Now over fifty-years old and in its twelfth generation, everyone in motoring has heard of and probably been driven in a Toyota Corolla. Ireland has loved the Corolla since it arrived here with its high-back front seats and in-built radio in the early 70’s.
Its recent generations, including its temporary replacement the Auris, maintained a more conservative forecourt stance than the competition, their offerings lacked the sparkle to attract younger drivers, added to the trend today where brand loyalty is a tad fickle.
This latest Corolla is better dressed, much better company on the inside and converses better once on the road. My test car was the Gazoo Racing, 2.0 litre petrol hybrid, with over one-hundred and eighty ponies under your right foot, delivering a lively drive through its CVT transmission, with simulated gearshift selection available via paddles behind the steering wheel.
This sporting version of the Corolla is an absolute doddle to drive, placing very little demand on the driver and responding with enough enthusiasm to bring you into forbidden territory with ease.
Build quality, interior layout and materials are much improved, bringing the Corolla, in all its forms, up to the best in this very competitive segment. Being a 2.0litre, the GR Sport will appeal to a smaller audience, but those few will delight in its looks and good company.
Model: Corolla GR Sport
Powertrain: 2.0 litre Petrol/Hybrid
Grade: GR Sport
NOx Emissions: 4.0mg/km
Road Tax Band: A2
Annual Road Tax: €180
Boot Capacity: 313 litres (due to 12V battery located in boot)
Hybrid Battery Type: Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
Introductory Price: Corolla Aura €26,390
Test Car Price: €34,414
Some of the Competition:
Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Opel Astra, Peugeot 308, KIA Ceed, Skoda Octavia, Honda Civic, Hyundai Kona Hybrid, Mazda3, Renault Megane
With is 18” wheels, body-kit, two-tone paint, GR sports front grill, side sills, front and rear diffusers, the outer demeanour of the Corolla GR will cause a double-take. It looks smart and purposeful, with only those who know their motorsport knowing what the letters ‘GR’ refers to. Proportionally, the Corolla GR stands sturdy, the angular front end, bodyline and rear-end treatment working very well. It doesn’t look like a convention hot-hatch, with a less aggressive stance, but as a visual package, its subtlety will appeal to many.
Piped, two-tone sports, partial-leather seating, leather steering wheel, paddle-shifters at its rear, with GR scuff plates, set this sporty Corolla apart from its more conservative siblings.
No need to worry about the quality of furnishings, nor their assembly – all is as you can expect from the BIG T house. The aforementioned seats are snugly supportive, the driving position easy to attain via the adjustable in/out steering and up/down slide forwards/rearwards seat.
Safety, comfort and entertainment are all well represented in the GR Sport, the advent of Apple Carplay/Android Auto a welcome addition to where it didn’t exist before.
A centre console provides access to a multitude of menus, where many can be pre-programmed prior to driving, thereby requiring minimal futtering once on the move.
On the Road
While the GR Sport may project bad intentions, it is more civilised than other hot hatches in this segment. Staying loyal to its planet-friendly ethos, the GR Sport is brisk without being manic and rides softer than its ‘Sport’ badging might infer.
This is not all bad, as the majority of driving does not require your spine to be driven up through your head, or your licence to go into spasm every time you walk to the car. Given encouragement, the GR Sport can mozzie up the road quite lively, accompanied by the high-rev surge the CVT transmission.
Being a hybrid, it does call on a change to ‘normal’ driving habits. The art of deceleration and knowing how much throttle to apply is rewarded with very acceptable economy figures, my best sub 5litres/100km, with no great effort to be Scrooge-like.
Handling is secure and dependable, the 225-section tyres and the neutral steering combine with the pliant suspension to give a sporting drive when out in the twisties, and a more considerate ride when in the sedate territory of the daily commute.
Those choosing the Corolla GR Sport can covertly go about their drive, with only the motor-nerds pointing the finger of recognition. It’s not a frenzied, front-wheel drive delinquent and is a very pleasant place to spend time, but should the demand ask for more momentum, make no mistake – it is on the GR Sport menu. Great to see a sporty Corolla on the streets once more.
GR Corolla Main Features:
Toyota Safety Sense
18” GR Sport alloy wheels
GR Sport exterior & interior design
Power retractable door mirrors
Rear Privacy Glass
Rain Sensor Wipers
Front sport seat
GR Sport Partial Leather Upholstery
GR Sport steering wheel
GR Sport scuff plates
Apple Carplay/Android Auto
Toyota Safety Sense 2 features:
Pre-Collision System (PCS)
PCS consists of 3 active safety systems to assist in mitigating or avoiding rear end collision damage:
Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
FCW notifies the driver of a collision danger with a visual alert ‘Brake!’ in TFT Multi- info display + audible alarm. FCW can detect the following:
· Vehicles (0-180km/h)
· Pedestrians at night-time (10-80km/h)
· Cyclists during daytime (10-80km/h)
Pre-Crash Brake Assist (PBA)
PBA boosts the braking force initiated by the driver if they respond to the Forward Collision Warning and depress the brake pedal.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
AEB applies the brakes when a collision is unavoidable and the driver has not taken action. AEB can provide deceleration up to 40km/h for cyclists and pedestrians and up to 50km/h for vehicles.
Road Sign Assist (RSA)
RSA notifies the driver of road signs along the way.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
ACC keeps the vehicle cruising at the selected speed, and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Combining ACC with RSA, the system recognises new speed limits along the driving route and makes suggestions to change the cruising speed. Working together, ACC and LTA provide advanced hands-on driving assistance that drivers will find especially useful in stop-and-go traffic as well as over long motorway trips.
Lane Departure Alert (LDA)
The LDA system alerts the driver if the vehicle deviates from its lane without a turn signal being engaged.
LDA with Steering Assist
This helps nudge the vehicle back into its lane by applying a small amount of counter-steering force.
Lane Tracing Assist (LTA)
LTA keeps the vehicle centred in its lane at all times (driver’s hands must be on the wheel). If lane markings are not visible, LTA detects the road edge and follows the path of the preceding vehicle.
Automatic High Beam (AHB)
AHB automatically switches between high and low beam to enable optimal night-time visibility.