The GR Corolla Is Unlike Any Toyota We've Seen in America in 20 Years

There are few cars I’d want to spend my last day on Earth flogging. The GR Corolla is one of them.

There are not a lot of cars on the road whose mission can be thoroughly understood from the second you set off. The GR Corolla is one such car. It didn’t take more than a hundred feet of driving and one gear change to understand that this car was built by a team of purists, of enthusiasts, led by a singular voice. The very first words I spoke, to myself, once out on the track at our 2023 Performance Car of the Year test were, “Oh, well Toyota has decided not to fuck around."

For a company like Toyota, a company that has not built a serious performance car on its own in two decades, the GR Corolla (a derivative of the GR Yaris in other markets) is a massive achievement. Yes, the power is good, and yes the speed is there, but that’s not what makes it special. This car has a precision about how it tackles a corner, how you can flick it, adjust it, and power out of it, that is not present in any other production Toyota. The weighty steering, the perfect shifter action, the spacing of the pedals, and the precision of the throttle response add up to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It has traction control, but you don’t want it. It has a three-way adjustable torque split, but you don’t really need that either. Just set it to 50/50 and go.

On the road, this very special “Morizo Edition” of the GR Corolla is too stiff, too hardcore, and lacks the practicality that I’d still expect from a $50,000 hatchback. The rear seat, for instance, is not present. Nor are the rear speakers, window regulators, or rear wiper. The suspension beat me up, reminding me of my old Focus RS, a car I wanted to love, but ultimately hated.

But on a track, not since the Mitsubishi Evo 9 have I wanted 30 minutes and a whole set of tires to myself. There are few cars on the road, at any price point, that I’d rather spend my last day on Earth flogging until the tires turned to liquid. When is the last time you heard anyone say something like that about a Toyota?

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