This comparability take a look at requested itself the second the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla arrived on the scene with its three turbocharged cylinders blaring by means of an equal variety of exhaust pipes whereas sending energy to all 4 wheels. As we found at a observe in Utah, it was simply as a lot of a hoot as we might hoped, and far more of a departure from the Corolla norm than anticipated. We didn’t get to drive it on an actual highway, nevertheless.
Fortunately, we might get that likelihood at the very same time the brand new 2023 Honda Civic Kind R grew to become obtainable after getting thrashed about at Sonoma Raceway for its personal press launch. We did get to drive that on each highway and observe, but it surely was additionally chilly and wet, so one other go was referred to as for. And this time, there’d be a feisty crimson Toyota filling the rearview mirror of the refreshingly refined however no much less amusing next-gen Kind R.
Evidently, it was a enjoyable day.
The Civic Kind R comes just one means – loaded – so it supplies the baseline at $44,385, together with vacation spot. Sure, the GR Corolla has a less expensive base worth, with the Core beginning at $36,995. Nonetheless, you’ll undoubtedly need the $1,180 Efficiency package deal that provides entrance and rear limited-slip differentials, so that might be $38,175. Our specific take a look at automobile was a GR Corolla Circuit, which was initially supposed to be made for 2023 solely, however has fortunately been given the inexperienced gentle for 2024, too. It contains all of the Core choices (Efficiency, Know-how and Chilly Climate packages), plus the hardcore Morizo Version’s practical brake ducts, bulging hood additionally with ducts, red-painted brake calipers, a suedecloth/leather-based upholstery improve and the super-cool carbon fiber roof. It goes for $44,995, or a number of hundred greater than the Civic. All of that was a long-winded means of claiming “they’re successfully the identical worth and include as a lot tools as attainable.” (In fact, all these costs are primarily theoretical as sellers throughout the nation are including many 1000’s onto the hood of any GR or Kind R that finds its means onto their showroom flooring).
After extensively driving them back-to-back by means of the canyons of Malibu, the site visitors of Los Angeles, and the morass of the pre-school car parking zone, we scored every automobile on our regular 1-10 ranking scale. Most of the classes are the identical as we’d use for minivans or household sedans (passenger and cargo house, infotainment and security options, inside high quality and performance, gas economic system), however we weighted seven classes, together with two which are particular for this take a look at: gearbox and “enjoyable to drive” joined acceleration, braking, steering, dealing with, journey, entrance seat assist/adjustability and worth because the “automobile fanatic classes.” After tallying all of it up, we had a transparent winner, however acknowledge that “the loser” is arguably the cooler and extra memorable automobile.
2nd Place: Toyota GR Corolla
The GR Corolla feels extra particular. Whereas the Kind R appears and drives like the head of a automobile lineup that provides driver enjoyment at each ladder rung, the GR Corolla comes off as a Skunkworks venture – as a result of that’s mainly what it’s. From its wider rear physique work and strengthened construction, to its bonkers engine and slick all-wheel-drive system, this isn’t only a Corolla Hatchback in a fancy dress with a number of go-fast elements added. It’s extra Wolverine than Batman. And in the event you’re in search of the extra collectible automobile and the flexibility to make individuals go “Oh cool!” it’s the Corolla.
That mentioned, it’s nonetheless a Corolla, which is inherently inferior to a primary 2023 Honda Civic. Due to this, scoring greater within the weighted automobile fanatic classes simply wasn’t sufficient to beat its shortcomings. It additionally didn’t precisely wipe the ground with the Honda in any of these classes, both: Out of a attainable 90 factors, it received 65 to the Kind R’s 63.
