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Is the Toyota GR Corolla Better Than the Honda Civic Type R?

Trick question — they're both great

2024 Toyota GR Corolla Blue Flame front 3/4
  • We just had a Toyota GR Corolla roll through the Edmunds garage.
  • This got us thinking: Is it really better than its main foe, the Honda Civic Type R?
  • The truth is these cars might seem similar, but they couldn't be more different.

The Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla get compared all the time, and with good reason. But drive these hot hatches back to back, and what initially might seem like two variations on the same theme turn out to be very different cars.

Turbo engines and manual transmissions

The GR Corolla features a very angry 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that makes 300 horsepower, all of which is sent through a six-speed manual transmission to all four wheels. The all-wheel-drive system is even variable; you can switch between 60:40 and 30:70 front-rear power splits.

Meanwhile, the Civic Type R has a slightly larger 2.0-liter engine with one extra cylinder. It also makes a touch more power, with 315 hp in total, and while the Civic also uses a six-speed manual transmission, it routes its power to the front wheels only.

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2024 Toyota GR Corolla rear 3/4

Honda comes loaded; Toyota lets you choose

Honda's approach with the Civic Type R is pretty simple: What you see is what you get. It only comes one way, with standard equipment like supersticky tires and a limited-slip differential.

Toyota, on the other hand, lets you choose. Torsen-style limited-slip differentials (one at each axle) are optional on the base GR Corolla but standard on the Circuit Edition pictured here. Circuit Edition cars also get a chopped carbon-fiber roof, bulging hood with functional vents and forged alloy wheels. The Circuit Edition also has a ritzier interior, with a JBL sound system, heated seats lined with suede and faux leather, and a unique shift knob. Don't need all that kit? There's a GR Corolla Premium that effectively splits the difference. 

2024 Toyota GR Corolla gauges

How does the Corolla stack up on the road?

Right away it's obvious the Corolla is a very different machine. That teensy little three-cylinder engine is very heavily boosted. Dig into the throttle and ... nothing. Nothing. And then at 3,500 rpm, woosh, the GR hits its stride and delivers that 300-hp gut punch. This engine isn't worth revving out all the way to redline; power dies after around 6,000 rpm. But just upshift and experience the buzz and fizz of that little motor all over again. It will happily pull you to the upper echelons of the speed limit (and then some). The punch-above-its-weight ferocity makes you go, "Wait, this is a Corolla?"

The Civic doesn't drop your jaw in quite the same way. It's so reactive, planted, confident and stable that it would shame much more expensive machinery with ease, and it's delivered without any kind of puppy-on-a-leash hyperactivity. Power delivery is smoother than in the Toyota, and even though both cars use six-speed manuals, the Honda's gear changes are vastly different — much more slick and accurate than the Corolla's, which take some muscle.

2024 Toyota GR Corolla hood open

And then there's the way the Corolla handles. It's not as clean as the Type R, not quite so thoroughly done over with engineering polish. The chassis moves around underneath you, and the tires have less grip. It wants to dance its way through a corner instead of dispatch it with a crisp slice. The joy of the GR Corolla isn't that it's composed; in fact, it's the opposite. The way it scrambles around for grip and then hooks up like a puppy on hardwood isn't just hilarious, it imbues the hot Corolla with an indelible charm. 

But you never lose control. The steering is too light in the car's standard setting, but in Sport it firms up and feels dead-on accurate. You can always manipulate the GR and make it do exactly what you want because of how dutifully the car follows your inputs. The GR Corolla is a sensational driver's car, one that goads you, enables you, and then confidently backs you up on any road at any time. 

2024 Toyota GR Corolla rear light

Is one hot hatch better than the other?

No. Not by any stretch. They're so drastically different in feel, execution, and the way they go down a road that any apples-to-apples comparison is useless. The difference comes down to whether you want pure, unabashed precision or a rowdy rascal with heated seats (brownie points to the GR Corolla for that). 

Choosing a favorite isn't a question you answer with your brain. It's one for the heart, and probably the hardest one hot-hatch enthusiasts have had to answer in a long time. We couldn't be more lucky to have both on sale simultaneously.

2024 Toyota GR Corolla hood

Edmunds says

We're not mad there are no losers here, no definitive answer. Pick the one that's best for you and drive it to your heart's content.