2023 Toyota GR Corolla

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For those of a certain vintage here in west, the Toyota Corolla conjures up images of something beige, four door and economical. The model however once had more sporting pretensions earlier in its lineage, and returns to those roots with the 2023 GR Corolla.

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Media event held at a B.C. racetrack. (By Benjamin Yong)

GR stands for Gazoo Racing, the brand’s factory motorsport division, and is also responsible for products such as the 86 and Supra.

“Customers across Canada have been urging us to bring a hot hatch to market, especially after seeing the GR Yaris in Europe. So our answer is the first ever 2023 GR Corolla. It has all the rowdiness of that pocket rocket Yaris you’ve seen in Europe, in a package that’s ideal for the North American market,” said Alec Markin, Prairie and Pacific Zone manager, during a media briefing before setting journalists loose on the racetrack in Duncan, B.C.

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The profile view. (By Benjamin Yong)

Like the above subcompact, this particular hatchback utilizes the same 1.6-cylinder turbocharged three-cylinder engine that’s been tuned via a special exhaust system. The setup generates an incredible 100 horsepower per cylinder, putting out 300 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to only one transmission offering: a short-throw, easy-to-shift six-speed manual with automatic rev-matching.

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GR Corolla badging. (By Benjamin Yong)

The triple-exit exhaust sounds amazing when firing up the ignition, and when getting on the throttle. Going from 0 to 100 km/h takes around five seconds and turbo lag is not really an issue as one might expect given the small displacement mill. MacPherson front and double-wishbone rear suspension keeps handling tight high-speed runs but not uncomfortable when
Driving on the street.

Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires are wrapped around 18-inch gloss-black wheels, and the sticky summer tires allowed the vehicle to stay on the ideal racing line – for the most part – on all of Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit’s 19 turns even on a cold autumn day with some melted snow on the asphalt. The big four-and-two-piston brakes ensured quick stopping every time.

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18-inch gloss black wheels. (By Benjamin Yong)

So how does the car look? Well, it’s certainly not your run-of-the-mill Corolla. Check out the functional air ducts on the bulged aluminum hood (Circuit Edition), fenders and bumpers, carbon fibre roof (Circuit Edition), fat fender flares, window spoiler, body aero and blacked-out details.

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Air ducts on the aluminum hood. (By Benjamin Yong)

Inside, there’s a big 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster incorporating additional important info like boost pressure. One of the examples on hand to test was the aforementioned launch-year-exclusive Circuit Edition, which includes a very cool MORIZO (alias for president Akio Toyoda who had a large hand in the development) signed leather gear knob. Lots of red trim is scattered throughout the mostly dark cabin, and the decision to use a mechanical versus an electric parking brake is welcome touch.

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The interior of the GR Corolla. (By Benjamin Yong)

The base Core grade (starting at MSRP $45,490) is available now and includes standard fabric sports seats, new eight-inch Toyota Multimedia six-speaker infotainment system, Qi-compatible wireless charging, and Torsen front and rear Limited Slip Differentials.

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MORIZO signed shifter knob. (By Benjamin Yong)

Coming this spring, the Circuit Edition ($53,990) bundles red calipers, heated steering wheel, eight-speaker JBL stereo, and more. Also arriving is a special 200-unit numbered MORIZO Edition ($59.990) that’s designed for the track, featuring 22 extra lb-ft of torque, suede and faux-leather upholstery, forged 18-inch wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber, deleted rear seat for weight savings, exclusive matte grey paint, among other goodies.

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Headrests with GR logo. (By Benjamin Yong)

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is built at the Toyota Motomachi Plant located in Aichi, Japan.

Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C. and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). See what he’s driving at the moment @popuplights.

Benjamin Yong

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