However let’s put the target stuff apart for a second, as a result of it’s the subjective “enjoyable to drive” class the place the GR Corolla shines brightest. Whereas the 2 vehicles appear awfully comparable on paper, with 300 horsepower for the Corolla and 315 hp for the Civic with just about an identical 0-60 occasions within the low-5-second vary, how they go about their acceleration is totally completely different. The GR’s little turbocharged inline-three is growly, snarly and raspy, like a canine shaking the hell out of a rope toy. Nothing actually occurs earlier than 3,500 rpm, and there isn’t as a lot of a mid-range punch because the four-cylinder Civic, but it surely’s blissful to sit down north of 6,000. Principally, it’s fairly boggy, after which snarl, growl, go, go, go!
To our nice shock, the steering delivered extra suggestions, with crisp turn-in and agreeably gentle weighting that actually helps you to really feel the highway. Although I bear in mind the steering being a bit meh on the observe, it shined in the true world, contributing to how playful the GR feels. I had additionally puzzled after the primary drive occasion if the three-mode GR-4 all-wheel-drive system’s 30:70 energy break up could be higher appreciated on a mountain highway than on a observe, the place it was mainly simply a great way to go slower than the 50:50 Monitor mode. Seems it was! Pumping 70% of the obtainable energy to the rear wheels supplies a spot-on quantity of rotation, a delicate looseness, that makes the automobile really feel full of life and, right here’s that phrase once more, playful. Principally, the GR can slice by means of corners in 50:50 mode or dance by means of them in 30:70. Both means, it’s superior to the front-wheel-drive Civic Kind R, which, regardless of its suspension geometry designed to quell torque steer, will nonetheless tug at your fingers as you unwind the wheel when hammering down out of a nook.
We should always no less than be aware that of the three GR-4 modes, none are some 0:100 drift mode (the GR-4 default mode is 60:40). There’s simply an excessive amount of grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires to interrupt the rears unfastened on dry pavement. Consider us, we tried. Contributing author Mark Takahashi instructed that in the event you actually desire a playful GR Corolla, get crappier tires. In fact, that received’t do a lot for the braking distances, which Motor Pattern’s observe testing confirmed to be very robust at 108 ft from 60 mph however finally inferior to the Civic’s supercar-like 104 ft. We most well-liked the Corolla’s firmer, extra reassuring pedal, although, particularly within the mountains.
Finally, we deemed the GR Corolla to be extra enjoyable to drive. It’s unquestionably the extra compelling alternative as a second automobile/weekend plaything or, alternatively, as the one automobile for somebody like Takahashi with no child to cart round and a historical past of far much less civilized wheeled transport selections in his storage. For the uncompromising automobile fanatic, the selection is obvious: GR Corolla. You can decide one up, albeit with out the Circuit’s exterior thrives, for much less cash than the Civic can’t be discounted, both. In fact, it’s not precisely low cost: a $38,175 Corolla can also be nonetheless a Corolla.
1st Place: Honda Civic Kind R
Whereas the GR Corolla eked out varied wins within the weighted automobile fanatic classes, the Kind R scorched it in a lot of the classes that might apply equally to another Civic and Corolla. The inside is leaps and bounds higher, which admittedly says extra about how gorgeous the Civic’s inside has change into in its most up-to-date era. The supplies high quality and performance are simply as distinctive, whereas the Kind R’s distinctive styling enhances the usual automobile’s design fantastically. Crimson carpets, seats and belts could possibly be extraordinarily cheesy, however the hue is wealthy and the textiles feel and look of a top quality. The metallic shift ball places it all around the high. If there was ever any doubt as to why the Honda prices extra, you don’t have to sit down inside very lengthy to go, “Oh, for this reason.”
The Kind R’s seats had been the one “automobile fanatic” class the place the Civic loved an enormous benefit. Some would argue they need to be power-adjustable (like these in a humble Civic Hatchback Sport Touring), however they provide larger adjustability and lateral assist than the Corolla’s sport buckets which are mounted a bit too excessive. We particularly just like the Kind R’s distinctive break up seat backside that makes miserable the clutch only a bit simpler.
