Toyota GR Corolla: Never a dull moment


THE Toyota GR Corolla’s reason to exist is to put smiles on the faces of enthusiast drivers who love motorsports-bred stick shift hot hatches.

Powered by a high-spirited 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine with 300PS and 370Nm of torque similar to the units used in the smaller and lighter GR Yaris, an adrenaline-pumped drive is usually the order of the day.

With a RM355,000 price tag, it’s also a bonus that it comes in a family-friendly five-door, five-seater form with 213 litres of rear cargo space (expandable by folding down rear seats) and an extensive list of premium comforts and connectivity features, as well as Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) suite of driver-assistive technologies.

This hot hatch’s DNA was engineered in the automaker’s Gazoo Racing (GR) motorsport division, and its development included a hydrogen-powered GR Corolla concept which has raced in Japan since 2021 under the banner of Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda’s privateer team Rookie Racing.

Highlights here include the six-speed short shift intelligent manual transmission (iMT), GR-four all-wheel drive (AWD) system, front and rear Torsen limited slip differentials, a high performance braking set-up, carbon fibre roof, rear diffuser, a wider track for better cornering performance and three tailpipes.


There’s a manual handbrake and immediately, we were imagining handbrake turns (on a race track or empty carpark).

The GR Corolla starts in the default Eco drive mode and a front-biased GR-Four 60.40 setting for front and rear torque distribution (daily driving).

A GR-Four dial positioned between the front seats provides two other settings (50:50 in Track Mode for balanced precision or 30:70 for rear-wheel biased and playful oversteer).

Changing to Normal drive mode (via a switch next to the gear lever) means the GR Corolla has snappier throttle response (and louder engine growl), and the Sport mode provides more of the same, with even quicker acceleration.

There’s also a button to activate the iMT for automatic rev-matching (or throttle blip) for smoother gear downshifts.

Step on the clutch pedal, press the Start/Stop button and immediately your ears are assaulted by a powerful and deep, rumbling growl.


For those who crave driving engagement, the GR Corolla sings like the siren in Greek mythology – delivering a bewitching soundtrack as the revs climb towards a peak power band, and if you listen closely, a faint “whoosh” of air when you quickly ease off the accelerator pedal.

It’s a genuine performance machine masquerading in a five-door family hatch body, honed for driving enjoyment on twisty and open roads, with a little engine that punches above its weight, propelling the GR Corolla with ferocity as it takes corners like it’s on rails.

The six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to operate, with short and precise shift throws.

The GR Corolla’s clutch pedal has a progressive feel, while the electric power steering (EPS) is sharp, communicative, and well-weighted which translates to pinpoint precision on spirited drives.

The grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 5 performance tyres (sized 235/40 ZR18) also deserve credit here, clinging to the tarmac with impressive tenacity when carving through corners, where the GR Corolla feels planted and composed, even at spirited speeds.


There is hardly any body roll, even under hard cornering.

The stiff suspension also means you need to drive at civilised speeds on uneven and irregular road surfaces, if you don’t want a bone jarring ride.

The GR Corolla’s performance-oriented exterior styling features functional hood vents, a prominent Matrix front grille with side air ducts, and three exhaust tips.

The black-themed interior has a high quality look and feel, with some soft touch materials, smooth plastic covers, and dark mixed suede/leather seats with red stitching.

The front sport seats held our bodies snugly, and you will find daily commuting comforts such as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen, six audio speakers, heads-up display, a wireless charger, smart entry and push start, wireless charger, and a leather-clad tilt and telescopic steering, automatic air-conditioning, automatic folding side mirrors, and an arm rest with built in cup holders for rear occupants.


To charge our smartphones, there’s a USB-A port on the infotainment head unit and a USB-C port for rear passengers (between the front seats).

We also found ample legroom and gratifyingly, rear headroom is more than enough for 1.7-metre people to recline on the backseats without slouching.

The GR Corolla can be surprisingly livable on the daily commute, especially if you stay in Eco drive mode, and use it in a dignified and unhurried manner, as the engine grumbles contentedly at low revs but always with a hint of pent-up performance lurking beneath the surface.

However, driving a stick shift in stop-and-go city traffic, accompanied by a constant loud, bassy engine rumble, combined with the bouncier and rougher ride quality on uneven pavement is probably not to everyone’s taste.

This performance firecracker really belongs on open roads and race tracks, where it can be properly unleashed and the glorious three-cylinder engine sings its song at full blast.

The GR Corolla is simply a fun, scintillating and thrilling hot hatch made to light up your weekends with a sublime manual shifter and potent turbocharged engine that just begs to be revved.

Toyota GR Corolla 1.6T
Engine: 1,618cc turbocharged, Inline 3-cylinder, DOHC
Maximum power: 300PS at 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 370Nm at 3,000 to 5,550rpm
Transmission: Six-speed short-shift manual with iMT (intelligent manual transmission)
Fuel injection: D-4ST direct and port injection
Drive system: GR-four full-time sports AWD
Acceleration (0 to 100kph): 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 230kph
Suspension: Front MacPherson struts with stabiliser; rear double wishbone with stabiliser
Kerb weight: 1,475kg
Fuel tank: 50 litres
Features: Front and rear Torsen limited slip differentials, ventilated and slotted brake discs, four-piston front and two-piston rear monoblock calipers, carbon fibre roof, rear diffuser, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather and suede seats, 12.3-inch digital MID (multi-information display), six audio speakers, 9-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric power steering (EPS), tyre repair kit, automatic Bi-LED projector headlamps with LED turn signals, LED daytime running lights, LED rear combination lamps, triple tailpipes, dual-zone automatic climate control, heads-up display, smart entry and push start, wireless charger, leather-clad tilt and telescopic steering, front digital video recorder (DVR), Toyota premium security and solar film
Safety features: Seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control, hill start assist, reverse camera, parking sensors (front and rear), child seat ISOFIX
Advanced safety features: Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) - Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Auto High Beam (AHB), 2 USB ports (Type A and C)
Price: RM355,000 on the road without insurance
Warranty: 5 years unlimited mileage, 24SEVEN Road Assist

2023 Toyota GR Corolla (2)
2023 Toyota GR Corolla (4)
2023 Toyota GR Corolla (3)
Autos Toyota
CarSifu's Rating: 7.6