With electrification lurking like the necessary evil it is, enthusiasts everywhere have been left to wonder what awaits them on The Other Side.
The truth is that the future looks bright, but there’s plenty to get excited about in the meantime – especially in the mainstream segment. From two doors to five, every kind of drive figuration out there, and an assortment of powertrains to pick from, there’s an affordable performance car for every occasion, or so it seems.
If the occasion in question involves a day at the track, treating a winding country road like a gravel stage in your own personal rally championship, or simply showing up for work in one of the coolest cars around, look no further than the Toyota GR Corolla, the Best Mainstream Performance Car in the 2024 AutoTrader Awards.
Motivated by a high-strung three-cylinder engine that turbocharges its way to an astounding 300 hp, the GR Corolla is a special kind of outrageous. It doesn’t stop there, either, with a slick-shifting six-speed manual between the front seats, and an adjustable all-wheel drive system to play with. Want to claw your way out of corners? Leave the system in its default 60/40 setting that’s down for whatever. Looking to get a little tail-happy? The rear-biased 30/70 torque split will do the trick and then some.
Make no mistake: the GR Corolla’s win this year was no cakewalk. It was up against last year’s reigning champ, the Honda Civic Type R; plus Hyundai has an entry of its own in the Elantra N, and Volkswagen’s trio of choices make similar statements, albeit with distinctly German accents. Prefer a proper sports car? Both Toyota and Subaru are still in the game, while the Nissan Z’s new Nismo package puts it in prime position for appreciation. And then there’s the Ford Mustang GT that’s out to prove it’s still very much a muscle car.
So what made the GR Corolla stand out to AutoTrader’s jury of more than 20 experts from across the country? Its playful poise is just the start, but it’s a helpful one.
“Every dynamic aspect of driving the GR Corolla is incredibly visceral,” wrote AutoTrader expert Jeff Wilson in a comparison with the Volkswagen Golf R. “The brakes have immediate bite and a firm pedal feel, but they’re not grabby. The clutch is light but offers feedback and a catch point that’s not too high, but not too low to trip you up, either. The shifter is great, too, with a solid, precise action.”
It may be missing the wild side of its rival from Honda, but the Toyota GR Corolla makes up for it with an unmistakable sense of excellence. And it’s that excellence that makes this hot hatch this year’s well-deserved winner.