Toyota Corolla GR Sport road test review: DAVID HOOPER says a rich vein of style makes this attractive Toyota Corolla desirable, even if its GR badging is a bit of a red herring!
THE petrolhead in me was really looking forward to the arrival of this week’s test car, Toyota’s new Corolla GR Sport, expecting another rocket ship like the GR Yaris I enjoyed a few months ago. I didn’t even twig when I spotted the automatic transmission, thinking Toyota had sent me the auto version to review, but within feet of leaving my drive, the realisation dawned, this wasn’t the very rapid car I’d been expecting at all and I soon discovered that the 300bhp Gazoo Racing derived hot shot I had been looking forward to playing with was still a distant dream for UK drivers.
Our test car certainly looks the part, indeed a few fellow petrol heads commented on how good the car looks, helped by its pearlescent paintwork, glossy black roof and smart diamond cut alloy wheels combined with its GR badges, pseudo bucket seats and very attractively styled bodywork – Toyota has certainly found a design sweet spot at the moment.
There are four trim levels and two engine choices in this model, a 1.8 or 2.0 litre, both full hybrids and both featuring better performance and economy than previous models thanks to a more powerful battery which is also 18kg lighter.
The 1.8-litre engine tested here has 18 more braked horses which help to bring the 0-62mph time down to 9.1 seconds, while the 2.0-litre engine does a bit better, hitting the same benchmark in 7.4 seconds.
Inside The Corolla has some nice sporty seats, which in our test car featured white flashes on the seat backs and squabs with red stitching and the GR logo embossed on the headrests.
The red stitching theme continues on the door cards and the steering wheel, but for some reason Toyota has used white stitching across the dashboard!
The GR models I have tested have been high-performance versions of that particular car, the GR bit standing for Gazoo Racing, as seen in the BTCC and WRC, but this Corolla wouldn’t keep up in either of those competitions, with a 0-62 time 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.
The Corolla is a full hybrid and has a CVT transmission, which only has a drive setting and doesn’t provide the option of manual gear control with artificially created “gears”. When driven quickly the engine races raucously until the transmission catches up with the engine revs, which is something I have never liked in any brand, but the CVT transmission is supposed to be more economical than a conventional automatic, so during my test of nearly 500 miles, 44.8 mpg was not to be sneezed at.
Just ahead of the gear selector is a little switch which gives the driver the option of three driving modes, Eco, Normal or Sport settings – the latter sharpening things up noticeably.
The large 12.3-inch screen sits on top of the dashboard and features a wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto system which is excellent. A little slot under the dash and largely out of sight contains a holder for your phone which will also charge it for you if you have one of the latest models.
The Corolla GR Sport comes with a full raft of safety equipment, including lane keeping assist, radar cruise control, which enables you to follow the car in front at a pre-set distance. If the car in front slows down you slow down, if it accelerates, it accelerates, and this can work from any speed from a standstill to the pre-set cruising speed which could be 70 mph, for example. It’s a great system, especially on busy roads.
Accommodation in the rear is ample for two to three adults and being a traditional hatchback, the boot is a good size for all the luggage, or holiday clutter, you might need to take away with you.
The hybrid technology which Toyota helped to pioneer works superbly well and helps the car achieve a respectable mpg figure without the need to plug it into an external electricity supply, thanks to the car’s hybrid system which recharges the battery as you drive.
The current Corolla range is an attractive alternative to some of the usual suspects, is good to drive, but if it were me buying one, I’d go for the manual gearbox!
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Toyota Corolla GR Sport Hybrid
ENGINE: 1798cc, 138bhp four-cylinder petrol engine, driving front wheels through CVT gearbox.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 112 mph. 0-62mph in 9.1 secs.
ECONOMY: Wheel World test average: 43mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS: 105g/km.
FUEL TANK: 43 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 14
PRICE: From £32,390
WARRANTY: Up to 10 years/100,000 miles
• All data correct at time of publication.