Skip to main content

Right now, car enthusiasts everywhere are reveling in the arrival of the Toyota GR Corolla. Whether you’re a hot-hatch enthusiast or not, more small, fun cars are never a bad thing. But before the GR Corolla came long, the rest of the world had the GR Yaris. So why didn’t Toyota bring this even smaller hot hatch to the US? As usual, it all has to do with money.

A dark gray Toyota GR Corolla shines on a test track, borrowing tech from the GR Yaris
GR Corolla | Toyota

The GR Corolla was easier to develop for the U.S. than the GR Yaris

Without going into the minutiae of American vehicular law, there are certain emissions, safety, and structural regulations that any new vehicle must adhere to. In order to be sold in the U.S. cars from foreign automakers must go through a stringent series of applications, reviews, and testing in order to gain approval for our market. And this is where the GR Yaris caught its first snag.

The car that the GR Yaris is built from wasn’t sold here. In turn, that meant that bringing the GR Yaris to the American market would mean approving a completely new car from the ground up. Hundreds of millions of dollars in development is fine for a new Camry or Crown – Toyota will sell hundreds of thousands of those cars without batting an eye.

But for an enthusiast-focused model like the GR Yaris, there was no way for Toyota to justify the costs. However, calls for the spunky little hatch to arrive in America didn’t fall on deaf ears, either. Enter the GR Corolla.

Because the base Corolla Hatch already existed in America, getting the GR into U.S. showrooms was a much easier task. Little things like headlight placement, crash structures, and other regulatory quibbles had already been dealt with in the existing car.

That meant only the three-cylinder turbocharged engine and unique suspension needed to go through the approval process. That’s a much shorter runway, and it allowed Toyota to deliver the all-wheel drive hot hatch that American enthusiasts have been clamoring for.

How do the Toyota hot hatchbacks compare?

In a recent video for Hagerty, journalist Jason Cammisa took both the GR Yaris and GR Corolla around Willow Springs to see how they stack up. The ensuing drag race shows that Toyota was always paying attention.

Going from the GR Yaris to GR Corolla obviously meant a longer wheelbase and more weight. In turn, the bigger car also gets more punch, with 300 horsepower compared to the Yaris’ 273. There’s more torque in the Corolla five-door as well – 273 lb-ft versus 265 lb-ft in the overseas hot hatch.

The result is a nearly identical zero to 60 mph sprint, with the Corolla edging the Yaris by just 0.2 seconds. Around a track, meanwhile, the larger car easily trounced its subcompact sibling.

The GR Corolla is an instant classic

While there are some that may lament that we got the larger of the two hot hatches, the GR Corolla is nonetheless an instant classic. Its larger interior and cargo space make it measurably more practical than the Yaris. And with that additional desirability comes a potential for this Japanese hatchback to overtake legends like the Golf GTI and Subaru WRX in short order.

Related Will the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Be as Special as the GR Yaris?

Will the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Be as Special as the GR Yaris?