2023 Toyota GR Corolla First Ride Review: It Has a Knack for the Track

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is one of the new cars we’re most excited about this year. With its 300-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine, adjustable-torque-split all-wheel drive, and available trio of limited-slip differentials, the GR Corolla is the rare hot hatch capable of distracting us from the upcoming next-gen Honda Civic Type R. Though we’ve yet to drive the GR Corolla, we were given a taste of its capabilities at Eagles Canyon Raceway north of Dallas, Texas, with a professional hot shoe at the wheel—and we even got to ride in both a Circuit model and the newly announced Morizo Edition.

Available only as a hatchback, the GR Corolla is the third model under Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division, following the GR86 and Supra sports cars to market. The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is the first GR based on a regular Toyota model, and sees the Corolla hatch receive a thorough transformation bordering on the feral: A stiffer suspension and bigger brakes, a more rigid chassis with extra body welds, a triple-outlet exhaust, and a six-speed manual transmission. With Formula Drift drivers Jhonnattan Castro piloting the Morizo Edition and Ryan Tuerck at the wheel of the Circuit Edition, here’s what we learned about how the GR Corolla behaves at the limit:

The GR Corolla Circuit Edition

Limited to the GR Corolla’s launch model year, the Circuit Edition is packed with go-fast hardware, including front and rear Torsen mechanical limited slip differentials, a carbon fiber roof and hood, and an AWD system that can adjust the power split 60/40, 30/70 or 50/50 front-to-rear. Our car was set to the 50/50 configuration, which was specifically designed for track driving.

Eagles Canyon Raceway is an undulating, relatively low-speed track with few proper straightaways, and the out-and-back laps we were given nixed the main straight altogether, as the adjacent pit lane was used for staging our rides. Our driver, Ryan Tuerck, rolled into the throttle as we pulled out of the pits and immediately bore down on a 90-degree righthander. From the passenger’s seat, we detected very little body roll hitting this corner—and subsequent squiggles—aggressively, and even though the tires squealed more than expected, they showed good grip despite being relatively cold at the start of our run. Power was delivered quickly, and the suspension felt firm but perhaps not as firm as the very buttoned-down Hyundai Kona N or Elantra N. Softer or otherwise, the GR Corolla nonetheless telegraphs its sportiness through the chassis.

Glancing over at the tachometer, we could see the engine speed climbing quickly as we shot between Eagles Canyon’s corners, with the digital instrument cluster changing colors from white to orange to red to indicate when it was time to shift the six-speed manual. From behind the wheel, Tuerck noted that GR Corolla feels planted behind the wheel, and while it’s easy to overdrive the tires, he agreed they are well suited for the car. Tuerck also said the third gear ratio is perhaps a bit too tall, but that’s something you’d only notice at a racetrack.

The GR Corolla Morizo Edition

If you need a step above the GR Corolla, the Morizo Edition is the one to get. Named after Akio Toyoda’s racing alter ego, “Morizo,” the Morizo Edition deletes the rear seat and gets 22 lb-ft more torque from its turbo triple from some software tuning, for a total of 295 lb-ft of torque. The rear seat speakers, window lifts, and rear wiper and wiper motor are nixed, too. All in all, the Morizo is the leanest GR Corolla you can get, saving about 100 pounds compared to the Circuit Edition.

While an additional 22 lb-ft of torque doesn’t sound like much (especially when you have close to 300 lb-ft), it made a big difference on the track. The GR Corolla Morizo felt like it put power down quicker while delivering more oomph. Perhaps it was a combination of a punchier engine and the Morizo’s shorter-ratio gearbox, or even its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, but there was some extra anger in this GR Corolla, which will be limited in production but also will survive past the 2023 model year (unlike the Circuit Edition).

Or maybe it was Castro’s abilities and sense of abandon behind the wheel, as the Dominican driver didn’t leave anything on the table. With the stability and traction control systems disabled, Castro flew up and down the track’s elevation changes and charged through its many bends with glee. Castro remarked that the GR Corolla Morizo Edition is easy to drive and predictable. The exhaust note is loud for a three-cylinder engine, and the glorious, guttural sound invaded the cabin every time Castro stepped on the gas.

We’ll reserve our full judgement on the GR Corolla for when it arrives later this summer. In the meantime, we’ll have to mix our right-seat feelings with mid-hot-lap remarks from Castro and Tuerck for an idea of how awesome the GR Corolla is. One thing is for sure: We the experience left us even more eager to get into the driver’s seat ourselves.

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