The GR Corolla is Toyota’s DVD/VCR player


Toyota made headlines when the automaker discontinued its latest Gazoo Racing (GR) product: the 2022 Corolla GR. That hot hatch reserved for the shifter may have you dreaming of trading in your Outback. And it’s a job you’ll probably never regret. But don’t be convinced that the Gazoo Racing badge makes the GR Corolla trim as good or as fun as Toyota’s purpose-built sports cars.

The all-in-one car is a myth

Corolla GR 2022 | Toyota

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We automotive journalists may have screwed up. There is a tendency to give the “multi-tools” of the automotive world artificially inflated ratings. This is because they are “average” in several categories so in the overall ratings they hover above vehicles that make major sacrifices.

Take, for example, the Honda Ridgeline. It is Edmunds’ highest-rated midsize truck and Consumer Reports’ highest-rated pickup overall. That’s because the Ridgeline is “meh” in every category without really sacrificing any category. So people love it, right? Bad. It is the worst-selling truck.

The only way to get really good at one thing is to make sacrifices everywhere else. Want to haul 3,000 pounds of gravel in your truck bed? Say goodbye to ride quality and fuel efficiency. Love the handling of your Miata so much that you want to drive it every day? Great: you can get married or have a dog. But you don’t have enough room for both.

If your design question is “How do I make an all-wheel-drive four-door car as fun as possible?” the modern hot hatch is an outstanding answer.

But if your question is “How much fun can I have in a sports car?” you should look carefully at front-engine RWD coupes. There’s a reason they’ve been the sports car layout of choice for a century.

The GR Corolla does not belong to the Gazoo Racing range

Toyota Gazoo Racing's advertisement is the GR86, GR Corolla and Supra racing together on a track.
Toyota GR86, Supra and GR Corolla | Toyota

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While we’re on the subject of front-engine and RWD sports coupes, I have to say that Toyota has the segment locked. Gazoo Racing reintroduced the Toyota Supra for the fifth generation of the car in 2019. Then it released the second generation of the 86 for the 2021 model year as Gazoo Racing 86 (GR86).

Both of these cars are front-engine RWD coupes. Both are incredibly well-balanced sports cars. The new Supra is a two-seater. It offers a beefy 3.0-liter I6 from BMW that Toyota has redesigned for reliability. But don’t worry, it still makes up to 382 horsepower.

The Supra is only available in an automatic version. But if you’re a manual transmission fan, Gazoo Racing has you covered. The GR86 is Toyota’s version of the Subaru BRZ. It’s a 2+2 coupe because of its tiny rear seats. You can get it in automatic or 6-speed manual.

The GR86 comes with a boxster-style four-cylinder developed by Subaru. It only produces 228 horsepower, but straight-line speed isn’t this nimble sports car’s forte anyway.

If you want to go fast and have a good time, Gazoo Racing is here for you. The proper tool for the job is a front-engine RWD coupe. And with Toyota, you have the choice between two.

Which vehicle Gazoo Racing does not belong to? The GR Corolla is not in the range of sports cars for enthusiasts willing to make sacrifices in the name of speed.

The GR Corolla’s 1.6-litre turbo leaves no room for tuning

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The hot hatch is an exciting segment of the automotive market. From the Mazda 3 to the Subaru WRX STI, from the VW Golf R to the Honda Civic Type R, it featured many sedans with tuned engines and FWD or AWD. Many of them also offered a manual transmission option.

The hot hatch was a response to the tuner car craze of the 1990s. Early tuners turned budget sedans into legendary sleepers. Because these tuned cars were some of the fastest on the market, automakers began offering factory-tuned versions of their hatchbacks and the hot hatch was born.

Toyota managed to squeeze an incredible 300 horsepower out of the GR Corolla’s turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder. But with such a well-tuned output, there’s not much room for owners to improve it. Ironically, the GR Corolla isn’t even a tuner car, it just looks like one.

If the GR Corolla was Gazoo Racing’s entry-level offering, I could defend it. But while the GR86 starts at $27,700, the GR Corolla should start at over $30,000, according to Car and Driver.

Previous hot hatches have been a great way for budget-conscious drivers who need four doors and all-wheel drive to buy a vehicle with a little more zip. But these are the DVD/VCR players of the automotive world: in their quest to do it all, they don’t do anything exceptionally well. A hot hatch is no substitute for more traditional sports cars.

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