An opportunity to cut loose in controlled conditions on a skid pan reveals its true colours.
This isn’t your nan’s Corolla.
Toyota’s small car is one of the most popular machines on the road. The Corolla has sat on millions of driveways around Australia, winning fans as affordable and reliable transport.
But this is a different kind of Corolla.
Priced from about $67,000 drive-away, it costs about twice as much as a standard Corolla hatchback.
It looks meaner than the regular Corolla, but the big changes are under the skin.
It has rally-inspired hardware
The Toyota GR Corolla replaces the regular car’s hardware with a turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive system. The heavily boosted 1.6-litre, three-cylinder motor makes 221kW of power and 370Nm, enough to reach 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds. Drivers can choose a front, rear, or evenly split torque bias for the all-wheel-drive system, which uses limited slip diffs on both axles to ensure consistent traction.
Toyota’s hot hatch delivers impressive grip in dry conditions, biting into the tarmac with fat Yokohama tyres and clawing its way out of bends with determination.
It’s even better in the wet.
The Corolla really shines on slippery surfaces
While rivals struggle to get their power down, or push the nose wide with frustrating understeer if you get on the gas too early, the Corolla finds rare purchase to keep you on track.
It’s an analog machine that delivers what you ask from its three pedals, manual gearlever and mechanical handbrake.
You can play it safe with controlled traction, choose moderate slip angles or cut loose while looking out the side window – in controlled conditions, of course.
Overstep the limits of grip and you might find a truly playful car that gives drivers options that aren’t available in front-wheel-drive alternatives such as the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N.
It makes you feel like a rally driving hero
We took the Corolla to Beat the Blue, a police charity event held on the skidpan at Sydney Motorsport Park. It’s the perfect place to experiment with its party trick – a handbrake that automatically disconnects drive to the rear wheels, making it easy to toss the car sideways before spinning up all four tyres to induce lurid powerslides.
It’s a laugh-out-loud feature that never fails to put a smile on your face … though it should only be used in the right circumstances.
Customers should join a car club and try their hand at motorkhana, skid pan and drift events that put the Corolla in its element.
The Corolla is a sensible big brother
Enthusiasts looking for the ultimate rally experience should pick the smaller GR Yaris – it’s lighter and more agile than the bigger Corolla, and feels more urgent in a straight line. The Yaris’ unique and instantly recognisable body also scores points with enthusiasts.
But the Corolla’s five-door layout and more accommodating cabin are easy to live with, particularly if you plan to put people in the back seat.
While the Corolla’s drab cabin won’t win many fans, it has significantly more head room than the Yaris, which is handy for events that require helmets.
There are cheaper, more polished, and faster alternatives to the GR Corolla.
But none are as fun to push beyond the limit of traction away from public roads.