Sunday Drive: Unleashing thrills with the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Morizo in Southern California
A four-day trip to Southern California in April to attend the National Association of Music Merchants show in Anaheim turned into an exhilarating experience thanks to Toyota and the new GR Corolla!
Originally, Craig had planned to use his trip to California as an opportunity to drive the GR Corolla, as the all-new Corolla was not scheduled to be made available to car reviewers in the Utah area. Why not go out of one’s way to spend time in what has to be one of the hottest hatches to come along in the past few years?
Due to some last-minute scheduling problems, however, the GR was not available. But the GR Morizo edition was available, and it didn’t take Craig long to decide that driving it instead would be perfectly fine. Toyota will only produce 200 of this special edition during the 2023 model year as part of the launch of the adrenaline-fueled GR Corolla.
One might ask, just what is it that makes the new GR so special? Well, it is loaded with Toyota racing DNA for starters, coming with a three-cylinder, 1.6-liter engine that produces 300 horsepower, with torque elevated in the Morizo to 295 foot-pounds. It is also limited to a six-speed manual transmission, which Craig found to be perfect for this small hatchback.
This last detail did cause a slight difficulty while also providing a bit of amusement. After arriving at John Wayne Airport, where he met his sister Marci, Craig sent a valet driver to retrieve the GR. A short time later, the valet returned, asking if he could simply take the pair out to the car as he could not drive a stick shift.
After some minor chuckling and ribbing the driver, Craig and Marci headed out to retrieve the Morizo. After pulling out of the airport, they came to the consensus that the stick shift provided them with the perfect anti-theft device for the weekend.
While throwing their luggage into the GR, they noticed it lacks a back seat — a purposeful decision made by its engineers. There was instead a flat space where the seat would have been along with a bar toward the front seats, thus allowing the owner to store four tires on their way to the track! This was quite an unusual addition, and it turned out to be one of the major talking points about the Morizo as they drove around SoCal and met others interested in the car.
The NAMM show was much smaller than in years past, meaning Craig and Marci spent less time there than they had during previous visits. This meant, however, that they had ample time to really test the Morizo. While driving around, they found plenty of folks who not only knew about the new GR but were very impressed to see one and check it out. It seemed that everywhere they stopped, there was someone who wanted to talk about the new Corolla. Sometimes these conversations lasted up to an hour.
On their first night in Tustin, California, after hitting the local pizza joint for dinner, Craig and Marci discovered some large wooden buildings that turned out to be old blimp hangars. How cool it that? After driving around the hangars, they found a great place to get some photos of the GR. Soon afterward, up pulled two Toyota Supras, with both drivers wanting to see the Corolla!
If nothing else, it was a chance to get some photos of the Corolla along with a Supra.
The new GW handled extremely well. With a projected curb weight of only 3,186 pounds, it would corner on a dime and snap ahead every time they down-shifted, and encouraged the hot hatch with a punch of gas. Their only wish after spending four days in the Corolla was that they could have taken advantage of all it had to offer on a real track. That would have been a treat any driving enthusiast would enjoy.
The extra-wide grip Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that were mounted on 18-inch black wheels with red brake calipers stood out on the dark, dull-finished gray paint job. It was a paint that would glow in the California sunshine during the day and give the car a menacing look at night.
Of course, the Morizo came with all the great Toyota additions like wireless Apple CarPlay and a wireless charging station for a smartphone. This made it so much easier to get around in unfamiliar territory with Craig driving and Marci able to navigate via her phone. They often discussed how it was possible for their parents to make it through Southern California with only a paper map to get them around.
Safety-wise, the vehicle came with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlamps, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and road sign assist. They especially loved the road sign assist as it would keep them apprised of the speed limit.
The GR Corolla, no matter what the trim, comes with a three-cylinder engine. Craig and Marci thought this was small at first and questioned whether it could really produce 300 horsepower. After four days with the car, they were true believers in the speed and agility of this hot hatch, loving every minute they got to spend with it.
One of the coolest things was the three tailpipes in the rear of the Corolla. The vehicle’s unique carbon fiber roof and its design also attracted a lot of attention during the week.
Even though there are only 200 of the Morizo editions of the Corolla out there, it proved to be one of the best hot hatches Craig has been in to date and worth a look. Even if you had to settle on the GR, it’s well worth the money for the fun factor and coolness that come with this new Toyota.
Base price: $49,900
Destination charge: $1,095
Price as driven: $52,640