The Toyota GR Corolla is the WRX STI that Subaru won’t build

BY Jonathan Lim

The latest addition to the Gazoo Racing family is the rally-inspired manual hot hatch of our dreams. But will it come to Singapore?

Three hundred horsepower. Four driven wheels. Five doors. Six-speed manual. Do these ingredients sound familiar to you? If the image in your head is of a Subaru dancing through the trees to the tune of a boxer rumble and a clattering of gravel echoing all around, then we don’t blame you.

But alas that’s not to be. As we covered recently, the Subaru WRX STI is gone. Dead. Finito. Thankfully however, Toyota has taken that same rally-inspired recipe and - as celebrity chefs like to say - gone and given it its own little twist, and it is as glorious as the STI’s demise is sad. Say hello to the Toyota GR Corolla.

When the brilliant GR Yaris debuted to universal acclaim, one particular group was particularly vocal against it: the North Americans, who were missing out on all the fun because the car wasn't homologated there.

Well, the GR Corolla is here to right that wrong, and then some, as it's gonna be offered in the USA and Canada. Two versions will be available, a first year-exclusive Circuit Edition (the grey car in these pics) and a standard Core model (the red and white cars). At the heart of both is the same stupendously punchy G16E-GTS 1.6-litre 3-pot engine, except thanks to a tune-up and a tri-tailpipe exhaust which reduces backpressure (ala FK8 Honda Civic Type R), it now puts out 304hp, 32hp more than the Yaris. Peak torque remains unchanged at 370Nm. (Fun fact: this is not only the most powerful three-cylinder engine in the world, it’s also the highest specific-output Toyota motor ever made).

Also carried over unchanged are the six-speed manual gearbox with automatic rev-matching, Torsen limited-slip diffs front and rear (with the Circuit Edition), and the GR-Four all-wheel drive system that can split power between the front and rear axles according to three drive modes: 50:50 (Track), 60:40 (Normal) or 30:70 (Sport).

That last mode is what made the GR Yaris such a hoot, although with a larger body and longer wheelbase, it’ll likely take more provocation to pitch the GR Corolla sideways. Still, at least the inclusion of a good ol’ manual handbrake that automatically decouples the rear axle will make things easier somewhat. Even Toyota encourages it, saying in the press release it’ll “allow better vehicle control even when pushing the car to its limits, such as when drifting.”

Unlike the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla retains its own chassis instead of being a parts bin mashup (its baby brother was half Yaris, half CH-R underneath). As you’d expect from the reigning WRC world champions though, it’s had a thorough working over. Bodyshell rigidity has been increased, thanks to significantly more welds and adhesives, as well as extra bracing between the rear wheel wells, transmission tunnel, and under the floor in front of the fuel tank.

The track widths have been widened by a massive 60mm up front and 85mm at the rear, and the suspension is a highly modified variation of the standard Corolla’s MacPherson strut/double wishbone setup, although that’s been Gazoo Racing-fied in a similar vein as the Yaris’s.

Spotting a GR Corolla in the wild will not be a difficult task. The basic Corolla hatchback (only available via parallel importers here in Singapore) is a very handsome car, but undergoing the full Gazoo treatment has made it as subtle as a rally car-flung rock to the face. The front end looks like it’s got more air intake than actual bumper, the rear is dominated by a similarly blacked-out graphic in the bumper as well as those triple tailpipes, while the hilariously widened fenders (20mm front, 30mm back) house 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. Circuit Edition cars add a bulging aluminium bonnet with functional vents, forged carbonribre roof panel, as well as a monstrous rear wing.

Inside, in addition to the very prominently angled handbrake lever, there’s also a Gazoo Racing-specific TFT instrument display, a high-mount short-throw gearshifter (with the autograph of Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s alter-ego Morizo in the Circuit Edition), and sports bucket seats.

All told, the vast majority of GR Corollas are destined for North America. The car will not be a limited edition, but over three quarters of production will go to the USA and Canada, for the first year at least. The authorised Toyota dealer in Singapore, Borneo Motors, has refused to comment on whether the GR Corolla will be offered here, but with Australia being one of the car’s official markets, one can always hope.