The hardcore, extremely limited Morizo version of the GR Corolla mostly lives up to lofty expectations as Toyota’s ultimate track-focussed hot hatch
The extremely limited Toyota GR Corolla Morizo, and its less-exclusive if milder GTS garage mates, are so late to the Japanese-bred, rally-infused, turbocharged, all-paw small-segment party that they’ve virtually had to create their own new one.
It’s been a long time between pit stops since Subaru’s WRX STi and Mitsubishi’s Evo lineages popularised rally-bred ethos for the road in the Nineties and Noughties, both currently extinct and each eventually pummeled by Euro upstarts – from Volkswagen, Ford, Renault and others – for the past decade or so.
Make no mistake: we at Chasing Cars celebrate the arrival of a red-hot turbo AWD hatch from the Big T as much as anyone.
But between the highly prized Celica GT-Four homologation special of the ’90s and 2021’s GR Yaris – essentially a stillborn World Rally project at its core – Toyota failed to capitalise on what was, in a purple patch interim, an era of sheer WRC dominance in Corollas than sadly never spawned road-going rocketships.
Today, the GR Corolla, and the stripper Morizo cooked to a recipe penned by special-edition STis and Evos of old, is out to capture a go-very-fast halo it probably should have chased eons ago.
Legend has it that had it not been specifically demanded by former chairman, keen race driver and project co-developer Akio Toyoda, both the GR Corolla, no less the hardcore limited-edition at that bears his ‘name’ – “Morizo” was his quasi-secretive motorsport pseudonym – wouldn’t exist. Ditto the GR Yaris.
In fact, the GR Corolla is possibly a nostalgia trip to an alternative universe, where a younger Akio Toyoda might’ve fantasized about a stove-hot World Rally Car-based eighth-gen Corolla road rocket to show the late-’90s/early-’00s Subaru and Mitsubishi who’s the boss.
Today’s reality, though, is that the GR Corolla Morizo has precious little turbo all-paw competition in showrooms shouldn’t excuse any perceivable compromise or dilution to what remains a groundswell of Toyota performance fans who treasure, say, the Supra nameplate more than they do that of a Land Cruiser.
In fact, because it’s so late, the Morizo should be an oh-so extra special experience to drive. And with motoring thrust towards electrification, it could likely stand as the most ferocious internal combustion Corolla road car in history.
Formally, there are two versions of the Morizo, separated by paint type. Versions finished in Frosted White pearl or Tarmac Black metallic are priced at $77,800 list. Meanwhile, an exclusive Matte Steel version lists for $80,300 (or a $2500 upcharge).
Only 25 units are being offered for Oz and, right here, the Morizo pitch gets a little strange.
At our track drive in mid-June 2023, Toyota Australia was unable to confirm if the Morizo was sold out. Nor was it able to reveal the unit split of the three available colours.
What it did reiterate is that potential buyers would be screened for their enthusiast credentials – prior vehicle ownership, motorsport affiliation – and that that was largely a dealership-level decision-making process.
The Morizo version adds (and subtracts) the following features above (and below) the regular GTS version:
What you lose in kit you also lose in weight: around 45kg for a net Morizo weighbridge ticket of 1435kg against the GTS’s 1470-1485kg as advertised.
Otherwise, the Morzio carries over the standard equipment of the more affordable ($62,300 list) GR Corolla GTS, including the full Safety Sanse suite of active safety and driver assistance systems.
Value for money gets tricky to assess when weighing up changes and enhancements for the $15,500-plus premium asked against the exclusivity offered by the small 25–unit availability.
According to ex-WRC ace and Australian rally champion, Neal Bates, there’s a marked difference between the GTS and the Morizon if driven back to back.
So much so that his son Harry – himself an ARC champ at the helm of a GR Yaris – cancelled his personal order on the former Corolla after sampling the latter road car.
Okay, so maybe there are only 24 Morizos available to the public…
Or so the story goes as Neal and I swap seats of a Matte Steel example we’re both whipping around Victoria’s Broadford track, primarily a motorcycle circuit that Toyota Australia has rented to allow local media to sample its triple-cylinder wunderkind for the first and possibly very last time. And at very much full noise.