Not that it’s tough to. Fairly the alternative, because it’s a part of what makes the Kind R’s six-speed among the finest handbook transmissions, interval. There’s a bit extra heft required to have interaction a gear than the Civic Sport Touring’s, and that sensible metallic shifter is mounted nearer to the wheel than the Corolla’s. Gliding it by means of the gates is bliss. On the identical time, although, we actually loved the GR Corolla’s gearbox, too. It has extra of a mechanical really feel in its engagement, plus we discovered the clutch’s greater engagement level resulted in smoother driving round city. Pity its pedals are thus far aside, making heel-toe downshifts harder than within the Civic. In fact, each vehicles characteristic auto rev-match downshifting – the Corolla’s is default off, whereas the Civic’s is default on. It additionally has two settings, tied to drive mode, each of which work only a bit higher than Toyota’s model.
The engine that transmission is connected to is a basic, if not as characterful because the GR Corolla’s bonkers triple. It energetically builds to a crescendo north of 5,000 rpm that you simply simply don’t count on from a 2.0-liter turbo-four. It sounds terrific up there in a really Honda means. Now, Honda does pipe in some fakery by means of the audio system, with differing quantities in numerous drive settings, so it’s not a completely genuine expertise. The GR Corolla, however, is 100% au naturel. Generally, you don’t must push the Civic’s engine as exhausting to maintain up tempo, because of a strong mid-range that’ll preserve you blitzing by means of corners within the 4,000 to five,000 rev vary. That, plus its larger displacement could lead to higher gas economic system regardless of official EPA estimates being equal at 24 mpg mixed.
Though the GR Corolla took the lead in the primary dynamic classes (acceleration, braking, dealing with, steering and journey), the Civic Kind R nonetheless proved to be a masterful driver’s automobile because it sliced by means of the roads of Malibu. It might not be as playful, and it’s unquestionably restricted by front-wheel drive, however it’s impeccably polished and composed. We hit a nasty mid-corner bump that originally made me go “uh-oh,” however the Civic simply shook it off like a automobile costing much more. Credit score definitely goes to the adaptive dampers, which repeatedly modify and provide three settings. A Kind R engineer instructed me its “Consolation” mode is equal to the Civic Si’s normal setup, and it feels prefer it. It’s definitely extra compliant than the GR Corolla. Though the Toyota’s journey is surprisingly comfy round city (an enormous query lastly answered after driving it solely on the observe), it will possibly nonetheless be uneven with extra bobbing. Its suspension can also’t get any firmer, whereas the Civic presents Sport and Monitor modes. This adjustability subsequently offers the Kind R a bonus on a observe, within the mountains and on the every day drive.
And to that final level, it will possibly’t be said sufficient how a lot better the Civic could be to reside with on a day-to-day foundation. Moreover being extra comfy and made to a better high quality, the inside is much extra spacious regardless of the goofy choice to take away the rear center seat, and has higher storage (the electrical parking brake could be lame in comparison with the GR’s huge, chunky handbrake, but it surely does release house). The trunk can also be huge, whereas the Corolla Hatchback’s is notably tiny. It struggles to suit paper grocery luggage below its cargo cowl, whereas the Civic can do that. We additionally most well-liked Honda’s infotainment system and inside controls basically to the newest Toyota system that frustrates with its over-reliance on the touchscreen. Security options are mainly a wash.
Some could scoff, however the Civic Kind R’s many sensible benefits lead to a automobile that can be a superior alternative for extra individuals. Put one other means, it’s far nearer to the GR Corolla when it comes to efficiency than the Toyota is to it when it comes to on a regular basis practicality. Whereas solely two factors separated them in our weighted efficiency classes, the Civic Kind R’s general rating of 195 out of 250 max bested the GR’s 184. It actually wasn’t shut.
Nonetheless, the primary takeaway right here shouldn’t be that the Civic Kind R wins, however slightly, that these two vehicles proved to be much more completely different than you’d count on given their many on-paper similarities. Leaping from one to the opposite produced exclamations of “oh wow,” only for completely different causes. Both means, we don’t assume you’d be dissatisfied.