The 2024 Toyota GR Corolla is the kind of car that should normally only exist in the imagination of automotive journalists. Nobody, and I mean nobody, needed a firebreathing Corolla that can drift on its four tires. From a sales standpoint, it’s not the sort of thing accountants typically like at carmakers. At least, not Toyota’s bean counters. Yet, here we are with one of the craziest rally inspired cars from the brand since the Celica GT4. Turns out the GR Corolla is a hell of a ride, but there are a few things that I do need to warn you about.
2024 Toyota GR Corolla Review: The Holy Trinity
Up until now, the North American car market hadn’t exactly spoiled us with cool hot hatchbacks. I mean, sure, Canada did have the Mercedes-AMG A35 for a short while, but except for the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI/R, we didn’t have much to play with. At least, not compared to our European friends.The 2024 Toyota GR Corolla, then, is the breath of fresh air we all needed in this segment. It’s also a car that so beautifully completes the holy trinity of hot hatchbacks in North America. And what a hatch it is, a car directly trickled down from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) rally efforts in the WRC.No, Toyota doesn’t rally race a Corolla, but rather a GR Yaris, an overfed three-door pocket rocket powered by the most powerful three-cylinder engine in the world. Yes, three. And since homologation rules require a certain amount of production cars be sold to the public, European Toyota dealers sell the GR Yaris road car.The thing is though, Toyota couldn’t exactly sell us a $50,000-plus three-door Yaris. Nobody would buy it. So instead, it stuffed the GR Yaris’ 1.6-liter turbocharged three-pot, all-wheel drive system, brakes and suspension underneath the Corolla hatchback, a slightly larger car that’s already sold here.Then, for shits and giggles, Toyota cranked the engine’s output to a dead even 300 horsepower (versus 268), with torque remaining unchanged at 273 lb-ft. A six-speed manual gearbox, as well as a manually controllable torque split all-wheel drive system; that Toyota comically calls GR FOUR, complete the package.This thing is therefore fucking awesome. It’s no grandma’s Corolla, but rather a mean-lookin’, wide-body, large intercooled, triple exhaust, snorting and spooling little rascal of a car that wants to kick dirt up in its wheel wells. Of course, such mechanical might comes at a price. In Canada, all models come out of the box with the front and rear Torsen limited slip differentials. The GR Corolla comes in two flavors here, Core and Circuit Edition, with pricing ranging between $49,271 and $59,371. Of course, that’s before dealer markups, high interest rates and long delivery delays.
Mighty Little Engine, Tons Of Grip
Perhaps what shocked me the most about driving the 2024 Toyota GR Corolla was how its tiny engine never felt like a three-cylinder. Fire it up and emits one serious bellow from its triple performance exhaust. The entire time you drive it, it sounds angry and ready to attack, basically like a rally car.And it never runs out of puff neither. Sure there’s a bit of turbo lag – inevitable given this small engine being overfed by 25.2 PSI of boost -, but once everything kicks in, it’s max power and torque all the way to redline. And boy does this mill love to be thrashed. Short gearing definitely helps keep things in the meat of the powerband, while shift throws are short gear engagement is crisp. That shifter feels cheap though and not as polished as what you’d find, say, in a Civic Type R.The GR FOUR system gives you three different torque splits; 60/40, 30/70 and 50/50, the latter what Toyota calls Track mode. The car can then be set to Sport mode, which transforms the entire instrument cluster into a more race-focused setup, with a digital rev counter up top.In its default 60/40 split, the GR Corolla is basically a front-wheel drive car with loads of grip. There’s a ton of understeer, but it’ll also rotate a lot easier than your typical front driver when fiddling with the throttle. 30/70 is by far the most playful setting, where this Corolla will allow herself to kick out the rear whenever too much throttle is applied on a slippery surface. Although the car will never actually drift. It rather always grips, which makes it a formidable “point and shoot” machine.Of course, 50/50 Track mode is where things get seriously cool, as the GR Corolla suddenly gets welded to the tarmac and will refuse to slide or spin its tires. Go ahead, ask it whatever you want. Throw it into that corner at blistering speeds why don’t you. I kid you not, she will claw.
Sucks At Being A Daily Driver
Hot hatchbacks aren’t qualified as such if they can’t properly perform daily tasks. Unfortunately, although this Corolla has five-doors, it’s not the most practical hatchback out there, something I immediately noticed when I attempted to use it as a dad mobile.There are a few problems here, starting with the miniscule hatch. The Corolla’s trunk will only engulf up to 504 liters of your gear. That’s rather low when you compare it to a Civic (694 liters) or a Golf (563 liters). Then there’s its very compromised interior.The Corolla hatch is a small car, but it’s not well optimized inside. So what you end up with is a passenger seat that needs to be pushed forward when fitting the baby’s shell.There’s also no more center armrest in the GR for some reason, so when you’re cruising down the highway, your right arm is always just hanging. And I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten old and fat (most probably), but those sports bucket seats got seriously annoying over a long roadtrip with the family. That interior also looks and feels dirt cheap.So, no, the 2024 Toyota GR Corolla is not as good at being a hot hatchback as a Civic Type R or a Golf R, but it sure as hell knows how to shove a big fat grin on its driver’s face. That, it does very well. In 20 years or so, we’ll look back at these things as immediate classics. We’ll thank Toyota for having built it. So please, get one while you still can.
Review of the 2024 Toyota GR Corolla by William Clavey
- Mighty engine.
- Loads of grip.
- Definitely a future classic.
- Cheap feeling interior.
- Small cargo hold.
- Compromised cabin.
8.8 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Toyota Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]