Welcome Our New 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Project Car

Photography: Renz Dimaandal

  • The GR Corolla is Toyota’s latest hot hatch powered by a 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine derived from the GR Yaris that makes 300hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.
  • Available only with a six-speed manual and AWD, the GR Corolla is designed for enthusiasts who have a passion for road and rally racing.
  • Pit+Paddock’s Sam Du will be building this 2023 GR Corolla Core model to perform faster around the track and exhibit at the 2023 SEMA Show.

GR FAMILY GROWS

It’s hard to believe that I picked up my last project car four years ago: a Toyota GR Supra Launch Edition. After rushing to finish the A90 for the ENEOS booth at the 2019 SEMA Show, I’ve spent the last few years simply enjoying the car. From road trip adventures to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Drivers Project: Monterey Car Week, and pushing it to its limits at track events such as Starting Grid, the GR Supra has lived up to its name. I always thought I would’ve sold the Supra in one- or two-year’s time, but it’s honestly been one of the most gratifying cars I’ve ever owned. But now, after four years have flown by, the itch to start a new project car has been boiling hotter and hotter inside me. I couldn’t fight the feeling anymore, which is why you’re looking at the proud owner of not just a GR Supra but also a brand-new 2023 Toyota GR Corolla!

NO TYPE R, NO Z

The GR Corolla wasn’t an automatic choice; in fact, I was entertaining the idea of the new Honda Civic Type R or Nissan Z.

Having enjoyed no shortage of seat time in the FK8 from media track days and borrowing several friends’ builds, I knew the Civic Type R was already a solid and very tunable hatchback to begin with. I also understood that the FL5 on paper wasn’t leaps and bounds better. Don’t get me wrong, every bit of the new FL5 is improved with an upgraded chassis, more stability, better handling, extra torque, and a spiffy facelift. But to me, it just didn’t conjure up enough excitement, especially when I’m talking about dropping a lot of dough on a new project car.

Then comes the predicament of the new Nissan Z… I was extremely stoked about the Z from its global press debut two years ago. I even spent a week test-driving a press loaner earlier this year. While it delivers power figures around 400hp, thanks to a twin-turbo V6 setup, I still can’t get over its confused looks. At this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, I’ll admit to seeing plenty of well-executed Z builds, but it wasn’t enough to sway my decision of going for GR. 

WHAT I LIKE

From the get-go I was intrigued by the GR Corolla, as I’d pieced together a Corolla SEMA build in 2018. It was an honest, affordable daily driver that I appreciated for its functionality as a five-door hatchback; it easily accommodated my friends and fit all my shit. I also believed in its styling. The lightly modified SEMA build demonstrated that the Corolla platform doesn’t take much to look sexy.

The GR Corolla’s specs were intriguing, too. A three-cylinder 1.6-liter engine is unheard of in the States; however, it didn’t take watching many videos of the GR Yaris to know the GR Corolla would be a beast. 300hp has always been a good benchmark for a car to drive in my book; just enough to zip around the canyons and not be screaming at the top of your lungs for more power.

Living in SoCal also doesn’t warrant needing AWD to brave the elements, but I will say, having all that traction from a properly engineered AWD vehicle is rewarding when your right foot is often too heavy accelerating out of corners.

With the GR Corolla only coming with a six-speed manual…I’m not going to lie, that did excite me quite a bit because I would’ve picked up the GR Supra in a manual if I could. I’m old school and a firm believer that manual transmissions are not only more fun, but exactly how sports cars should be built (even if OEMs today are brainwashing us to believe that automatics can shift gears quicker).

All the signs were pointing to the GR Corolla, and the idea of having a little brother to the GR Supra makes me feel like I’m stepping into a sense of fatherhood, now the proud owner of two GR babies. Stay tuned for more updates and let the mods begin!

Special thank you to 405 Motoring.

 

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