My last lash at the regular version was four weeks prior: close enough for gut feel to differences, if not recent enough for emphatic conclusion.
But right from the get-go, my track experience with the Morizo suggests that it is indeed more focused, more purposeful and more match fit for red-misted circuit work than the regular GTS. If by a veneer of around 10-15 percent, or equal to the fiscal premium it wants for.
Armed with knowledge on what’s changed, I try to hone in on areas of Morizo uniqueness and proceed to assess, if possible, if there’s real substance in the upgrades tangible enough to properly sway one’s interest and enthusiasm away from the already bloody heady and grin-inducing GTS versions.
Right, engine. Where the GTS stumps up a surprisingly robust low-mid torque hump that’s particularly noticeable on road, the Morizo’s harder-boosted engine feels more linear when chasing redline on track.
Even if the form guide suggests otherwise: the Morizo’s 400Nm lands in a 3250-4600rpm band, whereas the GTS’s 370Nm clock on at 3000rpm and hangs on tight until 5550rpm.
Whatever the case, the Morizo is clearly bolder on the march, the three-pot engine’s throaty metallic zing bouncing loudly around the airier cabin space that offers fewer soft surfaces – such as rear seats – and less sound deadening. It’s more visceral and in a way more connected to the driver.
If there’s a shortcoming to this version’s formula, it’s not in sheer thrust or the pace at which it presents fast-looming braking zones.
Next, the gearbox. The GTS’s ‘EA67’ gearbox spec is peachy: tight and slick in action, cooperative enough in flatshifting to allow yours truly to match that variant’s 5.29sec 0-100km/h to the hundredth in independent testing, and geared to get out of the hole really quickly.
The Morizo’s ‘EA68’ unit is very similar, though it fits a taller first gear and oh-so-slightly shorter third ratio in its hardened gear set, if married to slightly shorter final drive ratios on the front and rear axles.
This is really detailed stuff if apparently worth the effort of change, and it yields a wonderfully even spread of very usable ratios for track work that almost always leave you with an ideal gear for the engine’s sweet spot while also bringing a nice, broad flexibility in overall powertrain behaviour. Top stuff.
It goes great. And stops great too. There are no technical changes to the four-piston monobloc front brakes though, seemingly, none were required. The anchors are strong, progressive and brim with tireless confidence and without a whiff of overworked stench after longer track stints.
That said, the Morizo does seem to squirm and sway a little more enthusiastically under heavy braking across less than horizontal surface cambers – Broadford has a bunch – though this does seem to be more due to the chassis’ enhanced friskiness plied atop the distinctive high-grip/progressive breakaway nature of the sticky Michelin rubber.
I love Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. Always have. On Porsche 911 GT3s. On Ford Focus RSs. You name it. And they certainly gel nicely with what Gazoo Racing has massaged into the GR Corolla Morizo’s dynamics package at a full march. To a point…
The clearest ‘Morizo benefit’ is in steering and chassis response. It’s easily more immediate and alert than the GTS, to a point where you do tend to start to dial back your inputs to clean up lines, keep the tail end tidy and milk out extra lap pace.
It’s here where the stiffer body structure and added monkey gym in-cabin bracing pays dividends, allowing the suspension – and how it’s tuned – to operate with higher levels of precision and, in turn, feedback.
There’s less ‘give’ in its reactions than what I remember of the GTS, which was little to begin with. But there’s a certain sense that the Morizo is more hard-wired to the track experience.
Thing is, the French tyre company’s racy road rubber is quite soft: fantastically grippy at optimum temperature but somewhat squidgy if not up to temperature or left on the boil too long. And this poor particular example of Morizo has been flogged mercilessly at the hands of the media for hours now…
Black rubber chatter marks across the middle of the final turn of a succession of corners with very late apexes across mostly right hand bends reveal a track that punishes the front hoops, particularly the left side that’s already been replaced by midday.
