by Seán Creedon
Toyota has been producing their popular Corolla since 1966. Since then over 40 million units have been sold worldwide.
The first edition never went on sale in Ireland; we had to wait until 1973 for the second edition, but over the past 47 years over 200,000 units have been sold here.
Toyota have been building cars in Europe since 1971 and now with nine manufacturing plants eight out of 10 Toyota cars sold in Europe are also built here.
So there is no doubt that Irish motorists trust and love Toyota cars.
Last week I drove a sporty-looking GR 2.0-litre Hybrid version of the Corolla. GR stands for Gazoo Racing. Gazoo means garage, which you have to agree is appropriate name for a fast sporty-looking car, but I don’t think you will have to make many visits to your local garage with the Corolla GR sport.
Toyota brought the Camry back to Ireland last year after a 15-year absence and they have also produced new versions of their Corolla. I drove the new Corolla and my wife, who has a touch of arthritis, was very impressed as the car is so easy to get and out of.
The fact that the new Corolla is a self-charging hybrid, means that there will be no cost to the driver when operating in full electric mode. Maintenance costs are low and Toyota reckon that careful drivers should be able to complete up to half of their urban trips in electric mode.
Inside, the decor in the GR Sport version is bright and as with most new cars the dash area is dominated by an 18-inch touch-screen, which is easy to navigate.
The sporty-looking front seats have a nice touch of red and grey lines which add to the sporty look. And there is also a touch of red on the steering wheel.
At the end of 2018, Toyota promised a ‘hybrid invasion.’ Earlier Toyota president Akio Toyoda issued a companywide decree for ‘no more boring cars’ and it looks like his designers have listened to his instructions. The company also set up a Skunkworks team which is focussed on bringing electric cars to the market.
Prices for the regular Corolla Hatchback start at €26,390, while the Saloon version starts at €26,920. The GR Sport 2.0-litre Hybrid will cost you €35,035. Road tax is €180.
On the exterior the GR Sport does a good job of spicing up the normal Corolla. The car looks wider and more hunkered down to the road but, in reality, there are no major changes compared to standard Corolla’s dimensions.
There’s a different front bumper with a wide mesh patterned grille and black trim pieces, while, at the rear, you get a slightly different bumper with twin exhausts.
Naturally the alloys are fancy and you get 18-inch alloys, painted black with machined-edge tips to the spokes and red-edged centre caps plus black surrounds for Toyota badges front and rear.
I drove a grey-coloured version with the top half of the car in black and it certainly looked impressive.
With the GR Sport you get a firmer ride thanks to those 18-inch wheels, which certainly gives the car more poise when cornering.
The regular Corolla is a nice safe, comfortable family car, but if you are young and desire that sporty look then the GR Sport could be the one for you.