Saying U.S. car enthusiasts lost their minds when Toyota officially unveiled the 2023 GR Corolla is almost an understatement. The 300-hp, stick-shift, all-wheel-drive hot hatch ticks basically every box in the driving fan handbook. However, there’s one thing—apart from it not being on sale yet—damping some peoples’ enthusiasm. And it’s that the Toyota GR Corolla isn’t a GR Yaris.
The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has GR Yaris parts, but it’s not a rally homologation special
Now, it’s worth remembering that the GR Yaris barely shares anything with the regular Toyota Yaris. Specifically, it shares an overall look, nameplate, and seven parts. It doesn’t even ride on the same platform as the standard Yaris: the rear, hilariously enough, is from the Corolla’s platform.
However, while the GR Yaris doesn’t share much with its namesake, many of its parts are headed here in the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. The GR Corolla has the same 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, six-speed manual, and GT-Four AWD system as its overseas sibling. But thanks to a new exhaust, more boost, and different fueling, the GR Corolla is even more powerful. Unless you talk to Litchfield, the GR Yaris ‘only’ makes 257 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Although, since it’s smaller, it doesn’t necessarily need more power.
But though Toyota gave the GR Corolla a GR Yaris heart, it couldn’t give the former the latter’s backstory. CEO Akio Toyoda looked upon a sea of profit-minded, practical, broad-appeal cars, many of them made by his company, and deliberately did the opposite. Why? Because he wanted Toyota to win the World Rally Championship.
The GR Yaris, with its crazy drivetrain, bonkers chassis, double-wishbone suspension, and multiple carbon-fiber body panels, “broke all of Toyota’s rules,” Road & Track says. And it made a road-legal version purely to go racing. That makes this insane Yaris a true homologation special, an heir to the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford RS200. And no matter how many upgrades Toyota made to the Corolla Hatchback to create the 2023 GR Corolla, it won’t be a factory-made rally car, R&T argues.
Yet there is something the GR Corolla brings that the GR Yaris can’t match, at least in the States: acceptance.
If Toyota had sold the GR Yaris in the U.S.A., would people actually buy it?
One of the reasons why so many reviewers—Road & Track included—adore the Toyota GR Yaris is its size. It’s a supermini, aka a subcompact/B-segment car, just like the Ford Fiesta ST, Honda Fit, and Fiat 500 Abarth. And just like those cars, the Yaris isn’t sold in the U.S. anymore. The Corolla, though, is still going strong here.
Although superminis had a brief blaze of popularity here, it died once gas prices dropped (remember those days?). Furthermore, many Americans don’t hold small cars in high regard. Why get a hatchback when a bigger, taller crossover that projects (perceived) authority and power, and therefore luxury, doesn’t cost that much more? But that’s a discussion for another article.
Regardless, even if Toyota brought the GR Yaris over here, there’s no guarantee it would sell well. Admittedly, automakers understand that performance cars are usually niche products and taper their sales volume expectations accordingly. And according to Toyota Motor North America senior VP of automotive operations Jack Hollis, the company didn’t immediately dismiss that idea even knowing that, R&T says. However, it ultimately went with the GR Corolla because “’we knew [it] fit our market,’” Hollis told R&T.
As good and special as the Toyota GR Yaris is, it’s not really designed with American roads in mind. So, even with its incredible backstory and undeniable enthusiast appeal, the mini hot hatch would likely struggle here.
Our Corolla hot hatch should still be an AWD blast
All that said, don’t think of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla as a consolation prize. This is so much more than a more powerful AWD Corolla Hatchback. For one, it doesn’t share its AWD system with any other Toyota product sold here. And while some of its interior upgrades might end up in ‘lesser’ Corollas, its powertrain, suspension, and braking upgrades won’t.
Now, as of this writing, no one outside of Toyota has driven the GR Corolla. But I predict that as soon as someone gets behind the wheel, they’ll instantly forget that it’s not a GR Yaris. Because any 300-hp AWD hot hatch with a manual and optional dual limited-slip differentials is special, indeed.
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