DRIVEN: Toyota GR Corolla is all about the delight of driving

Published Nov 28, 2023


Manual, turbo-charged, high-performance and all-wheel drive aren’t words that appear regularly in modern cars.

Which is why those of us that enjoy the art of driving rather than a plethora of connectivity and IT jargon when it comes to cars, raised a collective glass to the Toyota GR Corolla 1.6T GR-Four Circuit that we recently spent time with.

The GR Corolla joins its Gazoo Racing siblings in the form of the GR86, GR Supra and GR Yaris as Toyota’s current high-performance offerings.

A cursory glance at the car tells you it’s not just a run-of-the-mill Corolla but that there’s something special going on there.

It’s wider, lower and the wheels stand out further, especially the rear ones while the front is fitted with the GR Matrix grille, LED headlights and a big airdam in the bumper with front vents to feed air curtains to reduce drag.

If you crawl under it the underbody is flattened and covered to improve road holding and further reduce drag.

Our Circuit model also had two bonnet vents to aid hot air extraction from the engine bay while the three exhaust tips are also a give-away.

It perches on 18-inch lightweight Enkei Alloys wrapped in 235/40/18 Yokohama Advan tyres covering red GR calipers.

The inside doesn’t blow you away but it does exactly what it's supposed to with a GR multi-function three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, handbrake and gear shift gaiter.

The centre console has the GR-Four selector providing a 60:40 power front/rear bias in standard mode, 30:70 split in sport and track mode a 50:50 split .

GR bucket seats in BRIN-NAUB suede-type material come in very handy when you start to twist the throttle hard.

There’s an easy to use seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital display that’s designed around the central tachometer with the rest of the information on either side while in sport mode the tachometer is replaced by a bar graph.

Using all of the 221kW and 360Nm produced by the three cylinder 1.6-litre engine that’s had some Toyota R&D magic dust sprinkled on it and zipping through the six gears will see that same graph move up and down like a yo-yo.

Push the start button and there’s a lovely exhaust growl before depressing a light clutch and slotting it into gear.

Initially the ride feels very stiff. Keep in mind though the GR Corolla isn’t an air-sprung Lexus but has dampers designed and set for performance and handling which once you’ve performed and handled you’ll forgive and soon become used to and indeed appreciate.

The GR Corolla revels in the twisties and it’s here that you understand when people talk about chassis set-up.

It’s probably as close as perfect you’re likely to get in a standard production car and in fact when you press the car hard into and out of corners it feels like it can handle a lot more power than what’s on offer.

The levels of grip are super impressive and it takes a lot of self control not to behave like an idiot on public roads while you think about finding the next piece of curved tar.

Apologies to “Forged in Fire”... overall this car will turn and put a big smile on your face.

Toyota claims fuel consumption of 8.4l/100km which I suppose is possible if you potter around town, but given the nature of the car, do you really want to do that?

Keeping things safe should you run out of talent or road there’s a comprehensive suite of safety features that includes the Toyota Safety Sense package with emergency steering and lane keep assist, active cruise control, seven airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC, parking sensors and reverse camera.

At R902 400 it’s a whack of cash but the Toyota GR Corolla 1.6T GR-Four Circuit is undoubtedly an enthusiast’s car for those that can appreciate a well engineered and thought out package rather than owning it for the badge bragging rights.

There has been no official confirmation yet but word around the paddock has it that the GR Corolla will be used in next year’s GR Cup.

It comes with a nine-service/90 000km service plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty.