Toyota Corolla GR Sport review: now with fifth-gen hybrid technology Reviews 2023

Oh god, is the GR Corolla finally coming to the UK?

Unfortunately not – this 300 hp motorsport-bred weapon remains a distant dream on these shores. The Corolla you see above comes with just GR Sport trim, and despite the badging, there aren’t any notable dynamic upgrades: you just get a few GR-badged parts (starter button, seats, rocker panels, etc.) for a sportier look .

But before you click away in disappointment, there’s some other news on the planet Corolla that you might have missed. In particular, the debut of Toyota’s fifth-generation hybrid electric technology, the has gave a little better performance.

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Come on, I’m listening…

Well, your powertrain options remain 1.8- and 2.0-liter hybrids, but they now offer both better performance and better efficiency thanks to a redesigned power control unit and electric motor, and a 14 percent more powerful lithium-ion battery 14 percent cents (18kg) lighter than before.

The 1.8-litre engine now produces 138 hp (up 18 hp), resulting in a 1.8 second reduction in 0-100 km/h time to 9.1 seconds, while the 2.0-litre System produces 193 hp (up 15 hp) with half a second shaving the 0-62 mph time, reducing it to 7.4 seconds.

The whole system is now also more efficient than ever, with CO2 emissions starting at 100g/km for the 1.8-litre engine and 98g/km for the 2.0-litre engine, while fuel consumption is at 64. 1mpg starts. Which all sounds very healthy indeed.

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That’s all well and good on paper, but in the real world?

Let’s not beat around the bush: the old 1.8-liter Corolla was pretty slow and boring. Toyota says it’s recalibrated the previous linear accelerator to focus on driver input and power output, and while the new one is far from getting hot quickly, the improved zero-to-60mph time is very welcome, in particular when connecting to motorways and when overtaking.

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But that doesn’t mean it’s any less vocal when you put it on the ground, largely due to its CVT transmission, which remains far less refined compared to something like the new Honda Civic. It quietens down nicely once it’s up to speed, and there’s a surprising amount of quiet running around town in EV mode, with the dashboard handy (and rather addictive) telling you how much of your travel you’re doing with the electric motor have covered . It is only this middle ground that remains something of a bogeyman.

So light use of the throttle remains the Corolla’s happy bottom, at which point you’ll find that she’s a pretty companionable cruiser. Our test ride happened to coincide with a weekend honeymoon, involving the transport of four people and all their luggage from London to Nottingham and back: versus the 60.1mpg claimed by our GR Sport kit, we saw 49.8mpg, of which we spent about a quarter in electric mode. And most of it while we’re stuck in the capital, we should add.

That sounds a bit like compulsions…

There are advantages to being the designated driver, don’t you know – your comfort is a priority. And in the sportier bucket-style sport seats of our GR Sport trim, I was perfectly happy despite my six-foot-two frame. No complaints from my top passenger either.

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But you can’t go wrong in the back, where even my under-six-foot companions found life a little cramped, unhelped by those sport seats that eat into knee room. The threat of the train home was enough to crash her, mind you.

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We also managed to pack all our luggage into the surprisingly roomy trunk, although it’s worth nothing that where the 1.8-litre (as we had it here) offers 361 litres, the 2, 0-litres means the battery is relocated under the boot floor, shrinking this to 313 litres.

Is there anything else I should know?

As part of the 2023 updates, all models get a customizable 12.3-inch instrument display with numerous different modes to toggle, along with Toyota’s latest 10.5-inch “Smart Connect” infotainment display as standard, a very welcome upgrade.

While the operating system itself isn’t the most visually appealing, it is pleasantly user-friendly apart from the lack of any physical switching devices. Although at least you get a handy column of shortcut keys on the left. Also, Toyota has used common sense and kept the climate control panel – complete with knobs and knobs – separate. Hooray!

In any case, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless connectivity are finally standard across the range. As do LED headlights, heated front seats, air conditioning, wireless charging, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors, even on entry-level versions.

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How much does it cost?

Prices for the 1.8-litre start at £30,210 or £31,955 for the 2.0-litre in entry-level Icon trim, with an extra £570 for Design trim, £1,210 for the GR Sport Amenities and trim £410 for the top Amenities Excel. Leasing you’re looking at a starting price of £420 a month for the 1.8-litre, or £490 a month over three years with an initial £3,000 deposit.

There’s no doubt that this is the best-looking Corolla generation yet, with that GR Sport trim particularly eye-catching, but while the improved performance is very welcome, it still doesn’t quite match Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Volkswagen keep up with golf driving.

Don’t ask for too much of it, though, and it’s an inexpensive, capable (small) family runabout — not a bad thing at a time when many of us feel the need more than ever.

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