7 Best Toyota Hot Hatches of All Time

When it comes to hot hatches, Toyota doesn’t really spring to mind. We often think of brands such as Ford, Renault and of course, Toyota’s compatriot, Honda with their Civic Type R. However, over the years, Toyota has produced some excellent fast hatches and in this article we are going to be looking at some of the best of them.

GR Yaris

Credit: Toyota

We are going to start with my favourite hot hatch from Toyota and arguably one of the company’s best performance orientated cars to date, the GR Yaris. Born out of the need to meet homologation requirements for the World Rally Championship, the GR Yaris was developed with the help of Toyota’s racing division Gazoo Racing (hence the GR in the name) and Tommi Mäkinen Racing, the company’s partner in the WRC.

When the GR Yaris launched in late 2020, it was clear that it wasn’t just a standard car with a few bolt on upgrades. To start with, the GR is a custom designed 3-door hatchback, whereas other Yaris models from the same generation are all 5-door models. This occurred because Toyota’s WRC team insisted that a 3-door car was what was needed for competition and Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO, wanted the company to build a sports car that was solely its own (the Supra and 86 were jointly developed with other companies).

Credit: Toyota

Another big change compared to the standard Yaris models was the layout. While the engine remained at the front of the car like on standard models, Toyota implemented a new “GR-Four” all -wheel drive system. In normal mode, the power is split 60:40 front to rear, but drivers can change this to 30:70 in Sport mode for tail wagging fun and 50:50 in Track mode when they want the most balanced power delivery.  

Speaking of power, all 272 PS (268 bhp / 200kW) of it and 370 Nm (273 lb-ft) of torque is created by a turbocharged 1.6-litre G16E-GTS engine that is mated to a 6-speed V16 transmission (in some markets power is a bit lower at 261 PS/192 kW and 360 Nm of torque). If that isn’t enough, the little three-cylinder engine has proved to be somewhat of a tuning monster, with a number of modifiers pushing the power unit well past 500 bhp.

In stock form, the GR Yaris is plenty quick for most people, with a 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time of around 5.2 to 5.5 seconds and a top speed that is limited to 230 km/h (143 mph).

Starlet GT Turbo EP82

Credit: Dennis Elzinga

Somewhat overshadowed by the monstrous Nissan Pulsar GTi-R and the Mazda 323/Familia GT-R at the time, the Starlet GT Turbo was still an excellent nineties hot hatch. It was first introduced in 1990 as the successor to the Starlet 1.3 Turbo R from the previous generation, and production ended half a decade later in December 1995.

At the heart of the GT Turbo is a turbocharged 4E-FTE power unit that was rated at 135 PS (133 bhp / 99kW) and 157 Nm (116 lb-ft) of torque at 4,800 rpm. While the GT Turbo’s power figures don’t set the world alight by today’s figures, they are pretty respectable when you consider that the car weighs in at a mere 890 kg (1,962 lbs). This results in a 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time of around 8 seconds and top speed of 210 km/h (130 mph).

Before Toyota wrapped up production of the EP82 GT Turbo, they introduced two limited edition versions of the car known as the “GT Limited” and the “GT Advance”. While there were no real performance upgrades under the hood, Toyota did equip these special edition cars with a rear strut bar, ABS (on later models), Recaro seats and some other cosmetic changes such as a new steering wheel and a two-tone paint job.

Corolla FX-GT (FX-16) AE82

Credit: Toyota

While the AE-86 is arguably the most popular and fondly remembered Corolla of the mid-eighties, Toyota did produce a fantastic performance Corolla in hatchback form as well.

Branded the FX-GT in Japan and the FX-16 in North America, the heart and soul of this eighty’s performance hatch is its 1.6-litre 16-valve 4A-GE engine that was also seen in cars like the first-gen MR2. The Japanese model was rated at 130 hp at 6,600 rpm, while the North American FX-16 received a slightly detuned engine that produces 108 horsepower. Torque remained roughly the same between the two versions at 149 Nm (109 lb-ft) at 5,200 rpm.

Unlike hot hatches of today, the exterior of the FX-GT is fairly understated. The only thing that really sets it apart from other Corollas of its generation is the “TWIN CAM 16” motif on the side of the car and the GT badging.

The inside was also fairly understated for a performance hatch as well. Toyota equipped the car with some different seats, a fantastic spoked-steering wheel and a few other goodies, but there was really nothing that screamed “performance”.

Despite having a more powerful engine, that wasn’t where the FX-GT drew the most praise. Toyota gave the car new rubber and fettled the suspension, making the FX-GT a bundle of laughs when things get twisty. Additionally, reviewers at the time stated the car featured excellent ride quality and even compared it favourably to the much loved Golf GTI.

Starlet Glanza V

Credit: Daiko Lightfoot

One year after production ended for the GT Turbo, Toyota introduced another performance Starlet based on the fifth-generation version of the car. This time it would be labelled the Glanza, with the fastest and most powerful version receiving the “V” nomenclature.

