edition also gets stiffer spring rates. To boost its rigidity, the body has 349 more spot welds and additional feet of structural adhesive. There’s also additional bracing in the underfloor tunnel and rear wheelhouse. Stopping power is provided by 12-inch front brakes and 11.7-inch rotors at the rear.

Another awesome feature is that there are three different settings for how much torque you want to send to the front and rear wheels. The default setting is 60:40 with most of the power going to the rear wheels, but you can also select a 50:50 setup or 30:70 if you want more power to go to the rear wheels. We only got to spend time with the GR Corolla on the track at the Utah Motorsports Campus where we were able to test out the three different modes. In the default setting the GR Corolla had no difficulty on the track. But if you want to have more fun, the “rear” setting that sends up to 70 percent of the torque to the rear makes it more fun to fling around corners, but it also meant that it was a bit slower on the track since there’s more play at the rear.

There’s also a Track mode, which distributes the power 50:50. With the more balanced torque distribution, the GR Corolla has more control on the track, which also resulted in faster speeds. The Circuit and Morizo Edition versions also get front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials, while they are optional on the base Core trim level.

Around the track, the Morizo Edition is clearly the superior version thanks to its stiffer springs and 100 pound weight reduction. The Morizo Edition is lighter since it deletes the rear seats, rear wiper, rear speakers and rear window motors. It also gets lighter forged wheels wrapped in Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and a carbon fiber roof. The Morizo Edition stands out with its functional brake ducts and bulge hood with functional ducts. Inside its seats are wrapped in synthetic suede and leather.

While the Morizo Edition will be nearly impossible to find due to its limited production numbers, the good news is that the GR Corolla Circuit trim level basically gets most of the same features as the Morizo, but without the weight savings and suspension upgrades. The only downside about the Circuit Edition is that it will only be offered on the 2023 GR Corolla, Toyota has not announced what other versions it will offer after the first year.

Now you’re probably wondering how does the GR Corolla feel behind the wheel. The acceleration is strong, although not really something that’s going to shock you. There is some turbo lag, the steering is a bit light and the gearbox does an adequate job. The GR Corolla also gets the iMT rev-match system, which can easily be turned off with a button. Since the GR Corolla is still a Corolla, it is pretty tolerable without a suspension that is too harsh. Toyota didn’t give us any time off the track, but it does feel like it will be easy to live with everyday.

The 2023 GR Corolla will be available in three versions: Core, Circuit Edition ($43,995) and the Morizo Edition ($50,995). The Core version is available with 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, red calipers, and beefier brakes. The Technology package ($770) adds an upgraded JBL audio system with navigation and a wireless charger. The Cold Weather package ($500) adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

At the end of the day, the GR Corolla is an excellent hot hatch that finally gives the Corolla lineup some excitement. With a lower starting price than the VW Golf R, the GR Corolla is more attainable. Now the question remains, how will the GR Corolla compare to the 2023 Honda Civic Type R. Either way, the GR Corolla is an impressive hot hatch that’s worthy of the Gazoo Racing badge.

Image Source: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock

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