Is the GR Corolla finally arriving in the United Kingdom?
However, that 300-horsepower motorsport-bred weapon is still a faraway dream on our shores. The above Corolla is only equipped with GR Sport trim, and despite the name, there are no significant performance upgrades: you simply receive GR-badged components (starting buttons, seats, sills, etc.) for a sportier appearance.
Yet, before you click away in disappointment, you may have missed some other Corolla-related news. Namely, the introduction of the fifth generation of Toyota’s hybrid-electric technology, which has enhanced performance.
Continue, I’m listening…
Your powertrain options are still 1.8- and 2.0-liter hybrids, but they now provide improved performance and fuel economy thanks to a revised power control unit and electric motor, as well as a lithium-ion battery that is 14% more powerful and 14% lighter (18 kg) than before.
The 1.8-liter engine now produces 138bhp (up 18bhp), reducing the 0-62mph time down by 1.8 seconds to 9.1 seconds, while the 2.0-liter system now produces 193bhp (up 15bhp), bringing the 0-62mph time down by half a second to 7.4 seconds.
The entire system is now more efficient than ever, with CO2 emissions beginning at 100g/km for the 1.8-liter engine and 98g/km for the 2.0-liter engine, and fuel efficiency beginning at 64.1mpg. It seems really nutritious.
It sounds great on paper, but what about in the actual world?
Let’s not beat around the bush: the previous 1.8-liter Corolla was sluggish and lackluster. Toyota claims to have returned the previous linear accelerator to emphasize driver input and power delivery, and while the new one is hardly a hot hatch, the enhanced acceleration from zero to sixty miles per hour is extremely pleasant, especially when merging onto highways and passing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s much quieter when you floor it, thanks in large part to its CVT transmission, which remains considerably less smooth than something like the new Honda Civic. Once up to speed, it quiets down beautifully, and there’s a surprising amount of silent city driving to be enjoyed in EV mode, with the dashboard helpfully (and perhaps addictively) indicating how much of your route was done with the electric motor alone. It’s simply that middle area that continues to be problematic.
Therefore, mild use of the throttle remains the Corolla’s happy place, at which point you’ll find it a reasonably companionable cruiser. Our test drive coincided with a weekend wedding excursion that entailed hauling four people and their luggage from London to Nottingham and back: against our GR Sport trim’s advertised 60.1mpg, we achieved 49.8mpg, with around a quarter of the time spent in electric mode. And the majority of that time was spent in the capital city.
It sounds somewhat tight…
There are benefits to being the designated driver; your comfort comes first. And despite being six feet two inches tall, I was completely content with the sportier standard-fit bucket-like seats in our GR Sport version. No complaints from my guest in the cockpit, either.
Yet you are correct in the rear, where even my companions under six feet tall found life to be quite crowded, not helped by those sports seats that reduce knee room. The fear of the train home was sufficient to silence them.
Anything else I should know?
As part of the 2023 improvements, all models receive a customizable 12.3-inch instrument display with many settings, as well as Toyota’s newest 10.5-inch ‘Smart Connect’ infotainment display, a much-welcomed enhancement.
With the exception of the lack of physical switches, the OS is pleasingly user-friendly despite its lack of aesthetic appeal. Still, there is a column of shortcut buttons on the left. Moreover, Toyota has employed common sense and kept the climate control panel — replete with knobs and buttons – distinct. Hurrah!
Nonetheless, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless connections are now standard throughout the whole lineup. Even base models get LED lighting, heated front seats, air conditioning, wireless charging, a rearview camera, and front and rear parking sensors.
What is it priced at?
Costs for the 1.8-liter engine begin at £30,210 or £31,955 for the 2.0-liter engine in the base Icon trim, with an increase of £570 for the Design trim, £1,210 for the GR Sport trim, and £410 for the top-tier Excel trim. On a lease, the 1.8-liter will cost you a minimum of £420 per month or £490 per month over three years with a £3,000 down payment.
This is without a doubt the best-looking version of Corolla to date, with this GR Sport model being especially attractive, but despite the welcome improvement in performance, it cannot compete with the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and VW Golf in terms of driving dynamics.
Yet, if you don’t demand too much of it, it’s a capable, cost-effective (small) family vehicle – not a bad thing at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch more than ever.