As we speak, a not-insignificant number of hot hatch fans are looking up kidney values so they can buy Toyota GR Corollas. I’m exaggerating, of course, but only slightly—and I’m right there with them. However, getting one of these hotly-anticipated hatches won’t be easy even if you have the funds. So, some might be tempted to try their hands at modifying a regular 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback to GR levels. But while that kind of creative spirit is admirable, in this case, it’s a little misguided.
The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is no ordinary Corolla Hatchback
Point to the cloners, the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla rides on the same platform as the regular Corolla Hatchback. But that’s roughly where the similarities between these hatches end. Even ignoring things like the triple-exit exhaust, fender flares, and aluminum body panels, the GR model is very different from a standard 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
Firstly, the GR Corolla is hand-assembled on a dedicated line with extra structural adhesive and welding, MotorTrend explains. Then, it gets extra floor bracing as well as a different suspension setup with lighter axle components. Also, it has bigger brakes than the 2022 Corolla Hatchback and a mechanical handbrake, not an electronic one.
Secondly, there’s the drivetrain. Although the 2022 Toyota Corolla still offers a manual transmission, it’s not the same one the GR Corolla has. Rather, the latter has the same close-ratio six-speed manual as the GR Yaris. The GR Corolla also has the same 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and ‘GT-Four’ AWD system as the Yaris. Furthermore, the Circuit Edition pairs that with otherwise-optional twin limited-slip differentials and a forged carbon roof.
In addition, the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has several interior upgrades over the 2022 Corolla Hatchback. And we’re not just talking about the well-bolstered sports seats. The GR hot hatch has a different steering wheel and infotainment system with a bigger touchscreen. Also, it has an updated version of Toyota’s advanced driver-assistance safety suite, with better cameras as well as motorcyclist and guardrail detection.
AWD is just the first step in turning a 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback into a GR clone
To summarize, compared to the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the 2023 GR Corolla has a significantly reinforced chassis, sportier suspension, completely different drivetrain, and upgraded interior. Admittedly, Toyota says the interior changes, especially the infotainment- and safety-related ones, will migrate to the regular Corolla after its upcoming refresh, MT says. But everything else is staying GR-specific.
OK, but say you still wanted to try replicating the GR experience with a regular Corolla Hatchback. Could you do it? Well, kind of—but it wouldn’t be a perfect clone.
Credit to the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, its chassis balance and solid shifter—with standard rev-matching—make it genuinely fun, MT reports. But it would need at least some chassis and strut-tower braces to match the GR Corolla in rigidity. Also, you’d need bigger brakes, not to mention better shocks or coilovers as well as stronger suspension components overall. And then there’s the drivetrain problem.
Firstly, you can’t get the 2022 Toyota Corolla with AWD. Secondly, although the RAV4 rides on the same platform, the GR hatches have completely different systems, Car and Driver says. Thirdly, as of this writing, no one makes a close-ratio gear kit for the current-gen Corolla. And finally, no US-market Toyota product has that 300-hp three-cylinder.
Admittedly, the 2022 Corolla’s 168-hp 2.0-liter ‘M20A’ four-cylinder could theoretically make more power with a turbocharger kit. However, the M20A is a fairly-new engine; Toyota released it in 2018 with the current-gen Corolla. So, you’d basically be testing prototypes if you went down that route.
This isn’t to say you couldn’t try cloning the GR Corolla with a 2022 Corolla Hatchback. But just know, there are a lot of hurdles you’d have to clear.
If you can’t clone it, get the 1990s version: the Celica GT-Four ST205
There is another way to get an AWD Toyota hot hatch experience if you can’t wait for the GR Corolla, though. That’s by picking up an imported Celica GT-Four ST205.
The GR Yaris’s rally predecessor, the Celica GT-Four ST205 packs a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a close-ratio five-speed manual, and AWD. It also has a Torsen LSD as well as factory hookups for anti-lag and water-injection systems. And with most examples selling for $20K-$30K, you can pick one up for roughly the price of a new Corolla Hatchback.
So, while you can’t make a Corolla into a GR Corolla on your own, you can replicate it with the Celica. Just don’t sell any kidneys to do it, please.
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