The main difference between the Glanza V and the GT Turbo from the previous generation is the styling, with the newer car having a more rounded, almost bubble like appearance.

When it comes to the specs there are some differences, but they aren’t major. The same 4E-FTE engine was used, but with slightly more power at 140 PS (138 bhp / 103 kW), while torque remained roughly the same. Despite a slight bump in power, performance is pretty equal between the two generations as the Glanza V is smidge heavier at 950 kg (2,094 lbs).

For those who weren’t happy about the added weight, Toyota did offer a stripped down version of the Glanza V that came without air conditioning or electric windows.

Toyota only officially sold the Glanza V in Japan, however, many of them were eventually exported to countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Toyota Corolla Compressor

Credit: Rudolf Stricker

By the mid-2000s, Toyota was winding down production of a lot of their performance cars. The Supra was gone, as was GT4 Celica and even the MR2 only had a few years left. However, in 2005 the Japanese manufacturer showed that they could still let their hair down on occasions with the introduction of the Corolla Compressor, a supercharged superstar that was surprisingly potent.

Only 250 of these special edition Corolla’s were produced for the UK market, making it the rarest car on this list.

To create the Corolla Compressor, Toyota took the same 1,794cc VVTL-i four-cylinder engine as in the T-Sport, but added a supercharger to boost power from 192 PS (189 bhp / 140 kW) to a quite respectful 218 PS (215 bhp / 160 kW). This increased performance substantially, with the sporty little Corolla now hitting 100 km/h (62 mph) in as little as 6.9 seconds and pulling all the way to a top speed of 230 km/h (130 mph).

To better handle the extra power, the Corolla Compressor was given new sports suspension that sat 15 mm lower and uprated springs. Grippier 215/45 tyres wrapped in 17-inch alloy wheels were also fitted, along with a new sports exhaust with twin tailpipes, a roof spoiler, and a rear air dam.

Blade Master

Credit: オーバードライブ83

On paper, the Toyota Blade is arguably one of the craziest hatches on this list, but it is also one of the most understated. The Blade is essentially a fifth generation Corolla (or Auris depending on where you come from) with a massive 280 PS (276 bhp / 206 kW) 3.5-litre 2GR-FE V6 engine from the Aurion stuffed inside of it. Torque is also equally impressive at around 344 Nm (253 lb-ft) and all the power was sent to the front wheels via a six-speed paddle shift transmission.

With all that power onboard, burying your foot in the carpets gets you from a standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) in as little as six seconds, and we are sure the car can go well above the limited top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph).

Toyota’s engineers didn’t just slap a big engine under the bonnet and call it a day however, they also reworked the suspension system, gave the car some bigger rims and grippier tyres, and also changed up the traction control to better handle the massively increased amounts of power.

While you would be hard pressed to work out that the Blade is a near 300 horsepower monster from the outside, the interior gives a few more hints at the car’s intentions. Toyota wrapped the seats in Alcantara suede, along with the doors, steering wheel rim, gear level knob and some of the other interior trim pieces. They also fitted all the best features such as an excellent sound system and they even equipped the Blade with radar cruise control, a feature that was normally reserved for Lexus models in many markets around the world.

Unfortunately, the Blade was only made available to Japanese buyers when new, but since production ended in 2012 plenty of them have been exported to markets such as New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

GR Corolla

Credit: Toyota

We started with a GR Toyota and we are going to end with one as well. After years of speculation, Toyota launched the GR Corolla in 2022 and it didn’t disappoint, with the car being the fastest production Corolla produced to date. Like the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla was built with the help of Gazoo Racing, but it was not designed for homologation purposes like the smaller car.

Under the GR Corolla’s bulging bonnet you’ll find the same 1.6-litre 3-cylinder turbocharged engine as the Yaris has, but with power bumped up to 304 PS (300 bhp / 224 kW) – In some markets power is around 5 PS less.

The similarities between the Corolla and Yaris don’t stop at the engine however. They also share the same six-speed manual transmission and GR-Four all-wheel drive system that gives drivers the ability to select three different power distribution settings.

Exterior and size wise, the cars are obviously quite different, with the GR Corolla being quite a bit bigger and featuring more aggressive styling (in our opinion).

Morizo Edition – Credit: Toyota

Soon after Toyota announced the standard GR Corolla, they also announced an even more performance orientated version known as the “Morizo Edition”. This car comes with exclusive features such as a close gear ratio transmission, forged wheels, a stiffened chassis, mono-tube shock absorbers, and torque was even increased to 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) from 370 Nm (273 lb-ft) on the standard GR. Toyota’s engineers also stripped out the back seats and wrapped the new wheels in wider, high performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires for maximum control.

Recap – Toyota’s Seven Best Hot Hatches of All Time

While Toyota isn’t as well known for speedy hatches as some other manufacturers, they have produced some excellent ones over the years. If you have any corrections or suggestions, then feel free to leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you! 

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