Base Camp: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla

Is it worth making the $8500 jump to the Circuit edition?

By Evan Williams Wheels.ca

Mar 14, 2023 3 min. read

Article was updated 7 months ago

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It’s been ages since one could mention Toyota in the same breath as ‘GTI’ or, indeed, any variant of true hot hatch. That’s changed of late, with the appearance of cars like the tasty GR86 and fun Supra. Now, the company’s speed demons – spurred on by CEO Akio Toyoda who soon moves into a chairman’s role – have introduced the GR Corolla.

Under its stubby hood is a 1.6L three-cylinder turbocharged engine making 300 horsepower which works out to a stupefying 185.4 horsepower per litre. To put that in perspective, a V8-powered Ram 1500 pickup truck would have to make over a thousand ponies to equal that figure (it doesn’t even make 400, if you’re wondering). Tied to this frenetic little mill is an all-wheel drive system and a six-speed manual transmission sorting out power.

There will be three trims of the GR Corolla, explaining why a specific variant of Toyota’s little hatch qualifies for its own Base Camp post. Kicking things off is the Core, priced at $45,490 plus fees and coming equipped with a few unique features compared to American examples. Atop that list is a Torsen limited-slip differential which helps tidily sort out power during spirited track sessions. This goodie isn’t on the American base car, so take note if you’re researching yer purchase using sites from that country.

toyota gr corolla

A trio of colours are on tap for the Core trim, including an extra-cost Supersonic Red. Black, shown here, does a good job of showing off the car’s boxy flared rear haunches and permits the maw-like grille to blend easily. It’s to trouble to pick out the Core compared to the next-level Circuit trim since the latter has a hood with flared nostrils and some other styling cues which are immediately identifiable.

Inside, heated seats are also Canadian-spec on the Core, though the 8.0-inch touchscreen and six-speaker stereo are becoming universal in most Toyota models of this ilk. The brand’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driver aids inspire confidence on messy days with gear like lane keeping and auto dimming headlamps plus a dynamic cruise control system which accounts for road speed whilst negotiating some curves. The driver’s perch adjust six ways and all seats are wrapped in fabric (different upholstery options appear further up the food chain).

What We'd Choose

It is a significant $8,500 jump to the Circuit edition, especially given the fact there is no extra horsepower in the engine bay (not that we’re complaining; 300 ponies in a car this size is tremendous). It’d be a different conversation in markets where the Core does not have the limited-slip diff, but that’s not an issue in Canada. Snazzier seats upholstered in a suede material, better audio gear, and a heated steering wheel – plus the exterior visual addenda – are the bulk of this trim’s claims to fame.

Worth making the leap, then? We’d be more inclined to save the cash and budget that cheddar for items which pair well with GR Corolla ownership. A sum of $8,500 would buy a lot of tires, for instance, not to mention several track days and perhaps a few lessons from any number of schools in the country. With the Torsen diff on board the Core in Canada, it is easy to recommend that trim.

Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one - or the required options - which earns a passing grade.


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