This reveals some telling stuff about the Morizo. For one thing, it’s fast enough to rip through some of the finest road/track rubber good money can buy so, as a second thing, track sessions with little sympathy could get very expensive indeed. Some care and restraint might be required.
But when the chassis and tyre combination is on song, the hottest GR Corolla is a sheer joy: super predictable and very cooperative. And provided not every lap is an eleven-tenths qualifier, the Morizo demonstrates the lap-to-lap consistency of a true thoroughbred.
Mostly, I leave the centre torque split in ‘track’ 50:50 front-rear split and keep the downshift engine rev-matching activated because, well, Neal Bates tells me that’s his favourite combination. But I do switch it up to rear-biased 30:70 for a couple of laps and the results are, well, mixed.
Thus set, the Morizo seems looser mid corner and, logically, untider on corner exits as the tail is more inclined to slide earlier. It’s perhaps more fun at a pace that’s not quite so quick – horses of course and all – and it certainly has its place, undoubtedly on road when you might want some added midcorner rotation.
However, on track, the mode with its namesake is perhaps where this package is at its best and quickest.
On track, the Morizo certainly lives up to expectations. But on the road? The jury is out. But if Toyota Australia makes its halo hatch available for another day…
Two seats. This could easily be viewed as a major practicality shortcoming had Toyota not offered the conventional five-pew format in the regular GTS, which indeed it does. Instead, this is, beyond anything, schtick that defines the Morizo version’s specialty status.
It also, as a handy byproduction, provides a handy repository to house four spare wheels and tyres securely behind the front seats in the second row area where rear occupants might’ve otherwise sat.
Spare track rolling stock apparently fits neatly line astern because the hefty, fore-mounted floor brace is curved in a manner that cups the rubbered payload snuggly.
The other aft-mounted bar assembly is essentially a rear strut tower brace that, together with an extra 3.33 metres of structural adhesive – a total of over six metres more than standard Corolla – makes for a very stiff racecar-like foundation.
There are racecar vibes aplenty, though it’s no core-hardened departure from the already racy GTS.
Excess sound damping material has been turfed and there’s a Spartan vibe to the empty second row and boot space that forms a large carpeted cavern that might make for a handy surrogate panel van – in spite of the monkey bars – and allows ample clearance for a big roll cage if your circuit aspirations are serious enough.
And yet, Toyota still quotes a petite 229 litres of bootspace…for a load-through area that could easily swallow a dozen surfboards.
Despite the fat-trimming to lighten the scales by around 45kg – the rear seat deletion itself is 10kg saved – and the general downgrading of appointments, the Morizo doesn’t feel much lower rent than the GTS that is, frankly, not exactly a pillar of motoring luxury to begin with.
Steering wheel heater, inductive phone charging pad, rear wiper and eight-speaker sound?
Their absence isn’t really noticeable at all, especially when key window dressing such as GTS-spec the 12.3-inch digital driver’s screen, the colour head-up display and 8.0-inch multimedia system all remain on the Morizo features list, albeit without sat-nav in the latter and without bespoke software treatment to the former.
The seats are certainly fit for purpose. They’re more heavily bolstered than those in the GTS and feature different base padding for a snug fit, even for more slender front occupants.
The so-called Brin Naub perforated leather trim is also a bit more bespoke than the suede-cloth and faux leather found in the regular GR Corolla versions.
The suede creeps up onto the wheel rim, the gear knob and the handbrake cover, all with tasty red stitching, and the red accents, that extend from the seat belt fabric and the wheel centre marker and odd metal and plastic flourish, are a nice added touch.
It’s what you might call ‘racecar comfy’: not terribly plush and little relief from its torso-hugging nature, if ergonomically sound and wonderfully supportive in all the right places, with controls that land neatly in positions that favour control rather than fatigue. It’s easy to settle into, though not necessarily the first choice for really long days in the grand touring open road saddle.
