The GR Corolla is Shaping Up to Be the Hot Hatch of Our Dreams
Turbo, AWD, Hatchback
Excited? About a Corolla? Hear us out.
There’s a sort of renaissance happening over at Toyota. Akio Toyoda, current president of Japan’s largest automaker and grandson of Toyota’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda, has been on a mission since 2009 to transform the auto giant’s image into one built for enthusiasts. Since taking the reins, he’s lead development on some of our favorites: the FRS, Supra, GR86, and GR Yaris. That last car, which can hardly be considered a Yaris at all, is a gem that’s being celebrated around the world and has unfortunately eluded us here in the United States. Toyota, however, may soon make amends and heal our broken North American hearts. Enter the GR Corolla.
While a US-bound Toyota hot hatch has been officially announced since mid-2020, details of the fabled beast have been scarce and littered with rumors… until now. Toyota’s PR team has been on a wild spree of cryptic, yet revealing, social media posts that all but confirm a few hunches we’ve had.
Taking a look at Toyota’s latest teaser, it’s apparent that a camouflaged Corolla lurks in the shadows to the left. Zooming in, we can make out the GR-Four graphic on the Corolla’s side – confirming that the upcoming car will be using the GR Yaris’s rally-derived all-wheel drive system. We can also make out larger five-spoke wheels, a front fascia that looks largely the same as the existing Corolla, and extended fenders reminiscent of over-fender kits on classic JDM cars (look at the area just above the wheel arch where the camouflage graphics look to be at a more horizontal angle than the rest of the front fender).
Though the eyes may be drawn to the car in the shadows, more information is actually written on one of the storage containers up above. The text reads, “NA G16 GR FOUR,” indicating the car is destined for North American roads and will be equipped with the same G16 engine and GR-Four drivetrain as the GR Yaris.
The 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo G16E engine pumps out 268 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque in the GR Yaris; but we expect small revisions will be made to accommodate the larger chassis of the Corolla. The standard Corolla hatchback also weighs about 200 lbs heavier than the GR Yaris, so rumors suggest the high-strung three-cylinder engine will gain a bit more oomph before reaching our shores.
Toyota USA’s Instagram also made a teaser post in late-October showing the camouflaged GR Corolla speeding down a hill in the background. Again, the Easter eggs aren’t the hot hatch itself, but inside the cabin on the gauge cluster and infotainment screen. Looking closer, the text on the cluster reads, “G:16,” and the road on the navigation screen is named “GR FOUR” – further cementing the fact that the upcoming GR Corolla will use the same powertrain as the famed GR Yaris.
With the engine, drivetrain, and hatchback form factor essentially confirmed, we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the GR Corolla. The GR Yaris, although a fantastic car, is likely too small and impractical to be a sales success here in the United States (pre-pandemic sales figures of the standard Yaris in the US were less than one-tenth the number sold in Europe). The US market is largely dominated by crossovers, trucks, and SUVs; but with the growing popularity of larger hatchbacks, choosing the Corolla to get the GR treatment seems like the most logical step for Toyota.
The GR Corolla is entering a market with fierce competitors like the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai Veloster N, and VW Golf R, but we think it’ll carve its own niche fairly quickly. The Civic Type R and Veloster N are both front-wheel drive, so that puts them in a different category when comparing to all-wheel drive rally-bred hatchbacks. Although the Golf R is a premium AWD hot hatch, it also carries an equally premium price tag (starting at $44,640).
With the GR Corolla, Toyota is introducing a hot hatch that checks all the right boxes: practical size, AWD, a peppy engine, and Toyota’s legendary reliability. Oh, and did we mention the GR Yaris is exclusively fitted with a six-speed manual? Expect the same for its beefier North American cousin. Pricing is also expected to come in the mid-$30,000 range, competitively positioning it against the Civic Type R.
It seems as though there’s a new golden era approaching just as EVs are taking over the automotive industry. With internal combustion cars making their last hurrah, we’re excited that established automakers are giving a nod to enthusiasts by offering machines built around passion and excitement. We’re so excited, in fact, that we may be adding one of these special rides to our stable as soon as we can get our hands on one! … hopefully without any ludicrous dealerships markups – but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.