- The 2023 GR Corolla is one of the most hyped releases in recent memory, borrowing the GR Yaris powerplant, widebody treatment, and 4-door functionality.
- Three trim models have been slated for release (Core, Circuit, and Morizo); most enthusiasts have opted for the Core knowing mods are inevitable.
- The GR Corolla Core is available in either Black, Ice Cap (white), or Supersonic Red (for an additional $425).
After years of laying dormant, Toyota has emerged like a periodical cicada to bless the enthusiast community with a quartet of Gazoo Racing offerings: the Supra, Yaris, 86, and Corolla. It was a timely appearance. We’ve seen the meteoric value rise of SW20 MR2s, JZX100s, MK4 Supras, and the like over the last decade, at least partially because so many people were keen to experience (what we thought was) the last of Toyota’s efforts to make a sports car.
In 2023, we are spoiled for choice. We might not call them sport compact cars anymore, but the ethos remains constant to the label that reigned supreme 20 years ago. It’s a great time to be alive.
Not getting the GR Yaris still leaves me a little sour, but our stateside consolation prize certainly isn’t a slouch. The GR Corolla isn’t a homologation special like its punchy two-door stablemate, but it still packs all of the essentials into a, let’s face it, much more practical form factor.
We’ve already covered 10 things you need to know about the GR Corolla, but now that things have gone from prospective to real life, it was time to give everything another look. That aforementioned G16E-GTS 1.6-liter 3-cylinder engine sounds (and looks) more demure than its output suggests. But appearances can certainly be deceiving. Despite no displacement increase, the engine in the Corolla pumps out an additional 32 horsepower over its Yaris equivalent. Undoubtedly, it’s a potent package. It’ll be exciting to hear this car with an aftermarket exhaust and intake.
That little dial (managing the car’s torque split) aft of the gear shift lever just begs to be toggled at every opportunity and it’s wild to think that a WRC innovation like this is readily available in a production car.
As we also know, the regular Corolla components are mated to muscle-y widebody bits on the GR. In real life, the execution is about as aftermarket-looking as launch photos would suggest, but I think a large part of that is intentional to set it apart. That said, If the standard Corolla is a terrier, the GR Corolla is unmistakably a bulldog; sure, there are visual cues that let you know they are part of the same overall family, but their demeanor and overall presence are very different.
THE COLOR YOU WANT
Across the range, the factory color choices are rather limiting. Different metallic shades of grey and white are available as you work up the trim levels, but there are never more than three options. The Core model, as you see here, is available in Black, Ice Cap (white), or Supersonic Red for an additional $425. Both black and white options are flat, classic hues — the perfect choices as blank canvases — but the punchiest of the trio is undoubtedly Supersonic Red.
Available on the Core and Circuit trims exclusively, this was my first opportunity to see Supersonic Red in person. I was impressed at how much the car took on divergent personalities depending on lighting conditions. In the brightest, the car shone just as brightly with warm, borderline orange tones. The Corolla looked more one-dimensional here, but not in a bad way — it is a sporty hatch through and through — and direct sunlight made that identity apparent. Underneath the cloud cover, the paint morphed like tannins in wine. As it pushed cooler blues forward, it also seemingly elevated the Corolla well beyond its price point and allowed its distinct body lines to look more pronounced. Supersonic Red is a fetching hue because it can lean in both of those directions. If you were doing a school run, the color is mature enough to not look out of place in the drop-off zone amidst towering, monotone executive badges, but splashy enough to stand out as part of the cool parent club.
THE ONE TO MOD
Speaking of cool, if the Scarlet Flare Red Varis GR Yaris is any indication, the Corolla’s bespoke hue will take on mods just as well. Despite the car’s decidedly modern aesthetic, I’d love to see it eventually interpreted with a vintage flair in mind. It’d be cool to see a GR Corolla on a set of 18” Volk Racing 21C or, in the ideal world, some SSR Super Stars (if they existed in anything bigger than 13”).
But I digress. After reading about this car, I was so sure that the Circuit trim would be the one to buy. Yet, after spending the afternoon with a Core model, I found myself second-guessing. I’ve never been able to keep anything stock for long, and the $7,000 price difference would be a good chunk of change to inevitably set yourself apart from the other GR Corolla in the lot, whether visually or mechanically. Yes, you’d lose the coveted forged carbon fiber roof, but not every car in the garage needs that party trick. As I type this, a Core edition with the optional Performance Package might be the best way to go out of the gate. I better move on before I change my mind again.
MAKING WAVES IN THE INDUSTRY
All signs point to the GR Corolla being a massive hit, so we can only hope that Toyota’s sports car trajectory continues. But truthfully, I hope that its efforts have much wider ripple effects for the industry and convince manufacturers that we, as petrolheads, are here to stay.
Simply put, the enthusiast market is far from dead; we’ve just needed new cars to reflect our changing demands as human beings and Toyota may be one of the first to truly recognize it. The GR86 is the truest reincarnation of the sport compact car as we knew it in the early 2000s where practicality was of no concern. But the rest of that GR lineup acknowledges shifting requirements: we want fun and fast, but we also need practicality to haul our stuff (or kids, whether human or four-legged).
More often than not, we don’t need the 3-ton heft, 7-seats, and near single-digit gas mileage of SUVs, but we accept them due to a glaring lack of alternatives. Indeed, the presence of new performance wagons and hatchbacks across the industry is certainly a welcomed, albeit slow, recognition. Cars like the GR Corolla will help us Americans further shift our own narrative, and with it, the types of cars that manufacturers will make for our ever-important market.
So, if you have the means, buy a GR Corolla. Enjoy the heck out of it. And make sure it’s Supersonic Red.