For owners who do intend to spend more time on road than on track, the Morizo’s vibe ought to be raw enough. Indeed, the regular GTS is loud and raucous enough my normal motoring measure and the added veneer of masochism should help bump the blood a little harder during a fairweather morning backroad punt.
But I can’t help feeling that, for the handsome premium the Morizo asks for, it could be a little more special, sportier and racier than it is: a few more raw carbon-fibre trinkets, perhaps, to mask the conspicuous overuse of mundane plastics that do remind you too much of this weapon’s often-too-humble Corolla DNA.
Toyota’s Corolla is covered by a five-star safety rating bestowed by ANCAP back in 2018. And it applies to all petrol, hybrid – even diesel! – version of the hatchback…except the GR.
Still, the GR Corolla isn’t exactly lacking for safety features. The Toyota Safety Suite fitted includes:
The only area the Morizo loses features compared with the GTS version is in parking sensors and a rear window wiper.
Further, braking, handling and roadholding are all primary safety facets. And the Morizo brims with talent in all three areas.
At 8.6L/100kms claimed for the combined cycle, the Morizo is 0.2 thirstier than Toyota’s advertised figure for the GTS. Our own testing reveals that the latter’s claim demands quite a gentle right foot to get near and, frankly, when it comes to the latter: you’d be doing it wrong.
Hard track work throws any reasonable assessment out the window, though we will point out that when such a small 1.6-litre engine makes such prolific outputs, it’s of no surprise that a diet of 89-octane fuel is essential.
Used as intended, you will go through tyres in the enthusiast ownership experience.
Servicing wise, both the GTS and Morizo are covered by capped-price servicing that’s annoyingly frequent in its six-month/10,000km terms though, at $300 per visit, pretty reasonable for such high-performance machinery.
That’s a total outlay of $1800 over the first three years of running and Toyota does not promise any pricing cap beyond.
Warranty? It’s a typical five years of unlimited running with seven years for engine and driveline.
Off street coverage? Well, while Toyota Australia suggests – verbally – that it will support owners who wish to track their Gazoo Racing machinery. However, there appears to be no published assurance from Toyota regarding this so proceed with caution.
The Morizo edition was clearly conceptualised and executed as an iconic halo car, built to be an instant collectible to an old-school formula that, sadly, appears to be lost in whitewash of the moving motoring times.
Indeed, that Toyota as now – finally – lobbed fiery internal-combustion figureheads in GR Yaris and GR Corolla with motorsport-inspired makeups matched to highly strung natures is balm to petrolhead traditionalists disillusioned with an increasingly electro-gentrified future, be it the actual case or not.
And it’s about bloody time such machines arrived, too.
That price? To some the notion of an $80K Corolla will seem crazy. But for a potential 25 Aussie buyers, the Morizo will be bonkers enough to justify the splurge, in part for the tangible performance dividends, but also in part in exclusivity and collectibility.
In fact, when you’re talking ‘racecar money’, there’s not much out there that’s quite so fit for track that does wear rego plates and comes with a factory warranty.
While there was once a time, back in the STi and Evo heyday, when Morizo-sized ferocity might come under harder scrutiny, those days are gone.
All-paw turbocharged small cars are a breed on the fast track to extinction and there are fewer options – Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-AMG A45 S – now out there, most of which in their twilight with one tyre in retirement.
Of course, Toyota still offers GR Yaris and GR Corolla GTS, heady order backlog notwithstanding. When it comes to the latter, one wonders what and where you’d lose out in the experience by chucking on some Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber and banking the balance of the $15K-odd saved on fuel and rubber for circuit work.
Surely such a budget would afford you a helluva lot of track time for an already thrilling if slightly less exotic GR Corolla experience.
We take to a wet Sydney Motorsport Park to test the new GR Corolla’s capabilities in track and motorkhana driving – and we walk away impressed
Key specs (as tested)
About Chasing cars
Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.
Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.
We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.
Toyota Corolla 2023: popular hatchback to gain updates for Australia including power increase for Corolla Hybrid
Toyota RAV4: delays confirmed for May 2022 due to production cuts, Australian orders likely affected
The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.
Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.
^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.