Toyota GR Corolla

RSi Reinvented |

The RSi moniker, as used by Toyota, first appeared here in the mid-eighties with the introduction of the A90 Corolla range when the sportiest of the hatch derivatives received this go-faster designation.

Over nearly two decades and three Corolla generations (RunX included), the local-only RSi models emphatically established Toyota’s hot hatch and performance credentials. Designated Conquest, to discern them from the sedan and Avante versions (overseas, it kept the Corolla name), and motivated by the fabulous, normally-aspirated 4A-GE family of engines delivering from 89 kW up to 141 kW, the RSi models regularly beat bigger-engined cars on track and in rallies.

However, since the RSi badge was dropped more than 15 years ago, no real performance derivative was developed over the last two Corolla generations. Until now, with the introduction of the new GR Corolla, the latest derivative in the Toyota Gazoo Racing line-up, and, excitingly, Toyota South Africa is showing interest in making it available here too.

Core and Circuit

With aggressive air inlets, deep and sporty spoilers front and rear, and wide fender flares, the race-bred and expertly built GR Corolla – unveiled in Long Beach, California – really looks the part. Overseas it will come in two grades – Core and Circuit Edition – with the Core grade due to be available later this year.

The Core model will be available in white, black and Supersonic Red, with a colour-coded roof, a black rear lip spoiler, GR-Four stamped side skirts and, in the interior, seating for five with GR logoed fabric sport seats. 

The Circuit Edition will be a limited-run model available from 2023. This race-ready model adds a carbon fibre roof, vented bulge bonnet, a sporty rear spoiler, suede-trimmed sport seats with red accents, and an exclusive Morizo signed gearshift knob – yes, the GR Corolla is offered exclusively with a manual transmission! 

Both models come equipped with auto on/off LED headlamps and LED DRLs, and the new touchscreen Toyota Audio Multimedia system.

Built on Toyota’s GA-C platform, the red-hot Toyota hatch has a low centre of gravity and enhanced frame reinforcements developed specifically for this model at the GR Factory in the Motomachi plant in Japan. Functional air vents and aerodynamic features further support steering stability.

Powerful engine, all-wheel drive

Fitted with a strengthened version of the 1.6 l in-line three-cylinder intercooler turbo engine found in the GR Yaris, the engine in the GR Corolla delivers a stomping 224 kW at 6,500 rpm and 370 Nm of torque at 3,000 – 5,500 rpm. This thrill-inducing power is piped through a unique triple exhaust specifically designed to reduce back pressure.

Optimising the GR-FOUR 4WD system, which is also featured on the GR Yaris, this system provides a choice of 60-40, 50-50 or 30-70 power distribution to the front and rear wheels. The torque balance will automatically adjust to driver input, vehicle behaviour, and road or track conditions in each drive mode.

The Circuit Edition has front and rear Torsen limited-slip diffs for enhanced cornering performance and grip. This is available as part of the Performance Package on the Core grade, with 4WD open differentials standard. Michelin Pilot Sport 4 235/40R18 tyres on 18” gloss-black 15-spoke alloy wheels are used on the Core and the Circuit derivatives.

Fixed-calliper discs supply braking power with ventilated and slotted rotors and four-piston aluminium callipers. The Circuit Edition callipers are painted red with a GR logo and, to save weight, this model also features a forged (rather than woven) carbon sheet roof. Aluminium is used for the bonnet and front door panels.

Race-inspired Interior

The Full TFT Meter, which was developed exclusively for GR models, has been adopted with the 12.3” colour Multi-Information Display (MID) displaying 4WD mode, turbo pressure, gear position indicator and tachometer. Inspired by race cars, the new display improves visibility during sporty driving.

A short-stroke shift lever positioned for natural operation by simply lowering the arm from the steering wheel enables quick gear changes, and a hand-operated, pull-up type parking brake allows better vehicle control when drifting.

The Circuit Edition’s interior is finished in black with red trim details, and the Core Grade is finished with black and silver details. Automatic climate control, power windows and heated front seats and steering wheel are standard on the Circuit Edition and available as an option (with the Cold Weather package) on the Core grade.

Standard on both grades is a push-button GR engine start/stop button, aluminium sport pedals, USB charging ports and a 12V auxiliary power outlet. The Toyota Audio Multimedia allows for simultaneous dual Bluetooth phone connectivity with support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The Circuit Edition has an eight-speaker JBL audio system.

All GR Corolla grades also come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, which includes enhancements made possible by system sensors with improved detection capability. Other standard safety features include Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Hill Start Assist Control (HAC).

Last Word

Pricing for the GR Corolla models will be announced in the coming months, and will go on sale in the United States later this year. Whether this highly desirable reinvented RSi will be made available locally (perhaps late next year) will, however, depend on availability and price competitiveness.

Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Toyota USA

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