Toyota‘s marketing for its Gazoo Racing division of vehicles has been full speed ahead since its GR 86 launch in 2021. Alongside the compact coupe came a more powerful GR Supra, a sports car for the masses with its plentiful power and superb handling characteristics. The third car to release, however, took audiences by surprise when it was unveiled in 2022: a sports-tuned version of the humble and family-friendly Corolla.
For Toyota to release a sporty four-door hatchback that is both fun and functional was highly respectable, as shown by the extensive waitlist lengths for a GR Corolla. But its marketing division gave the car three tiers: the Core model, a more defined and capable Circuit Edition, and a track-prepped limited Morizo Edition named after Toyota president Akio Toyoda’s racing pseudonym. The strategy proved successful: despite dealer markups and extensive waits, Morizos, Circuits and even Core models have all been snatched up from dealerships so much that Toyota confirmed all three tiers will continue beyond the Corolla’s launch year.
For enthusiasts, the Morizo probably whets their appetites the most, opting for the highest strung, fastest and most extreme edition possible. But after a week-long review, we’ve reached the conclusion that it might actually not be the option to go for.
What You Get, and What You Don’t
For all intents and purposes, the Morizo Edition is a stripped out, lightened, slightly more powerful version of the GR Corolla. All models are built using the same body and chassis, while the Morizo – and the Circuit – receive additions and subtractions.
Let’s start with power. All three editions run the same turbocharged 1.6L inline 3-cylinder, and all output the same 300 horsepower figure. The Morizo stands apart with a slightly different tune, giving it a 22 lb-ft advantage for a total of 295: the Core and Circuit have to make do with “just” 273 lb-ft. All three use the same four-wheel drive powertrain and the same 6-speed manual transmission, however the Morizo’s gear ratios are closer, adjusted for faster acceleration. More on this later. Lastly the shocks are slightly stiffer in compression and rebound, to give the car a flatter corner entry and exit.
Where things start to differ is in the cosmetics, starting with the outside. The Morizo and the Circuit get hood vents up front, allowing for hot air to escape the engine bay. Both also get the highly attractive forged carbon fiber roof, which is not only eye-catching but lightweight up top where center of gravity is affected the most. Surprisingly, only the Circuit Edition receives an elongated rear wing, while the Morizo and Core share the same “subtle” roof spoiler.
We never had a better time overtaking cars on the highway, or dropping it down to 2nd for a tight right-hander. The transmission is that good.
Among the many things deleted is the rear wiper, which of course sheds a few ounces but more importantly screams “I bought the most expensive one” to true enthusiasts once they notice. Lastly, Morizo Editions are wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are not only stickier but also 10mm wider for extra grip.
Go inside and the biggest change is present: the deletion of the rear seats. Obviously this is the largest difference between the tiers, as the Morizo removes rear passengers and adds two braces for added rigidity – one across the rear struts, and another connecting the floor. Toyota states this allows for transporting of an extra set of tires, another indication of its intended “purpose” at the track. Since there’re no rear seats, there’s no need for rear speakers and window regulators, so those are removed as well. In place of the rear window switch is a fairly tacky forged carbon fiber-like “GR” designation plate, with matching ones also at the front doors.
Lastly, a rear carpet covers the rear storage, while floor mats confusingly adorn the rear foot wells – their purpose unknown.
Why You’d Want It
So what’s in it for Morizo customers? Well, bragging rights are yours and yours alone. Open the front door and you’ll find limited edition placards serializing your car: ours was #153 out of 200. An exclusive matte black paint job is also proof you went all out, so be sure to choose that option instead of the fairly boring metallic white option.
The added torque may or may not be noticeable via the driver’s seat, but dynos don’t lie. Pairing that with the roughly-100 lbs. of weight saved from everything however, and you’ll easily inch the Morizo away from its lower tiers during drag races and spirited driving. The Michelin Cup 2 tires are amazing: never did the car feel sluggish off the line and while we were able to defeat it around corners, the traction control rarely kicked in during hard acceleration.
If you love owning a manual for shifting, the Morizo has you covered. Its closer ratio gears meant we were in and out of 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear a lot, fully taking advantage of Toyota’s iMT auto-rev matching technology that made downshifts an absolute breeze. We never had a better time overtaking cars on the highway, or dropping it down to 2nd for a tight right-hander. If we had to pinpoint the best thing about the Morizo’s exclusives, it would have to be its transmission: its that good.
Why You Wouldn’t
…But if it’s exclusive things you need out of owning this, that’s where the Morizo doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’re buying a Corolla because you want functionality along with your fun, otherwise the 86 or Supra would’ve been your choice. But the Morizo just went a little further for not much in return in our opinion.
Exhibit A: Deleting rear seats and shedding pounds ultimately made the Morizo extremely stiff and rigid, a problem in our opinion the Circuit Edition – which we also tested – wasn’t exactly suffering from. The car rattled hard enough to notice, if not within the cushions of the seats then the rearview mirror, which vibrated at a frequency that made looking at the cars behind you a chore. Rear window regulators not being present means the windows are useless, so why not replace them and the rear window with thinner glass, shedding even more weight?
Could the Morizo have benefitted from completely fixed-back bucket seats, adjustable suspension, and more carbon fiber? We think so.
Exhibit B: Track-ability. Yes, the Morizo was “built for the track” let’s say, but perhaps this is something the Circuit is more than capable of doing; it’s even in the name. Obviously for people who are track-minded, aftermarket modifications are expected and surely the Morizo’s exclusives could be added – such as the tires and the strut brace – but we understand modding prowess isn’t a given. Gear ratios are normally tuned specifically for different tracks, so it’s arguable that the closer ratios were the right move. And could the Morizo have benefitted from completely fixed-back bucket seats, adjustable suspension, and more carbon fiber? We think so.
In the end, we’d debate that the Morizo could have been stratospherically different from its mid-tier model and really drove the Motorsport point home, but ended up being just 7% more – or less, depending on how you look at it – than the Circuit Edition.
So Who’s Getting What?
Let’s break this down.
GR Corolla Core Edition
Someone who is “just happy to be here,” who wants fun, functionality, and ease of driving. This person appreciates a solid manual transmission sports compact, who has friends and wants them to come along. They’re good with the $35,900 USD MSRP, are capable of wrenching on their own, and have a few months to wait on a waitlist.
GR Corolla Circuit Edition
A car enthusiast who understands what they love about the GR Corolla – a car that a bit special and can do everything for $42,900 USD. They love the added features above the Core – carbon fiber roof, the hood vents, the wing, red calipers etc., and are the discerning owner who would want to drive it everyday, and bring it to the track occasionally, modded or not. Waitlist and markup tolerance: much larger.
GR Corolla Morizo Edition
Someone who trusts Toyota to give them everything as a finished package. They don’t need the car to do everything, they just want the car to be as extreme as possible for the track, which they’ll be going to more often than not. This person loves the idea of limited editions and may or may not resell it for more than its $49,900 USD MSRP. Most importantly, they know someone who knows someone in order to get it.
It’s clear which edition we’d prefer. The Circuit Edition is literally the case of Goldilocks: not too cold, not too hot, warm and just right. That’s not to say no one will buy the Morizo, it’s just for a more specific person that couldn’t settle knowing there’s something “more” on the street.
We would have loved to see the Morizo go above and beyond to truly make the Morizo the ultimate “Motorsport” variant and really set it apart, but until then we’ll see you in the middle.