2023 Toyota GR Corolla vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R: AWD Hot Hatch Fight

2022 Volkswagen Golf R and 2023 Toyota GR Corolla initial comparison highlights:

  • The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla and 2022 Volkswagen Golf R are both AWD hot hatches with at least 300 hp
  • On paper, the GR Corolla should be roughly as fast as a manual Golf R, and it counters the VW’s adaptive dampers with a more driver-adjustable AWD system
  • The Golf R seems more refined, but the Toyota will likely offer a more engaging driving experience

The ‘traditional’ front-wheel-drive hot hatch formula still inspires smiles, but for sports-car-level performance, AWD rules. And as of this writing, unless you want to buy used, the Volkswagen Golf R is the only US-market option. However, the spiciest Golf is about to get a brand-new, much-anticipated challenger: the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. So, when these AWD hatch titans clash, which one drives away victorious?

Is the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla as fast as the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R?

2023 Toyota GR Corolla2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Engine1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder2.0-liter ‘EA888 Evo4’ turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower300 hp315 hp
Torque273 lb-ft280 lb-ft (manual)
295 lb-ft (DSG)
TransmissionsSix-speed manualSix-speed manual
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG)
Curb weight3249 lbs (Core)
3200 lbs (Circuit Edition)
3417 lbs
0-60 mph timeSub-5.0 seconds (Car and Driver estimate)4.7 seconds (manual)
3.9 seconds (DSG, Car and Driver)

From an interior perspective, the Mk8 2022 Volkswagen Golf R isn’t quite as good as its predecessor. But if speed’s your thing, the 2022 model absolutely delivers, especially with the optional DSG. With more power and (for DSG models) more torque, the 2022 Golf R hits 60 mph 0.6 seconds ahead of the 2019 one. Furthermore, it ran Car and Driver’s¼-mile in 12.5 seconds at 111 mph. Again, that makes it quicker and faster than the 2019 car.

As of this writing, Toyota hasn’t released official acceleration estimates for the 2023 GR Corolla. However, while it’s heavier than the GR Yaris, it also has a more powerful version of that hot hatch’s powertrain. And that includes its close-ratio six-speed manual, which is the only transmission available. So, the GR Corolla is likely roughly as fast as the Yaris, which, by the way, can beat its 5.5-second 0-60 mph claims.

Therefore, it will likely keep up with a stick-shift 2022 Golf R. But the DSG model can probably out-sprint the Toyota hot hatch.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R: AWD and handling audit

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The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R didn’t just get a more powerful engine and a stiffer chassis. It also has an aluminum front subframe, functional rear wing, bigger wheels, re-tuned adaptive shocks as well as stiffer springs and sway bars.

In addition, Volkswagen added a front limited-slip differential and redesigned the hot hatch’s AWD system. Now, it can send up to 50% of the engine torque to the rear as well as vary the left-right torque split. Furthermore, in Drift Mode, the 2022 Golf R can send all the rear torque to one wheel, presumably for some sweet slide assistance.

In practice, Drift Mode is more of a gimmick than a one-button powerslide mode. But all the chassis, suspension, and drivetrain upgrades make a difference. The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R finished Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap eight seconds faster than its predecessor. However, the Golf’s haptic-touch controls made it difficult to drive cleanly at the limit, Car and Driver notes. And Road & Track found the R lifeless compared to its rivals. Plus, its clutch pedal is rather difficult to live with.

How do the Toyota hot hatch’s handling and AWD compare?

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As of this writing, no one outside of Toyota has driven the 2023 GR Corolla. So, it’s impossible to really tell how it drives compared to the VW. However, even without the Circuit Edition’s standard twin LSDs and forged-carbon roof, the GR Corolla should be a riot.

Firstly, its chassis has more welds, structural adhesive, and bracing than the standard version, so it’s more rigid. Secondly, the GR Corolla has a sportier and stronger suspension setup as well as bigger, stronger brakes. Unlike the Golf R, it doesn’t have adaptive shocks. However, if its shifter is anything like the GR Yaris’s stick, it should put the one in the 2022 Golf R to shame.

Then there’s the GR Corolla’s GR-Four AWD system. Bespoke to this car, it can send 50% of the 1.6-liter engine’s torque to the rear like the 2022 Golf R’s system. But the Toyota’s driver can change the front-to-rear torque split to 60:40 or 30:70. And the system itself can tweak the split on the fly as conditions demand, Car and Driver notes. It doesn’t have a clutch-pack-based rear torque-vectoring like the VW, but it does have a brake-based version.

Since it’s larger than the Toyota GR Yaris, the 2023 GR Corolla won’t drive exactly the same. However, it likely won’t be too dissimilar, either. Plus, it gets a few interior upgrades over the standard Corolla Hatchback, including a more advanced ADAS suite, a larger touchscreen, a 12.3” TFT gauge cluster, and well-bolstered sports seats.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla vs. 2022 Volkswagen Golf R: Price comparison

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As of this writing, Toyota hasn’t released 2023 GR Corolla pricing details. However, it claims the starting price is “’competitive’ with the other 300-hp hot hatches,” MotorTrend reports. And that includes the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.

On that note, the 2022 Golf R is only available in one fully-loaded trim. The manual model costs $44,090 before the $995 destination; the DSG version is $44,890 before destination. However, its FWD rivals start closer to $40K. As such, MT and Car and Driver estimate the GR Corolla will likely be slightly cheaper than the VW.

Which AWD hot hatch should you drive?

Because no one’s driven the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla yet, it’s difficult to say if it’s better or worse than the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R. However, these hot hatches’ characters are different enough to make an initial recommendation.

If you want a refined sporty car, the Golf R will likely be the better choice. But if you value the experience as much as the performance, the Toyota will likely be more your speed.

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