Recap. I’ve had the pleasure of driving a brand new Toyota Corolla GR Sport 2.0 litre for the last month. In my last article Living with a Hybrid pt 1 I went through all the annoying rants I have about this car’ but now its time for the raves!
Image from autoexpress.co.uk
Now let’s talk about the good; because the GR Sport does actually have a lot of good points too, don’t be put off by my rants in part 1!
First and foremost it really is a lovely place to sit. I mean this in almost every way I can mean it as well:
- The seats look great (the plastic trimmed but metal effect gaps give a very sporty feel) and they are both comfortable and supportive. Admittedly they aren’t exactly racing-spec; but since we established in part 1 that this is a normal-is car in a sporty frock, they suit this tone very well (better than an average car’s seat, but not quite ready for harnesses)!
- The HUD (Head-Up Display) – despite the problem I mentioned in part 1 where it becomes unreadable through sunglasses – is actually a very nice feature to have. The integration of the ‘power bar’ (which shows you how much of the cars available power you are using or not using) along with the speedo and the Radar-Guided Cruise Control is in my opinion just the right amount of information for the space without being distracting. Of course this information is also included in the dial cluster just below, but not having to take your eyes off the road is a nice thing to live with; more than I would have expected in fact.
- The entertainment screen is big, responsive, bright and clear. Everything you need in fact! It features Apple CarPlay – which is the mode mine spends 98% of its time in – plus a whole host of Toyota’s own systems for navigation, audio and car dynamics. A special mention to the reversing camera is required, because of the sheer clarity (I am not normally very impressed by reversing camera’s so this is praise indeed)!
- The steering wheel feels great; chunky and leather effect – smooth and premium-ish feeling. What it looks like in 5 years remains to be seen, but right now it’s a lovely item. – The ‘phone slot’ – well that’s what I use it for anyway – is well placed (close to the USB port for CarPlay users and ‘drive-as-you-charge’ people) and is something that I believe is often overlooked in new vehicles. I was extra impressed to find that my large iPhone Pro fits beautifully into it – again a pleasant surprise.
From the outside; I may have complained in part 1 about the Corolla’s ‘sporty look’ without being able to back it up with performance, but if you focus in isolation on the looks then it’s actually a fantastic looking car. It hides its 5 door bulk well (better than most 5 door hatchbacks I would argue), and has lots of angular sections and aggressive lines – particularly at the front! Head-on it looks mean, and I like that – it gives it some personality! The black and diamond-cut alloys are a nice touch, and in pure white as I have (or Manhattan Grey – Phwoarr) the GR Sport looks to the casual bystander like an actual hot hatch; but a more subdued and tasteful one.
The EV only mode makes a surprisingly regular appearance during normal driving (don’t expect to see it much in sport mode with your right foot planted though!), but the nice part is that other than the symbol flashing up on the dash and the revs dropping to 0, you don’t really notice! The system really has come on such a long way since an Auris hybrid I drove a few years ago (circa 2015) where everything felt much more forced, and clunky. Now, everything feels smooth and polished, a far more seamless and pleasant experience – which is exactly what you want in a car that you are intending to live with and use every day!
And finally, straight line pull. I wasn’t expecting much (despite the cars headline figure of 184bhp), because it’s not only heavy but its power comes through a CVT gearbox. However, in Sport mode when you put your foot to the floor it really does take off with more energy and enthusiasm than I was initially prepared for! Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t in Golf GTI territory here, in fact not even Fiesta ST territory, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel ‘fast enough’ for most peoples requirements. The CVT box also isn’t as dim-witted as it could be, in sport mode responding fairly quickly (although still overly aggressively – if you’ve ever driven one you will understand what I mean by this). 0-62mph is taken care of in 7.9 seconds; not enough to set the world on fire admittedly, although plenty to pull away from a set of lights when you’re in a hurry.
So there we have it; the Corolla GR Sport. It is a great car if you are looking to move into the Hybrid market at the lower end of the price bracket, and you are used to a ‘normal car’ as I would call them. Plenty of tech, plenty of space, plenty of comfort and a warm fuzzy sensation that you get knowing you’re helping the environment and doing your bit. However, if you are used to a car from the hotter end of the scale – Hot Hatches, lower end sports cars etc – you will probably be disappointed by how the GR Sport feels dynamically when pushing hard. It is categorically not a hot hatch; instead think of it as the Avocado of the automotive world. Its nice, good for you and the planet, looks interesting and is on-trend but is not a chilli, and should not be compared to one.
I will be collating my thoughts on the Corolla GR Sport again in a few months time, once I have lived with it for that long and I will be able to see if any of the above opinions have changed – for better or for worse! And if you missed part 1, check it out here (LINK) and weight up your own opinions on this new release from Toyota.
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About the Author
Sam Wardega is Carsnip.com’s very own in house car guru and journalist.
A lifetime Petrolhead who started with Hot Wheels aged 2, and now just spends his life savings on owning his dream cars. As they say, boys don’t stop playing with toys; they just get bigger and more expensive!