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First Drive: TOYOTA COROLLA GR SPORT

The story:
Toyota’s latest Corolla was a big return to form when it launched early in 2019, and the brand has now added a stylish GR Sport trim level
Category:Lower medium
Key rival:Ford Focus
TOYOTA COROLLA GR SPORT 1.8
Price:£27,870
MPG:57.7 mpg
Emissions:112g/km
On sale:Now

The popularity of sportier trims such as the Ford’s ST-Line, Peugeot’s GT-Line and Seat’s FR Sport has led Toyota to expand its new Corolla offering by bringing in a GR Sport trim towards the top of the line up.

Available with hatchback and Touring Sports estate models ,although not the four-door saloon, the GR Sports is offered with both of the Corolla’s hybrid powertrains, the 122hp 1.8 driven here, and the 184hp 2.0, with CO2 figures of 112g/km and 119g/km respectively. The extra pace costs an additional £1725, as well as bumping the car up one BiK level.

GR Sport trim consists of exterior and interior upgrades that successfully improve upon the already-stylish Corolla, and Toyota says the new model is designed to give the car a “wider, more planted and powerful look and a sportier ambience”.

First Drive- May 2020- Toyota Corolla GR Sport- Image 1The tweaks comprise smart new 18-inch black alloy wheels, new central lower bumper section, honeycomb mesh front grille with piano black surrounds for the grille and foglights and new lower bumper insert, while on the inside the new sports seats provide the most obvious clue, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available.

Otherwise, the spec is based on the Design trim, and the GR Sport costs an extra £1810, taking it to a starting point of almost £28,000, which is a lot for a 122hp car. The more powerful powertrain in estate form costs more than £31,000.

First Drive- May 2020- Toyota Corolla GR Sport- Image 3

But that’s broadly in line with the sportier-looking versions of the diesel Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, especially when you up-spec those models with an automatic gearbox to match it to the auto-only Corolla. At which point the hybrid car’s big efficiency savings kick in, especially around the company National Insurance and driver BiK numbers. Official fuel economy is broadly similar between hybrid and diesel, and the Corolla’s residuals are  a little above those of the Focus and well ahead of the outgoing Volkswagen Golf’s.

paul barker

The verdict

The GR Sport trim improves on the already sharp-looking Corolla with some neat, if slightly understated, cosmetic enhancements. It’s not cheap, although running costs help rein in some of the up-front price.