The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland
The new Toyota Corolla GR Sport is now on sale in Ireland

Caroline drives the new Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

Corolla continues to sell well in Ireland and was one of Ireland’s bestselling cars in 2021! The current generation of the evergreen Corolla arrived in Ireland in 2019. The arrival of the latest Corolla was heralded by three new derivatives – hatchback, estate and saloon – with hybrid a key part of the brand’s mission in the compact segment.

The new Corolla has been an indisputable success in Ireland and is the 2020 Continental Tyres Irish Medium Car of the Year. Toyota has recently added a new sport trim line to the Corolla range in Ireland – the Corolla GR Sport, reviewed here with 2.0-litre hybrid engine.

Toyota Ireland has also recently announced a new Corolla-based SUV. The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is expected here in late 2022.

What’s so great about the new Toyota Corolla?

Well there are three distinct models all with fuel sipping hybrid powertrains built upon Toyota’s more agile and dynamic TNGA platform. All feature modern interior design and there are even optional two tone paint finishes that take even more years off the Corolla. This car has never looked better. Now Toyota sees even more potential with this car, introducing a sportier hybrid powertrain and new GR Sport trim level, exclusive to the Corolla Hatchback.

It’s wonderful to watch the Corolla explore its new, more fashionable position in the market. It’s even better to experience this car from the driver’s seat. I couldn’t quite believe that I was picking up a sporty Corolla. For too long Corolla stood for sensible, reliable transport. But it was hardly a car that you really, really desired to drive, over say a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Now all that has changed.

Toyota has big plans, not least a rumoured full on Corolla GR performance hatchback in the next few years, a follow up to the rapturous Yaris GR. The GR Sport is a trim level where you get sportier visual updates to the car inspired by high performance models. To recap GR stands for the wonderfully named Toyota performance division ‘Gazoo Racing’. The Corolla GR Sport is just the second model to join the European GR Sport line-up following the introduction of the Yaris GR Sport in 2019.

The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland's bestselling car
The GR Sport gives a sporty makeover to the Corolla, Ireland’s bestselling car

What features does the Corolla GR Sport get?

The Corolla Hatchback range starts from €26,390 in Ireland and now exclusively uses a petrol electric hybrid powertrain. There are two hybrid powertrains to choose from – the 1.8-litre with 122 hp that we tested last year in the Corolla Hatchback – and the more powerful 2.0-litre hybrid with 184 hp tested here in GR Sport specification. This top of the range model has a list price of €36,210. The GR Sport trim level is also available with the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain. It retails from €32,625 in this configuration.

The GR Sport makeover looks really good on the Corolla. It’s a handsome hatchback anyway but sporty features look genuinely comfortable here. The Toyota Gazoo Racing influence comes in distinctive styling elements like a new honeycomb mesh pattern front grille with piano black surrounds, lower skirts, and sills. At the rear there is a silver insert in the lower bumper, creating the look of twin tailpipes and a diffuser. A black roof comes as standard matched to a choice of five body colours. Wheels are 18” black alloy with a contrasting bright machined finish to the tips of each spoke and red GR centre caps. There is also rear privacy glass and bi-LED headlights. The finishing touches are black backgrounds for the Toyota emblems on the bonnet and boot lid, and official GR badging.

What’s it like inside?

Inside the GR Sport has a few bespoke features too. There are lots of soft touch black panel finishes. Red stitching on the gear selector, steering wheel and seats adds a nice contrast. The seats have a sports design with fabric in the centre and leather-effect bolsters. They are comfortable and supportive. The GR Sport also benefits from the same interior technology as the rest of the Corolla range. Infotainment is controlled via a touchscreen that can connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity were added to the Corolla range in 2020.

The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport
The interior of the 2020 Toyota Corolla GR Sport

There’s a new seven-inch colour TFT multi-information screen. Other standard features include Toyota Safety Sense, smart entry, rear privacy glass, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power-adjustable door mirrors with an auto-folding function.

The Corolla Hatchback will seat five however the Touring Sports (estate) and Saloon have more legroom because of a longer wheelbase. The rear legroom in the hatchback is on the small side for this class of vehicle, especially if there is a tall driver and front seat passenger! Boot space in the 2.0-litre hybrid models is also slightly compromised because the car’s battery is positioned under the boot floor. The standard Corolla Hatchback has 361 litres of boot space, however the 2.0-litre hybrid has less at 313 litres.

On the road in the Toyota Corolla GR Sport!

Driving the new Corolla GR Sport was an opportunity to experience the brand’s new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. There’s more power and torque than in the standard 1.8-litre version. It has been engineered to be more responsive and fun to drive. This is all while still retaining a low emission hybrid powertrain.

Immediately the hybrid engine impressed me. It feels faster, more robust, smoother and more mature in drive. Power delivery is on the pedal responsive and with 184 hp, the Corolla 2.0-litre can really take off. The Corolla is a much improved car dynamically. I enjoyed the more powerful set-up in this car with smoother CVT automatic operation. Paddle shift gear changes are also possible. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 7.1 litres per 100 km, while motor tax is just €180 per year.

My verdict on this car is two fold as I’m essentially reviewing two things – the GR Sport spec additions and the 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain.

Last year I performed a number of test drives with the Corolla 1.8 litre and for many people this engine will suffice. It is the one to go for if you are genuinely looking for a fuel sipping car to save on fuel costs as time and time again it returned great economy for me. The 2.0-litre hybrid is more powerful and fun to drive. It feels like a more grown up affair yet fuel consumption does suffer a bit with the more performance bias of the design.

The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla's sporty new character
The Toyota Corolla GR Sport explores Corolla’s sporty new character

I think the GR Sport is a wonderful addition to the range. I adore the sporty look of this Corolla.

Corolla has grown up and got some street cred. The GR Sport explores the Corolla’s cool new character even more!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota Corolla GR Sport 2.0-litre Hybrid
€36,210 (from €32,625)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
184 hp
Torque: 190 Nm
7.9 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP):
120 g/km
Motor Tax: €180 per year