Note: With limited time available with these cars, most photos shown here of the GR Corolla were taken at a previous track event.
The lust for a taste of forbidden fruit can be insatiable to some.
That’s why there was so much disappointment when Toyota decided to introduce a rally-bred hot hatch to certain parts of the world while skipping North America. Of course, the simple reason we didn’t get the GR Yaris is that the car it’s based on isn’t sold here either. But that explanation did little to appease enthusiasts in Canada and the United States.
Surprisingly, neither did the arrival of the Toyota GR Corolla a couple short years later, with some folks still complaining about the car we got instead of the one we supposedly should have. But it’s time to set the record straight. Because after a short lapping session, it looks like Toyota made the right call after all. Probably.
But First, the Yaris
Before we get into this, let’s just be clear: by no means was this a full-fledged comparison with a definitive outcome. A handful of laps around a fairly basic course is hardly enough to declare a winner with absolute authority. It also wasn’t exactly apples to apples given the extra specialness of the GR Corolla that was tested – but more on that shortly.
Another key consideration is personal preference. (Or maybe it’s stubbornness.) To some out there the GR Yaris is the superior car no matter how much data there is, empirical or otherwise, to support the opposite. Can’t please ’em all, as the saying goes.
In fairness, there’s no denying just how good the GR Yaris is. This was my first time behind the wheel, and it didn’t take long to get what all the hype has been about. It’s the kind of car that’s absolutely absurd while simultaneously making all kinds of sense. Why wouldn’t Toyota take a tiny hatchback, stick a high-output engine under its hood, outfit it with an adjustable all-wheel drive system, and sell it to the public?
It’s easy to understand what it’s capable of doing from the driver’s seat, too. And better still, it doesn’t take long to figure it out. As far as accessible performance goes, this little hot hatch is about as good as it gets.
Then There’s the Corolla
With the GR Corolla, Toyota simply delivered a slightly larger version of that skunkworks-special-turned-production-car. More importantly for us Canucks, it’s based on a model that’s actually sold in our home market. That means the same basic suspension setup as the one that underpins the GR Yaris, albeit with some unique tweaks, and the identical all-wheel drive system that can split the torque distribution three ways: 50/50 front and back, 60/40 in favour of the former, and 30/70 in the opposite direction.
Under the hood is the exact same 1.6L turbocharged three-cylinder as the one in the Yaris, but Toyota cranked the boost up a bit in the slightly bigger, heavier Corolla. Combined with a reduction in back pressure thanks to the fancy three-exit exhaust system, there’s 300 hp to work with compared to 268 in the Yaris. Meanwhile, torque is almost identical at 273 lb-ft from the former and 272 from the latter.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
OK, now for that little caveat we put a pin in earlier on. The GR Corolla on hand this day happened to be a Morizo Edition, which has a few extra tricks, nips, and tucks hidden here and there. The first is an extra helping of torque, with 295 lb-ft to play with, while the other is hiding in plain sight: the back seat was scrapped to lighten the car’s curb weight.
Likewise, there’s no way to open the rear windows; the mechanisms were removed, as was the rear wiper and a bunch of sound-deadening. The result is a car that tips the scales at a scant 1,445 kg (3,186 lb) – not much more than the roughly 1,300-kg (2,866-lb) GR Yaris that’s down a pair of doors in comparison.
The other big deal is the tires the Morizo Edition rides on: grippier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s versus the Pilot Sport 4S rubber the GR Yaris tested here was fitted with. The Corolla’s tires are wider, too, measuring 245 mm (9.6 in) across compared to 225 mm (8.6 in).
Even more basically, the Corolla’s extra dimensions manage to make it just that much more engaging and exciting. The slightly wider track in particular makes the GR Corolla feel more firmly planted and fun in corners, a rare combination that means it can be tossed around almost boundlessly, with plenty of playfulness that’s paired with an incredible ability to get power down in a hurry.
Yes, the track this test took place on was the gymkhana course at Fuji Speedway – effectively a glorified skid pad that’s used for drifting. In this case, some cones were set up to create esses and a few other turns, but it was all fairly basic. (I wasn’t even mad given what was happening on the main track at Fuji.)
Again, what can be gleaned from such an experience isn’t exactly as detailed as a full day at a proper track; but as far as the essentials go, this short session offered more than enough insight into how both cars behave. And somewhat surprisingly, it was the larger Corolla that displayed more of a willingness to rotate than its sprightly sibling. Of course, that’s likely a byproduct not necessarily of its weight reduction but rather from where that heft was cut. Getting rid of a bunch of bulk from the back half of any car is enough to make it dance, which is exactly what the Morizo Edition does when tossed around a track.
There’s also that extra output that’s hard to ignore. Sure, it has to move about 145 kg (320 lb) more car, but there’s more to it than that. Because while the GR Yaris hits peak torque a little earlier than the GR Corolla Morizo Edition (3,000 rpm versus 3,250), the latter makes more of it outright, which means the good stuff is actually ready sooner. Rocketing around the wide radius of the last turn, the GR Corolla was consistently quicker than its sibling down the front straight. That’s hard evidence to dispute.
In the end, it could be the idea of originality that makes the Toyota GR Yaris so desirable to some; and it’s unquestionably excellent. But the GR Corolla is better. And who knows – maybe I wouldn’t feel so strongly had I driven a lesser version of this vaunted sport compact. But there’s no question it’s the better of the two. Probably.