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GR Corolla vs Civic Type R vs Golf R spec battle – how do the hot hatches compare?


Does the Toyota GR Corolla laugh in the face of the likes of the Honda Civic Type R and the Volkswagen Golf R? Let’s look at the key specs

As the larger sibling to the already-iconic Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch, it’s little surprise to see the stir that the GR four-wheel drive Corolla has already created following its launch earlier this month. 

Alongside the launch, Toyota Australia announced that the GR Corolla would be priced from $62,300 before on-road costs, with the hardcore, limited-edition Morizo Edition coming in at $77,800 before on-road costs. 

At this price point, the GR Corolla comes face to face with the Mk 8 Volkswagen Golf R ($67K), and the new Honda Civic Type R ($72K)- two staples of the hot hatch world. 

The new Honda Civic Type R is the most powerful of its kind

So without further ado, let’s see which hot hatch wins on paper. 

Price: which super-hatch is the best bang for buck?

Considering the hype around the GR Corolla, it’s quite surprising to see that the 221kW, four-wheel drive (4WD) Toyota comes in as the cheapest of the bunch at $62,300 before on-road costs. 

Next up is the all-wheel drive (AWD) Volkswagen Golf R, which starts from $66,990 before on-road costs in Australia and gives you 235kW of power.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R
The Volkswagen Golf R gets a hefty helping of power with 235kW

In a contest featuring a Toyota and a Volkswagen, this might be the first time that a Honda is the most expensive option, with the new 235kW Civic Type R starting from $62,300. Uniquely the Civic Type R is front-wheel drive (FWD) only.

Engines and transmissions compared

Making use of a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, the GR Corolla gets a healthy helping of grunt with 221kW/370Nm on offer. 

This is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, and allows the GR Corolla to hit 100km/h in 5.29-seconds. 

The wider body panels differentiate the GR Corolla from its standard counterpart

In the case of the Volkswagen, it gets a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 235kW/400Nm on offer. 

Like all Golf Rs before it, this new one uses Volkswagen’s new-generation 4Motion all-wheel drive system, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In Australia, no manual gearbox is available, though American buyers can still option a six-speed manual Golf R. Lucky!

As for performance, the Golf R tops these standings, with a 0-100km/h time of 4.7-seconds. 

Along similar lines, the Civic Type R makes use of a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 235kW and 420Nm. 

On the powertrain front, the Honda is the biggest outlier, being exclusively front-wheel drive. Like the Corolla, this Civic Type R comes with a manual transmission, with no automatic option available.

2023 Honda Civic Type R front 3/4 white
The Honda Civic Type R has remained exclusively front-driven

Honda is yet to provide a 0-100km/h time for the new FL5 Civic, but given the performance of the outgoing model, we can expect to see it in the high four-second, low five-second region.

Driving dynamics: FWD vs AWD vs true 4WD

With driving enjoyment being a cornerstone of the hot hatch segment, it’s worth noting that all three of these vehicles offer different dynamics, all designed to bring a smile to a driver’s face. 

Like the smaller three-door GR Yaris, the GR Corolla gets a front-to-rear torque-splitting four-wheel drive system that can significantly change the way the hatch drives. 

The Toyota GR Corolla has the means to smoke its tyres

In standard mode, the all-wheel drive system distributes torque 60:40 front-to-rear, sport mode sees this change to 30:70, and track mode offers maximum stability at 50:50. 

Toyota stresses that this is not a demand or slip-based AWD system, but a 4WD system – because all four wheels are always driven to the selected proportion.

Other GR Corolla goodies include a limited-slip differential on both ends, large 356mm brake rotors at the front, and 297mm rotors at the rear. 

As for the Golf R, a fancy torque-splitting system on the Mk8 model means that it is also able to perform tail-happy maneuvers through a software drift mode. 

Drift mode is a fan favourite in the new Golf R

As standard, the 4Motion all-wheel drive system is capable of sending up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels, but in drift mode, all 400Nm can be sent rearward. 

The Honda Civic Type R keeps things relatively basic with the old-fashioned front-drive hot hatch recipe, but it seems to be more potent than ever. 

A limited-slip differential keeps torque distribution even across the front axle, and the front wheels are wrapped in the 265mm-wide rubber, the widest to ever grace a Civic. 

Interiors: trademark Golf plushness vs two racier Japanese cars

Simplicity is a theme across the interiors of all three hot hatches, hinting at the liveability of each one.

The interior of the GR Corolla has remain relatively restrained

Alongside the shifter and manual handbrake, GR badging seems to be the only differing factor between a standard Corolla and a GR Corolla.

Though the seats are bolstered, they are by no means full on bucket seats, and look to maintain a reasonable level of comfort. 

It gets a 12.3-inch infotainment display with wireless Apple Carplay and Android auto, as well as satellite navigation. 

It’s a similar story for the Volkswagen Golf R, which doesn’t do much to build upon the interior of a standard Golf. 

The Golf R gets a very handsome interior

Besides the R badging around the cabin, the sports seats are the only main difference from the standard Golf, and even then, they aren’t particularly bolstered. 

A 10-inch infotainment screen with satellite navigation comes standard, although buyers will have to fork out an additional $1000 for wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto. 

It’s safe to say that the Civic Type R has the most hardcore cabin out of the three, but even then, it seems to be more restrained than the last iteration. 

Bold red bucket seats have always been a thing in the Civic Type R

The large red bucket seats are the main attraction here, and the alcantara panels with red contrast stitching completes the Type R aesthetic. It also gets the iconic aluminium shifter knob. 

As for technology, it gets a 9.0-inch infotainment screen with wireless phone projection and satellite navigation. 

Availability: wait times and markups

This is where things come a little unstuck among the three hot hatches in question, as each one seems to be facing an issue of its own.

Toyota Australia has confirmed that 700 GR Corollas will land in the country within the year, but the issue presents itself when you consider that the brand has had over 4000 expressions of interest locally. 

All 700 standard cars are expected to sell out very quickly, with Toyota bosses urging Australians not to pay markups as the model is not a limited edition – and more stock is likely to arrive in 2024.

2023 Honda Civic Type R rear 3/4
Intense global demand means getting a Civic Type R will be easier said than done

As for the Golf R, Volkswagen Australia recently announced that there will be no Golf sales until April 2023, citing a reversing camera issue. 

Golf R wait times are understood to be in excess of 12 months at the current time (February 2023), with the desirable wagon body attracting especially long waits.

Though Honda Australia has released pricing for the new Civic Type R, local availability is still yet to be announced. Considering global demand looks to be matching that of the GR Corolla, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar story to the Toyota. 


From a purely spec sheet angle, it’s hard not to go with the Toyota GR Corolla. 

On top of being the cheapest of the bunch, it’ll likely be the most engaging to drive of the three with its configurable driving modes. 

Toyota GR Corolla 2023 black front 3/4
Toyota’s GR Corolla is something that’s hard not to love

Though it’s not the fastest of the three, it gets a hefty helping of grunt with 221kW/370Nm on offer, which is sure to bring a smile to any driver’s face. 

As usual though, the proof will be in the driving. Bring on a true super-hatch comparison!

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