Probably best get the bad news out of the way first: as it stands, the GR Corolla won't be sold by Toyota in Europe. Quite why not is still unclear given the continent's fondness for an all-wheel-drive hot hatch, and the overwhelming success of the closely related GR Yaris, but for now the larger model is being presented as a USA-only product. Whether that is a fleet emission issue or the result of limited production capacity or simply a misjudgment on Toyota's part, we can't say. But we're a bit miffed about it. (So much so that we've started a petition to bring the car to the UK - sign up here!)
Predictably, the Corolla corrects the GR Yaris's one major flaw: you can fit things larger than a pair of trainers behind the B pillar. Which, of course, makes it a genuine real-world option for anyone with kids. It's powered by the same tremendous G16-E triple, now with 1,618cc fizzing out 304hp (300bhp) and 273lb ft, up from 261hp and 266lb ft. Which is handy when the quoted kerbweight is almost 200kg more, at 1,473kg against 1,280kg. There's a standard six-speed manual gearbox, too, with rev-matching tech, which will be the only gearbox option. And yes, that is a triple exhaust out back, "designed to reduce back pressure for maximum power delivery."
The GR Corolla is underpinned by Toyota's GA-C architecture; where the Yaris combined the smaller GA-B platform up front with an evolution of GA-C at the back. What it means for this new car is the same GR-Four all-wheel drive system can be used, with the ability to swap the torque split from a standard 60:40 to either a 50:50 or a 30:70 via an interior dial.
Toyota says it offers the ability "to adjust performance for dirt, rain or snow", or simply to offer the driver "a different feel" in the Corolla. As GR's first model built exclusively for the United States, Toyota says "no road was left unturned" in developing the Corolla. So Akio Toyoda signed it off at Fuji, Tsukuba and Suzuka, and an unnamed Japanese Rally Championship driver did the work on dirt and snow. Which ought to mean that - like the Yaris - the GR Corolla will shine in whatever situation North America can throw at it. And will probably be quite persuasive in a Subaru-loving nation.
And would you just look! Even without all the exciting stuff underneath like almost 190hp per litre and a structurally stiffer platform, this is a more visually exciting Corolla than ever. Wider tracks are accommodated by arches even chunkier than the Yaris, the rear spoiler towers over the boot lid in true hot hatch tradition and the front end is festooned with intakes, from splitter to bonnet. The rally-inspired look absolutely works for the larger Toyota hatch.
The GR Corolla previewed here is the limited-run Circuit Edition, rather than the Core model, which will bring with it - as per the Yaris - limited-slip diffs at both axles, but also exterior upgrades like the carbon roof (on a Corolla!), gloss black accents and the bonnet bulge. The naughty arches remain for either model, and the diffs will be offered in an optional Performance Pack - good.
Moreover, both GR Corollas have a bonnet and front door panels made of aluminium, along with the 18-inch cast wheels seen here with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. Brakes are identical, too, with 355mm discs up front and 297mm rotors at the rear, clamped by four-piston aluminium calipers at the pointy end and two-piston ones behind. Red calipers mark out Circuit Edition cars like this one. The paint colour, for those wondering, is Heavy Metal - of course.
The Corolla's interior looks how you might expect, with heavily bolstered seats, GR-specific displays, alloy pedals (three of them!) and that all-important dial that adjusts the GR-Four system. Once more it looks like there isn't much of a gap between the infotainment screen and the rear-view mirror, but that seems a minor gripe. It's an interior with a handbrake, a gearlever, some physical switchgear and a round steering wheel - count us in.
Indeed, beyond the obvious availability issue, it's hard not to be impressed by what Toyota is proposing here. Because why buy a Golf R when this is available? Though pricing is yet to be confirmed, Toyota has confirmed that the GR Corolla Core can almost be optioned up to Circuit spec - which means that it expects quite a few buyers to go all-in. As well as the Performance package, a Technology pack (with upgraded audio and wireless charging) plus a Cold Weather pack (with heated wheel and front seats) will be offered. The resulting car seems bit less dramatic - see the white one below, without the spoiler - but still pretty damn good. It goes on sale to those jammy Americans later this year. For everyone else, we will just have to wait and see.
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