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Not a full-fat GR model like the Yaris, but a welcome addition to the Corolla range.
We try the current Corolla in more dynamic GR Sport trim.
18in machined-face alloy wheels, side skirts with black detailing, 'GR Sport" door kick plates, head up display, TFT instruments
122hp 1.8, 184hp 2.0
Icon, Icon Tech, Design, GR Sport, Excel
Sadly, despite the 'Gazoo Racing' or 'GR' badging, this is not the full-fat GR Corolla. It seems that car, which boasts 300hp and all-wheel drive, is something we're sadly going to be denied in Europe. Still, that wouldn't be a fleet car anyway.
Instead, the GR Sport we have here is more of a 'GR Light' version of the Corolla in the UK - so think of a sportier equipment grade rather than a sportier drive. Outside, this means different bumpers. At the front, there's a wide, mesh-style grille with black gloss detailing, and a different bumper. Move to the side and the most obvious change over the standard are the 18in machined-face alloy wheels, and side skirts with black detailing. While at the back - like the front - there's a different rear bumper with gloss black highlights and the only 'GR Sport' badge on the exterior designed to tell others this is no standard Corolla. Our test car also stood out more, with its optional platinum pearl white paint, mated with the optional 'bi-tone' metallic grey roof.
Inside, there are 'GR Sport' door kick plates, one-piece front sports seats, head up display and coloured TFT instruments with 3D effect. Like the standard Corolla, it feels well-made, but the feel is more robust and no-nonsense rather than high-quality.
Unfortunately, there are no changes to the suspension or steering or engines, with the choice being a 122hp 1.8 or 184hp 2.0-litre and both, as you'd expect from a Toyota, are petrol hybrids.
We've got the latter of the two available engines here, the 184hp, 2.0-litre, which sprints to 62mph in 7.9secs, yet emits 119g/km of CO2 and delivers up to 53.3mpg, with a 28% BIK figure. This BIK figure looks pretty competitive, when you consider the Ford Focus in similarly warm ST-Line trim with the DCT automatic transmission has a 30% figure.
On the road, as expected and despite all the sporty exterior additions, the GR Sport drives much the same as a standard Corolla hatch - that's because as I mentioned before, there are no dynamic changes over the standard model. This is no bad thing, as the Corolla drives well, with nicely weighted steering, extra grip from the bigger wheels and agile, almost roll-free handling. The only downside being the extra road noise and harder ride thanks again to the 18in wheels.
Definitely not sporty, the CVT automatic gearbox sees to that, lacking involvement, and making acceleration to 62mph feel far more sedate than the 7.9secs Toyota quotes. Although, on the positive side, the acceleration feels pretty linear unless you work it very hard, only then does it get a bit shouty - but this Corolla is a lot better than some of Toyota's hybrid efforts in the past.
Another positive is that with the hybrid drive and sporty GR Sport equipment grade, we couldn't get this Corolla to go much below 50mpg - even when driven deliberately hard. And when you come to a stop, the brakes are generally up to the job - even if they are a little hard to modulate.
In our opinion, the Corolla GR Sport is probably best driven at slower speeds, where you can make the most of the precise steering, composed chassis and agile handling. Then again, if you drive this Toyota that way, it kind of removes the need to choose this expensive, sporty model. As such, other Icon Tech, Design and Excel grades probably make more sense for fleet.
So, the GR Sport is an attractive addition to the Corolla range, but the high price and uninvolving driving experience make it hard to recommend over the standard car.
Corolla Hatch 5Dr 2.0VVT-h 184 GR Sport Bi-tone CVT Auto