The GR Corolla generated a lot of hype with its reveal back in March. Presently, with the recent price announcement and multiple press events, it is back on the radar and filling many automotive enthusiasts’ suggestion feeds.
This little Toyota checks all the boxes for what I personally want out of a modern hot hatch; the following are five things that I love. But I also have five hesitations which have discouraged me from placing a deposit to get my name on the waiting list.
Things I love!
- Manual transmission. While manual cars are known to be slower than modern automatics, the thrill of driving a manual car is an engaging full-body experience that many enthusiasts will gladly accept in exchange for a few lost seconds off their lap times.
- All wheel drive. The selection of “affordable” all wheel drive performance cars has become slimmer and slimmer in recent years. Especially for those with a lust for manual hatchbacks.
- It’s a Toyota, through and through. The GR86 and the previous GT86 / FRS are undoubtedly fantastic handling cars, but the Subaru boxer heart is notoriously one of the least reliable engines.
Despite the initial ridicule, the GR Supra is a fantastic collaboration between Toyota and BMW. But the BMW engine has left many wondering what the cost of maintenance will be in 10 years time.
The GR Yaris and GR Corolla utilize the first performance engine that Toyota has developed in years. For the purists, it is 100% Toyota.
- Aggressive styling. This has been a topic of debate and admittedly, the styling is not for everyone. The bubbly wide body, the carbon roof, the massive mouth on the front, and the borderline shopping-cart-handle wing. But these are all things that appeal to me and are similar to parts that I have added to my other cars. I appreciate that all the vents and grilles are real. I appreciate the interior and exterior being based on functional engineering before styling; there is beauty in function. Unlike the Golf R, the Focus RS, or the Impreza WRX, which only had a few subtle cosmetic differences from their base car counterparts, the GR Corolla is distinctly different from a regular Corolla. In fact, it is not even the same car, nor is it built in the same plant. It just shares the Corolla name.
- Factory options eliminating the need for modifications – Big brakes? Check. Sticky tires? Check. Limited slip differentials? Check. Supportive seats that are compatible with harnesses? Check. Suspension engineered for handling over comfort? Check. Louder exhaust for performance? Check.
I admit that I suffer from the modification bug and cannot leave anything stock. If/when I get a GR Corolla, there will be a list of mods that I immediately want to install. But unlike most cars that I have owned, I do not believe this GR actually “needs” anything in order to meet my expectations.
My Hesitations to Buy One…
- Limited space – This is a personal gripe with the GR Corolla. The GR Yaris is undoubtedly a lighter and more nimble car with equal potential; many consider it a superior sportscar than the Corolla and it is a shame that we did not get the GR Yaris in the States. The GR Corolla is a bigger four door car that fills a void in the US market. That is where I am uncertain if it will suit my lifestyle… I have a two door mid engine roadster for the back roads. I have an all wheel drive hatchback for the track. If I could only have one car, I firmly believe that the GR Corolla will be the car that is good at everything. But I’m looking for a performance daily driver to replace my WRX. The Corolla may be a bit too small for those needs.
- People think it’s just a Corolla – The Focus RS is just a Ford Focus. The WRX is just a Subaru Impreza. The Civic Type R is just a Civic. It won’t be long before people start saying the GR Corolla is just a Corolla. Sure, there are styling cues from an entry level economy car that you will regularly see in the rental car parking lot, but that is where the similarities end. The GR Corolla has been fully engineered for performance and it is manufactured in an entirely different country from the regular Corolla.The problem is that most people look at the 4 cylinder Mustang and appreciate it for being a cheaper version of the V8 GT. They look at the base model Cayman and appreciate it for being a cheaper version of the GT4. But they look at the GR Corolla and call it an overpriced Corolla. What other people think should not matter, though it is a bit disheartening to buy a $40k performance hot hatch and people think it’s the same as a $21k ecobox.
- Regular stress on the engine – The GR Core and Circuit editions will have 25psi of boost being pushed through the 1.6L 3 cylinder engine. The Morizo edition upped that to just over 26psi. Fortunately, such a small engine will allow for fairly thick cylinder walls. But that is a substantial amount of boost which will inevitably stress many components within the engine bay. Obviously, there are other cars and trucks which sustain much higher boost pressure, but my experience with high mileage turbo cars leaves me a bit weary of the longevity of seals and the hassle of tracking down boost leaks with age.
- Price – $40k is pretty reasonable for what you get with the GR Corolla. It’s competitively priced against the competition. The problem is the limited demand.
The Focus RS, which was not produced in a world with manufacturing delays and parts shortages, saw outrageous dealer markups due to demand. It took years before you could find a low mileage used RS for less than the new MSRP.Will we ever see the GR Corolla sell for less than the new sticker price?
We are in the final days of the internal combustion engine and the GR Corolla, like the new Nissan Z and the recently announced Ford Mustang, will be some of the last gasoline and manual cars to ever be available. These have not yet hit dealer lots and they are already being called future classics.The GR Yaris has been out long enough that it did see a slight dip in price, but they are now selling for well more than they cost new. I fear it may be nearly impossible to buy a GR Corolla for less than $55k. At that price point, you could buy a ten year old Porsche Carrera 4S with manual and AWD. Sure it’s a 10 year old vehicle, but it’s arguably a next-level car for the same amount of money.
- How will it compare to the WRX? – My last hesitation on getting a GR Corolla is that it may not be substantially different from my Stage 2 WRX. It’s hard to justify selling a perfectly good car, which I love, only to replace it with a fairly similar car. If my WRX were to be totalled, I would definitely get the Corolla next. But is it worth the price difference over what I have now?
Unfortunately, test drives are a rare thing nowadays. The GR Corollas are already selling before they are being built, so dealer test drives will not be happening any time soon. Unless I make friends with a GR Corolla owner who will let me drive theirs, I may never get the opportunity to do a back to back comparison with my own WRX.
What are your thoughts on the GR Corolla? Future classic? Overhyped?