When I bought a Corolla way back in 1971, I didn’t have any connection to the motoring business.
I chose one because it looked better than others in its class, which is as good a reason as any I reckon.
I didn’t have a family back then, but three children arrived over the following six years. All came home as tiny babies in the Corolla.
As they grew up, there wasn’t a lot of space for the three of them in the back seat. They were okay while very young, but argued a lot as they got older and space became a priority.
Ah, the joys of kids . . .
With close to 135,000km on the clock I finally sold it and bought a bigger car.
Not a Toyota, but I won’t say what it was, other than that it was made in Germany not Japan.
But enough of my reminiscences and on to the 2023 Corolla GR hot hatch which I’ve been driving for the past week.
It’s significantly larger than our 1971 Corolla and has plenty of personality.
GR’s engine has three cylinders – that’s right, three. Its 1.6-litre in capacity boosted to the heavens by a large turbocharger.
GR stands for Gazoo Racing and the Corolla opens to a dynamic Gazoo Racing startup animation.
What’s it cost?
GR Corolla is offered in a highly-specified GTS grade priced from $62,300 plus on-road costs.
Toyota Australia has secured 700 units for sale in the first year, which will be joined in coming months by the hardcore, two-seat Morizo, of which just 25 will be available.
GR Corolla features a turbocharged petrol engine, all-wheel drive, wider track front and rear, completely overhauled suspension, and design features and styling enhancements that clearly set it apart from the rest of the family.
This is a great looking machine with plenty of shapes pointing out it’s a serious sports machine, not just a dressed-up hatchback.
The front is dominated by an extra-large grille painted in shiny black.
There’s a narrow horizontal strip above the grille that’s finished in body colour and houses lights that go well back towards the windscreen.
Twin black outlets make a prominent statement but aren’t just there for appearance, as they add extra air to keep the hot engine cool. (‘Hot’ in both senses of that word.)
Flares over the front wheels are large, while those over the rears are extra-large and go all the way to meet the tail in a very purposeful manner.
There are three exhaust outlets to match the three cylinders in the engine.
Creature comforts include dual-zone climate control and heated front seats and steering wheel and a wireless phone charger.
All versions gain a dedicated gear shift and centre console, aluminium pedals, manual parking brake, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel that has been adapted from the GR Yaris.
An eight speaker JBL sound system provides excellent quality entertainment, together with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that features DAB+ digital radio and satellite navigation, with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto.
It offers improved usability and dynamic voice recognition.
However, we didn’t listen to it a lot, preferring to hear the purposeful sounds of the engine.
Toyota safety sense systems include lane departure alert with steering assist, pre-collision safety system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, intersection turn assistance, emergency steering assist and road sign assist (speed signs only).
GR Corolla is covered by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty that extends to seven-years on engine and driveline, with capped-price servicing for the first three years/60,000km.
Each 6-month/10,000km service costs $300.
What’s it go like?
Leather accented GR sports seats are covered in suede with silver stitching and accents.
Again, they say that this car means business.
The rear seats have limited legroom if the fronts are set back for tall occupants.
If the driver is tall and needs to sit back then there’s a real squeeze for anyone behind them.
This is partly due to the large size of the sporty front seats.
The boot is relatively shallow as the floor is set high to make space for various items under it.
With the rear seat backrests down the floor isn’t level.
If you may need to carry bulky items you might have to consider this as part of your initial check before closing to buy a Corolla GR.
The three-cylinder engine sits crossways under the under the bonnet.
Its power peak is 221kW at 6500rpm and maximum torque of 370Nm is over a wide spread from 3000 to 5550 revs.
It drives all four wheels with Torsen limited-slip differentials on both the front and rear axles for optimal torque distribution.
GR Corollas come equipped with a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with intelligent rev-matching technology, engineered to provide maximum driver enjoyment.
Morizo Editions push the envelope further, extracting approximately an extra 30Nm of torque from the turbocharged engine, while tightening the transmission’s gear ratios makes better use of the extra torque.
GR rides on 18-inch alloy wheels shod with high-performance Yokohama tyres.
What a brilliant little rocketship this is.
The 12.3-inch head-up display shows your speed and engine revs.
You can toggle between a horizontal, circuit-inspired tachometer or a single-dial layout.
If you’re considering buying one make sure the sales folks give you plenty of time behind the wheel so you can check out everything.
Optimised suspension geometry, extensive chassis reinforcements, weight reduction and dedicated ventilated disc brakes all contribute to a thrilling driving experience
It reacts virtually instantly to movements of the throttle and is happy to get close to the redline every time you want to get the best from it.
Electric power steering has good feedback through the wheel and the car talks to you at all times, and seems even more ‘talkative’ the harder you push the car.
If you don’t have a smile on your face when driving the Toyota Corolla GR, you aren’t trying hard enough. So, give it another go . . .