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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A red 2024 Toyota GR Corolla Premium is shown near a fence after leaving a Toyota dealer.

The 2024 GR Corolla Premium: A New Take on Toyota’s High-Performance Hatchback

When the Toyota GR Corolla hit showrooms in early 2022, it was a jolt to the system for the Corolla nameplate and for high-performance compact lovers alike; the Corolla Hatchback that people knew for decades as a solid, dependable commuter car was suddenly fun. Then, the GR Corolla Circuit Edition joined the Core trim in 2023—and, suddenly, the fast and the flash were turned up to 11.

The next time you visit a Toyota dealer, you’ll see another variation on the machine that received a 2023 “Best New Car Award” from Autotrader and made Car and Driver’s “10Best” list. Not only has Toyota brought back the Circuit Edition, which was initially planned to be a one-off, but they’ve also added the GR Corolla Premium to the lineup. This third trim is intended to split the gap between the GR Core and the GR Circuit Edition for those who want some of the extra flash, but either don’t need all of it or want to save a little cash.

Does the 2024 GR Corolla Premium hit its mark? We’re here to unwrap this trim and see how it caters to those who want a lot of fun in a small car.

A Savvy Spin on the Rising GR Badge

First, we’re sure a few of you are wondering what the GR brand means. GR is a product of Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR), a performance-themed division established in 2007, joining the more prominent Toyota Racing Development (TRD). The Gazoo name is taken from the Japanese words “gazo” and “gareji’, which translate to “picture” and “garage.” In other words, it’s meant to suggest gazing at high-performance cars as they sit in the garage—at least before you take them out on the road or track.

In addition to being involved in professional motorsports (as TGR spearheads Toyota’s efforts in the FIA World Rally Championship and World Endurance Championship, among other series), the division has developed several high-performance street cars. The GR Supra, the Toyota GR86, and the GR Yaris (not available in North America) have all packed sporty performance muscle in recent years. The GR Corolla follows the Yaris blueprint of taking what’s commonly seen as an economical daily driver and giving it a massive performance enhancement.

Now, there are three versions of the Toyota GR Corolla to pick from, with the Premium slotted between the Core and the Circuit Edition. We hesitate to use the term “happy medium” for a vehicle where even the base trim packs some serious pop, but that’s exactly what the Premium aims to be: a car for people who want a step up from the Core but aren’t quite ready to get the Circuit Edition for whatever reason. Let’s see how the GR Corolla Premium finds that middle ground…

A close up shows the black wheel and red caliper on a 2024 Toyota GR Corolla Premium.

Power & Performance: Close, Yet Distinct

Though all three vehicles have the same underpinnings in their power and drivetrains, the Premium shares more similarities with the Circuit Edition than the Core. Each trim uses the turbocharged 1.6L three-cylinder engine that puts up 300 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque—a huge jump over the 168 and 151, respectively, in a regular Corolla, and it’ll take you from zero to sixty in about five seconds.

All-wheel drive with selectable power settings, a six-speed rev-matching manual transmission, a MacPherson sport-tuned front suspension, and a double-wishbone rear suspension are also common characteristics that let people know this isn’t your dad’s hatchback.

Notable areas where the vehicle veers mechanically are the differential and the brakes. While the Core has open differentials, the Premium and Circuit Edition have Torsen limited-slip differentials on both the front and rear to improve traction. These two trims also have front and rear brake calipers that are painted red with the GR logo; this styling might not make you stop faster, but it will look a lot more awesome as you do.

Exterior Style: The Premium Stands Apart

Here’s where the GR Corolla Premium begins taking on its own identity, as there are features it takes from the Core and others it takes from the Circuit Edition. From the GR Corolla Core, the Premium has 15-spoke cast aluminum alloy wheels and a color-coordinated roof antenna and rear spoiler. From the GR Corolla Circuit Edition, the Premium has a gloss-black front grille and matching rear bumper cover.

Shared aspects include the universal LED lights, gloss-black side mirrors and front fender vents, widened fender flares, and GR-FOUR logo on the side rocker panel. Notably, the Premium eschews the forged alloy wheels, high-mount spoiler, carbon fiber roof, and hood air vents of the Circuit Edition. Although those features would be a “must” for serious racers, the Premium should do just fine for casual track enthusiasts and people who like cruising long, winding roads with some renewed energy.

Interior Style: A Prime Drive

Now, let’s open the doors and peek inside, beginning with the seating. The Premium’s sport seats are mostly identical to the Circuit Edition with Brin Naub suede, synthetic leather trimming, multi-way adjustments, and GR badging on the headrest. There is one small but noticeable difference, though: while the Circuit Edition has blue stitching, the Premium has gray stitching; this gives the interior a slightly more subdued appearance while still offering the same comfort.

Beyond this, the Premium matches the Circuit Edition with its heated front seats, heated front steering wheel, wireless charging pad, eight-speaker JBL sound system, and front and rear parking sensors. From the Core, it has the standard leather-trimmed shift knob without the carbon insert and accent striping. Most of the features are common across all three trims, including the aluminum pedals, push start/stop button, telescoping steering wheel, and Bluetooth connectivity with voice command or steering wheel controls.

A grey 2024 Toyota GR Corolla Premium is shown from the rear in a garage.

A Great Car Made Greater

First, let’s make it clear: the Toyota GR Corolla is a blast to drive, regardless of what trim you get. That said, if you want something more than the Core but don’t plan on going professional rally-racing anytime soon, the GR Corolla Premium is your ride. It has a key performance upgrade with limited-slip differentials and several important interior add-ons for advanced comfort, functionality, and safety. You also get a couple of enjoyable style details to set your Premium apart visually.

Whichever GR Corolla you choose, you’ll never think of it as a family hatchback again. Furthermore, anyone who buys a 2024 GR Corolla (any trim) receives a one-year membership in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), which organizes racing and high-performance driver training events; this includes one free High-Performance Driving NASA-sanctioned event, reduced admission prices to all other events, and a 25% discount on a new helmet from G-FORCE Racing Gear.

We were already in love with the GR Corolla from the first lap. With the Circuit Edition and the Premium trims coming along in successive years, high-quality compact performance is now available to suit everyone’s interests and budget. If you haven’t yet experienced the GR Corolla, now would be a great time to do so—and if you know someone who still refuses to believe that driving a Corolla can be fun, drag them along to your test drive. They’ll change their tune.

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