What are you driving?
The sportiest version of the current Toyota Corolla money can buy. For now. We're told that a full-on four-wheel-drive hot hatch with over 260hp is on the way and it's likely to be called something like Corolla GR4. Until then, Corolla buyers that want a little more from their hybrid hatchback can choose this range-topper, the new Corolla GR Sport. It is, in effect, a trim level, though it also one of only two Corolla trim levels available with the more powerful hybrid powertrain.
Buyers of the Corolla GR Sport could make do with the older 1.8-litre hybrid system of course, and save about €2,500 in the process, but we don't feel that the 122hp output justifies the notably beefier looks of this model. So, for €35,035, you get the car tested here, powered by Toyota's newer 2.0-litre hybrid system. That means peak power of 180hp and a lot more besides. It's still a non-plug-in hybrid, but one that's vastly improved. Incidentally, the Corolla Luna Sport can be had with this engine, too, for about €2,000 less.
That Luna Sport isn't a bad-looking version of the Corolla, but the GR Sport is more appealing again, thanks in part to the two-tone paint finish. There are other relatively modest exterior tweaks, but most noticeable are the bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels. The interior gets chunky sports seats, part leather upholstery and a GR Sport steering wheel, among other things. The 2.0-litre version gets paddles behind the steering wheel and a drive mode button as well.
Name its best bits
I really like the look of the Corolla in this specification for a start and, judging by the reaction it got from the general public, so does everyone else. The interior is of lovely quality, too, and the GR Sport add-ons enhance it no end. Some might find them over the top, but there are plenty of other Corolla models for them. This version is very well-equipped as well, but then again, I guess it should be at this kind of price level.
Regardless of the GR Sport specification, one of the best aspects of this particular test car is its 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. It's far more satisfying to drive than the 1.8-litre system and not just because it produces significantly more power and torque. Response to the throttle is better, it's quieter more of the time and the transmission suffers less of the CVT elasticity that defines most previous Toyota hybrid systems. It has plenty of go, too, living up to the sporty looks when you're in a hurry. The chassis is good without being massively engaging, which is the same for all of the new Corollas. Still, it's pretty decent on the road.
Anything that bugs you?
The five-door Corolla hatchback is close to the bottom of the class in terms of rear-seat space and boot volume, so it's not for growing families. In fact, the 2.0-litre version has even less boot space than the 1.8. The Corolla Saloon and Corolla Touring Sport estate are much more spacious and practical, though they can't be had in GR Sport specification in Ireland.
Also, and this is more an observation than a bugbear, we found this Corolla to be less efficient than an equivalent diesel would have been in our time with the car. It averaged about 9.0 litres/100km, which is not great. Admittedly, some of the driving was in the mountains to test the chassis, but still, it reinforces our belief that hybrids are at their best when kept to low speeds in rural environs.
And why have you given it this rating?
The high price for this specific model and the fact that this version of the Corolla is limited on space mean that we can't rate it higher than others in the line-up. Nonetheless, this is a very likeable car, the 2.0-litre hybrid system is good, the GR Sport specification looks great inside and out and the Corolla is a well-polished product as ever, so we wouldn't be surprised if Toyota sells quite a few GR Sport models in Ireland. After all, bought on finance, the cost to upgrade to this variant is only tens of Euros per month...