We love hot hatches because they combine driving pleasure with every day practicality in an affordable package. Despite the popularity of the hot hatch market, not all companies share our excitement. In the “Missed Opportunities” articles, we are going to talk about hatchbacks that never got the “h0t” version they certainly deserved.
What did we get?
The 8th generation of the Toyota Corolla launched in 1995 (Japan) with other markets following in 1997 and 1998.
The fastest production version of the Euro-spec 3-door hatchback, was fitted with a naturally aspirated 1.8 liter engine (7A-FE) producing 81kw (110 ps) which was mated to a 6 speed gearbox sending power to the front wheels. Those specifications, while being decent for a 90’s family hatchback, they could never justify it as a hot hatch.
Additionally, a limited edition Corolla G6R launched in 1998 for the European market (2500 units), with the 4A-FE 1.6 liter engine producing 81 kw (115 ps) and 142 Nm of torque, a reworked 6 speed manual gearbox, disc brakes, lowered springs, 15 inch rims and a few design touches to differentiate it from the rest of the range. The G6R could accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 9,7 seconds while top speed was around 195 km/h (121 mph).
In 2001, just before the new generation arrived, Toyota Australia launched the limited edition Corolla Sportivo (110 units) which was based on the facelifted 5-door liftback and featured a turbocharged 1.8 liter engine producing 115 kw (156 ps), mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox.
Unfortunately, despite the sporty bodykit (bumper extensions, new rims, side skirts, chromed exhaust and large rear wing), the new suspension setup and the turbocharger, the Sportivo was more of a warm hatchback and was only available for a very short period of time.
Could it be better?
The answer is definitely YES.
In 1997, Toyota marked its return to the World Rally Championship, after being banned in 1996 for not complying with the regulations for the turbocharger. The successor of the successful Celica GT-Four, was the Toyota Corolla WRC. Before we move on lets take a moment to admire this beautiful racing hatchback in all of its glory…
The Corolla WRC was based on the Euro-spec 3-door hatchback version, offering compact dimensions and a short wheelbase which was perfect for tight turns. The car featured a comprehensive aero pack, a racing suspension with Öhlins shocks and long travel, a modified 3S-GTE engine producing more than 224 kw (300 hp) and 510 Nm of torque, combined with a six speed sequential gearbox and the 4WD system from the Celica.
The car took part in 3 WRC seasons (1997-1999), scoring a total of 4 wins, 30 podium finishes and winning the manufacturer’s title for Toyota in 1999,. The drivers of the factory team were Marcus Gronholm (1997), Didier Auriol (1997-1999) and Carlos Sainz (1998-1999).
Although the Corolla WRC had a solid performance amazing driving talent behind its wheel, the most memorable moment of its career was the last race of the 1998 season where Carlos Sainz’ Coroll, suffered from an engine failure, just 500 meters from the finish line, costing him the championship title. In 1999, after securing the manufacturer’s title, Toyota decided to leave WRC in order to focus on Formula 1.
We never got the amazing AWD Corolla hot hatchback we expected and the most of the following Corolla T-Sport versions were somehow uninspiring, however in 2017, Toyota not only returned to WRC but also gave us an amazing production car – the Yaris GRMN.
Today, a rumored 12th generation Corolla hot hatch is under development, and we really can’t wait for its unveiling. Until then, you can enjoy the modified Corolla concepts launched at SEMA, or discover all of the Toyota hot hatches in our database.