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Toyota GR Corolla vs Volkswagen Golf R: spec battle of the AWD hot hatches!


All-wheel-drive, turbocharged and surprisingly practical: the GR Corolla and Golf R tick a lot of boxes, but which one is best on paper?

When the GR Corolla arrives later this year the rally-bred hot hatch will have one clear rival in its sights: the also-new Mk 8 Volkswagen Golf R.

Both all-paw hot hatches are set for Australian release in 2022. The German-made Golf is due to land first in April, followed by Japan’s GR Corolla between October and December On paper, both seemingly fit the bill as practical five-door vehicles with ferocious turbocharged, all-wheel-drive (AWD) performance.

A true Chasing Cars back-to-back comparison will have to wait until the pair land on Australian shores but with the initial allocation of both likely to be limited, here is what you need to know before you place a pre-order.

The GR Corolla and Golf R both have AWD and are more practical than most performance cars

2.0-litre four-cylinder vs 1.6-litre three-cylinder

The Golf R chooses evolution to the GR Corolla’s revolution, but the experience it offers is equally as ferocious while also being familiar to many Australian buyers.

Armed with the mainstay EA888 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the Golf R produces 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque in the hatchback version, while the wagon boosts the latter figure to 420Nm due to its full-fat European spec with the fitment of a petrol particulate filter.

Toyota has taken a less conventional approach to its engine and uses the same boosty 1.6-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder as the GR Yaris but with the outputs increased to 220kW/370Nm.

Toyota opts for a turbocharged three-cylinder engine for its rally-bred GR Corolla

The GR Corolla boasts a slightly lighter kerb weight than the VW – though there isn’t much in it, with the Toyota tipping the scales at 1475kg compared to 1501kg for the Golf R hatch and 1583kg for the more practical Golf R wagon.

Toyota has yet to release a 0-100km/h sprint time for the GR Corolla but with a six-speed manual transmission currently the only option, the Japanese fighter will have a tough time facing off against the Golf R with its slick seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The Golf R hatch rips to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds while the heavier wagon takes a bit longer at 4.9 seconds. But with the GR Yaris performing the same feat in 5.2 seconds the GR Corolla won’t be far behind and will likely see a time of around 5.5 seconds.

Volkswagen Golf R 2022 slide rear
Volkswagen’s AWD system can send 100 percent of its rearward power to either wheel

Very different all-wheel drive systems

Both the GR Corolla and Golf R separate themselves from the pack with AWD system but the pair are different in their design.

The Golf R uses a familiar but evolved 4Motion AWD system which is capable of sending up to 50 percent of its power to the rear wheels when needed, 100 percent of which can be sent to either tyre to assist with tighter cornering and tail-happy shenanigans via the ‘Drift’ model.

Toyota has chosen a similar multi-plate clutch system for the GR Corolla but provides the driver with the ability to vary the distribution of force. A 60:40 front-to-rear split is used as standard but drivers can switch the ratio to 50:50 or even 30:70 if so desired.

Toyota GR Corolla 2022 drifting
The GR Corolla is expected to be priced around $60,000 before on-road costs

Bang for buck: will Golf R or GR Corolla be more expensive?

The introduction of the Mk 8 Golf R saw prices climb by more than $10,000 compared to what a Mk 7.5 did in early 2021, with the hatch now commanding $65,990 (before on-road costs) and $68,990 for the wagon.

At the time of writing, Toyota has yet to release pricing for the GR Corolla but with the mechanically similar GR Yaris Rallye priced at $54,500, expecting pricing for its five-door sibling to be at or around $60,000.

While they don’t offer AWD like our duo, it’s worth mentioning that the FWD Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST are seriously rapid vehicles with a starting price of $44,500 and $47,490 respectively when paired with a manual transmission. 

Volkswagen Golf R Wagon 2022 rear 3/4
The Golf R wagon has a huge 1642-litre boot when the rear seats are folded down

Golf R offers wagon option for more practicality

Buying a hot hatch or wagon offers the unique combination of real-world practicality with serious performance but in this area, the Golf R has the edge.

Volkswagen has yet to publish an official boot size for the Golf R hatch but it’s expected to be roughly similar to the 341-litres of the outgoing model.

But if practicality is a priority, the Golf R wagon offers ample levels of practicality with 611-litres of space by default or a massive 1642-litres with the second row folded down.

Toyota has yet to publish an official boot size for the GR Corolla but the Japanese automaker has been criticised for the tiny 217-litre boot size in the regular Corolla hatch models, and the inclusion of a rear differential is unlikely to improve the situation.

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