The new Toyota GR Corolla has all the makings of a fantastic all-wheel-drive fun machine. But it's also a curious vehicle, as it notches into a segment that's pretty much dead. The Evo disappeared years ago. The Focus RS is gone. And there's no new STI on the horizon. We're left with the Volkswagen Golf R and the Subaru WRX, two AWD vehicles with vastly different price points that generally appeal to different buyers.

Could Toyota find some middle ground between them? That's a question to ponder as we offer this on-paper comparison, especially since pricing for the GR Corolla hasn't been announced yet. There are certainly plenty of similarities between these three vehicles, starting with small turbocharged engines under the hood.

Each offers an old-school, three-pedal manual transmission. Each sends (relatively) similar levels of power to all four wheels. And each is small in stature, slotting easily into the compact category.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla Core
2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Drive Review
2022 Subaru WRX

Here's a quick look at some dimensions for comparison.

  2023 Toyota GR Corolla 2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2022 Subaru WRX
Body Style: Five-Door Hatchback Five-Door Hatchback Four-Door Sedan
Length: 173.5 Inches 168.9 Inches 183.8 Inches
Width: 72.9 Inches 70.4 Inches 71.9 Inches
Height: 57.2 Inches 57.7 Inches 57.8 Inches
Weight: 3,249 Pounds 3,417 pounds 3,297 pounds*

*Equipped with the six-speed manual. With the automatic CVT weight increases to 3,431 pounds.

The way each car presents itself to the driver, however, is notably different. With a starting price north of $40,000, the Volkswagen Golf R could be considered the luxury-performance choice. Standard equipment includes 12-way power seats, three-zone climate control, a heads-up display, and a plethora of driver-assist systems among other things. Meanwhile, the $29,000 Subaru WRX includes manual-adjust cloth seats, a simple climate control system, and no standard assists at all. The GR Corolla also offers manual cloth seats in base trim, but it's fitted with Toyota's full suite of assists and safety tech in the Safety Sense 3.0 system.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Drive Review
2022 Subaru WRX Interior First Drive Review
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Circuit Edition Interior

Features are all well and good, but buyers of these cars are likely more interested in performance. Once again, the GR Corolla holds middle ground with an even 300 horsepower (224 kilowatts) from its 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine. Moving up the scale, you'll get 315 hp (235 kW) from the Golf R's 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Step down, and you'll find the Subaru's 2.4-liter engine churning out 271 hp (202 kW).

Horsepower is only one factor in a larger performance picture, however. Here's a breakdown of notable metrics for each car. Note that neither Toyota nor Subaru have released official acceleration or top speed figures for the GR Corolla or WRX. We offer estimates where applicable.

  2023 Toyota Corolla GR 2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2022 Subaru WRX
Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L Inline 3 Turbocharged 2.0L Inline 4 Turbocharged 2.4L Flat 4
Power / Torque: 300 hp / 273 lb-ft 315 hp / 280 lb-ft (295 lb-ft with DSG) 271 hp / 258 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual 6-Speed Manual, Optional 7-Speed DSG 6-Speed Manual, Optional Automatic CVT
Wheel Size: 18-Inch 19-Inch 17-Inch (18-Inch available)
Brake Size (front / rear): 14-Inch / 11.7-Inch 14.1-Inch / 12.2-Inch 12.4-inch / 11.4-inch
0-60 MPH: Low 5-Second Range (est) 4.7 Seconds Low-Mid 5-Second Range (est)
Top Speed: N/A 155 mph N/A

This brings us back to the question of price, and it's a very critical question for Toyota. Looking at the stats, the GR Corolla could find itself in a very enviable position with no direct competitors to worry about – if it's priced right. Performance-wise, it should slot above the WRX and be competitive with the Golf R. In the low-to-mid $30,000 range, it could capture disillusioned Subaru fans who were waiting for a new STI. Move too far into the $40,000 range, however, and the Volkswagen with its handsome list of standard features is hard to ignore.

  2023 Toyota GR Corolla 2022 Volkswagen Golf R 2022 Subaru WRX
Base Price: N/A $43,645 $29,105
Destination Charge: N/A $995 $960
Final Price: N/A $44,640 $30,065

Pricing for the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla will be announced closer to its on-sale date later this year.

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