Toyota’s Gazoo Racing was key in making the Supra sport coupe’s return possible, but they weren’t done. They’ve now applied their skills to a totally mainstream nameplate— the compact Corolla. So let’s see how far they could go with Toyota’s entry-level commuter.

Generally, when we talk performance cars here at MotorWeek, a 3-cylinder engine is not among the topics discussed, but that’s what this 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is packing; and much like the Corolla itself, you’d better not underestimate it.

The GR in GR Corolla naturally stands for Gazoo Racing, which played a major part in transforming the humble Corolla chassis into this track-worthy weapon, as well as creating the power plant that brings it all together.

Originally developed for the GR Yaris, which did not make it to the U.S., this tiny turbo packs a big punch rated at 300-horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. The inline-3 gets a unique triple exhaust that feeds the turbo to force an amazing 25.2 psi of boost. And it gets even better, with a standard rev-matching iMT 6-speed manual transmission similar to the GR Supra’s, and GR-FOUR all-wheel-drive. Developed with rally racing in mind, it’s the first sport-oriented AWD system from Toyota in over 20-years and has the ability to adjust the amount of rear bias from 40 to 70%.

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The Circuit Edition features a carbon-fiber roof, vented hood, and unique rear spoiler; in addition to all GR Corolla’s upgraded body that has extended rockers and significantly flared fenders. It looks almost cartoonish in a good way, like those drawings of far-out 5-door hot hatches that seemingly couldn’t exist in the real world.

All-in-all, it’s a rally-ready package that begs to be pushed hard, with managed power delivery for just about any surface. We stuck to the pavement, or tarmac as they call it on the circuit, specifically the varied and twisty turns of the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park.

We found that sending as much power to the rear as possible to be the best setting, giving us both more feel and more control, and creating a perfect balance for easy in, hard out approaches to corners both tight and sweeping. The chassis itself has gotten some significant reinforcements, from extra adhesive to more thorough welding, and even added bracing.

The result is not overly stiff, which gives it a playful feel, but just when you think you may be approaching its limits, there seems to be a little more there that takes it from being just a fun toy to a serious performance machine.

Brakes were up to the task as well; good initial bite, a nice amount of pedal travel, and confidence-inspiring stability. Working the manual was a joy in of itself, short throws and solid feel, with clutch action heavier than your average sport compact.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla 12023 Toyota GR Corolla Circuit Edition Interior

That certainly aids when it comes to launches at the drag strip too, though the rather elevated take-up point of the pedal was little high for us. Still, with 50/50 torque split and Sport dialed up, there was a great amount of grip off the line for sprints to 60 in just 5.0-seconds flat, after a smooth quick release of the clutch.

This 3 has a pleasantly throaty exhaust note, as well as fairly linear power delivery throughout the 13.3-second ¼-mile which we competed at 104 miles-per-hour.

Inside, you’ll find that the Corolla’s budget feel mostly remains, but with the addition of some great sport seats with suede inserts and color stitching. All GR Corollas get an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display and Toyota Safety Sense 3.0.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 21-City, 28-Highway, and 24-Combined; we averaged a great 27.3 miles-per-gallon of Premium. That’s an average Energy Impact Score of 12.4-barrels of yearly oil use, with 6.1-tons of CO2 emissions. After hearing all of that, the good news doesn’t end there, as pricing starts at just $36,995; $43,995 for the Circuit Edition.

We’d say you’d better jump now if you’re inclined, as we’re not sure how long Toyota will keep pricing that reasonable. Add another log to the fire, as the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla brings some serious heat to the hot hatch segment and takes the Corolla to a place it has never been before. It’s hard to think of a car we’ve driven this past year that we’ve enjoyed more. This is a huge win for Toyota, and anyone else looking for an affordable, track-worthy compact fun machine.


  • Engine: 1.6L Turbo I-3
  • Torque: 273 lb-ft.
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.3 seconds at 104 mph
  • MW Fuel Economy: 27.3 mpg (Premium)
  • Horsepower: 300
  • 0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds
  • EPA: 21 City / 28 Highway / 24 Combined
  • Starting Price: $39,995