The Toyota Corolla GR Sport's engaging chassis is crying out for more power
4.0 out of 5
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If you’re still not over missing out on the full-fat GR Corolla in the UK, then this GR Sport trim won’t fill the void. Its hybrid tech gives great efficiency, but from a keen driver’s point of view the Corolla’s engaging chassis is crying out for a more exciting powertrain option. Still, the much-improved infotainment system is welcome across the whole range.
Back in March this year Toyota revealed the hot GR Corolla, with Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division souping up the humdrum hatchback by installing a potent 300bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine backed that up with the four-wheel drive system from the brilliant GR Yaris.
This was excellent news, but our excitement soon deflated when Toyota then told us that it wasn’t UK-bound. The reason, it said, is that with the Yaris, the GR86 and the Supra, buyers here had enough fast Toyotas to choose from already. Being greedy, we’d have to disagree.
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But you can still have a Corolla here with GR branding. This is the Corolla GR Sport, a model that aims to take just a hint of the hot hatch’s DNA while still keeping the standard car’s low running costs.
It certainly looks more purposeful than the standard car. At the front, the GR Sport features a sharper bumper design with a gaping honeycomb mesh grille. It wears a gloss-black surround that ties in with the black door mirrors and optional contrasting black roof finish of this test car, while 18-inch alloy wheels are fitted (unless you go for the Touring Sports estate, which has the same design but an inch smaller) with subtle red highlights on the centre caps.
The rear sports silver trim to mimic exhaust tips – no triple tailpipe set-up here – and also a GR badge on the boot lid. There’s also new Ash Grey paint exclusive to GR Sport trim.
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Inside, the Corolla’s typically smart and well-finished cabin is boosted by some lovely sports seats. The rest is fairly subtle stuff, with little more than some red stitching on the steering wheel and gear selector adding any sort of sportiness.
Earlier this year, Toyota introduced a new, updated infotainment system though, and it is so much better than the tech that featured before. Not only has the eight-inch screen’s resolution improved vastly, but the menu layouts are tidier too. It’s also more responsive to inputs, loads faster, and if you’d rather not use the built-in sat-nav, it’s possible to use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto wirelessly. It’s a shame that the part-digital dials now look a little dated beside the new screen.
There’s a decent level of space inside, but as a result of a spare wheel and a 12-volt battery in the back, boot space is just 313 litres – less than some superminis.
Mechanically, the GR Sport is the same as the standard Corolla. That means there’s a choice of two hybrid powertrains; a 1.8-litre unit with 138bhp, and the sportier 2.0-litre model tested here. With 181bhp on tap it’s lively, if not quite hot-hatch quick. Nudge the small drive select into Sport mode and throttle response becomes much sharper than in Normal, giving you more electric boost in the very early part of the pedal’s travel. Regardless, 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds, which is fast enough.
The hybrid system is paired with an e-CVT gearbox. It’s not exciting, and the artificially stepped ratios that can be accessed through gearshift paddles on the steering wheel are as good as pointless.
The engine noise gets rather droney under hard acceleration, but the gearbox works seamlessly with the electric motor to maximise efficiency. And efficiency is something that this car does very well indeed. Officially, it’ll hit 53.3mpg, and we managed to get very close to that figure. As with other Toyota hybrids, it’s possible to achieve this pretty much anywhere, too. Few rivals come close to matching it in town.
Though there’s very little under the skin to make the Corolla feel sportier in this trim, the TGNA platform is a convincing base from which to create an engaging hatchback to drive. Body roll is well contained, the car feels pointy in corners, and there’s plenty of grip – and even a little adjustability, too. Given the fact that the ride quality is fairly composed and not jiggly or jarring, Toyota has certainly created one of the more accomplished cars in this class to drive. The steering is light at low speeds but feels precise and natural on a B-road.
Prices for the GR Sport start from £32,390 for the 1.8 hybrid and £34,135 for the 2.0-litre version – just a smidge below the top-spec Excel model. In addition to the GR styling pack, the GR Sport comes with LED headlights, a head-up display, privacy glass and a push-button start.
|Model:||Toyota Corolla GR Sport 2.0|
|Engine:||2.0 4cyl petrol hybrid|
|Transmission:||e-CVT auto, front-wheel drive|
|Top speed:||112 mph|
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