Despite recent focus having been on the reimagined Hilux GR Sport as the newest Toyota model to receive the Gazoo Racing Sport applique, South Africa’s best-selling new vehicle will only become a reality later this year in spite of pricing having been confirmed.
In the run-up though, the Japanese automaker’s second best-selling new vehicle, the runaway success locally build Corolla Cross, has benefitted from the GR Sport touches as a means of completing the range comprising the conventional petrol and hybrid models.
A show (off) done right
Unlike the Hilux GR Sport, the changes to the Corolla Cross GR Sport doesn’t stretch towards the engine being more powerful or indeed the drivetrain having been fiddled with in any shape or form.
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Instead, the new range-topping version of the conventional petrol-powered Corolla Cross receives a GR tuned suspension, new front and rear shock absorbers and recalibrated power steering as the sole changes underneath its skin.
ALSO READ: GR Sport clothed Toyota Corolla Cross priced
A model that has attracted significant attention since being revealed globally earlier this year, the Corolla Cross GR Sport became a reality in South Africa last month following Toyota’s announcement that operations at its Prospecton Plant outside Durban had been fully restored after the damaging floods in April forced its prolonged shutdown.
With less than a year having passed since the Corolla Cross’ much publicised debut in South Africa therefore, the GR Sport’s unveiling in Johannesburg this week completes a range boasting the most accessible Gazoo Racing fiddled model within Toyotas’ entire current line-up.
Although petrol-powered for now, a hybrid equivalent has been confirmed for a later stage with its delay being attributed to certain GR elements not being suited to the powertrain.
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Tailored by GR Sport
It therefore means that the GR Sport arrives using the flagship Xr as a base, but with a number of features taken from the Xr Hybrid.
Differentiating the GR Sport from the rest of the Corolla Cross range, including the hybrid, is a lot easier as the newcomer becomes the recipient of a model specific black grille, black mirror caps, a black mesh lower air intake, black roof rails and GR badges on the front wings and tailgate.
Mounted on gloss black 18-inch alloy wheels, the exterior’s transformation comes by the way of a black faux diffuser, a black roof spoiler, black accents on the tailgate and three two-tone colours in-line with the official GR hues; Glacier White, Chromium Silver and Arizona Red contrasted by a gloss black roof.
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Comparatively smaller but still prominent are the changes inside, namely black leather upholstery with GR embroidered headrests, piano-key black finishes on the centre console, a GR starter button, red trim on the dashboard, GR branded floor mats and red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear lever.
Still with the same 161 mm ground clearance and 440-litre boot as the regular petrol Corolla Cross, items on GR Sport’s specification sheet includes dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rain sense wipers, keyless entry, a 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster display, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, six-speaker sound system and folding electric mirrors.
As per Toyota’s Safety Sense system, the GR Sport’s itinerary involves front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, cruise control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill Start Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Crash Assist, Lane Trace Assist and Auto High Beam Assist LED headlights.
Out on the launch route, which radiated from Rosebank to as far as Boksburg and Isando while avoiding the highway, the Corolla Cross GR Sport’s immediate differences from its siblings became apparent.
Significantly firmer than the equivalent petrol or hybrid Xr, the jaunt on roads that varied from smooth to poorly tarred and with badly located manhole covers did show the suspension changes up as it tended to “hit through” in a much harder way.
On the former surfaces though, the ride is less of an issue and remains compliant without feeling overly harsh or crashy.
For its part, the adjustments made to the steering result in a sharper feel with good amounts of feedback, though don’t expect the same turn-in feel as that of a GR Yaris for example.
As mentioned, no additional power has been extracted from the 1.8-litre petrol engine, meaning unchanged outputs of 103kW/172Nm delivered to the front wheels via a CVT.
A configuration that, in our opinion, loses out to the hybrid, the inherent lack of torque makes the Corolla Cross GR Sport feel a bit lethargic and not as spritely from the get-go as the hybrid.
Admittedly, this is unlikely to phase most buyers as performance is not what the Corolla Cross GR Sport is about.
Instead, it adheres the principle of being more show than shove as the CVT has not been altered with retuned virtual steps or fitted with paddle shifters so as to provoke a full GR driving experience.
Unlike it’s hardened dynamics, the ‘box shifts smoothly and without fuss, but becomes vocal and with the usual CVT drone when you push-on.
From behind the wheel, the GR Sport remains as capable as ever, but with a welcome design flair and sporty looks as a result of the red inserts and supportive seats.
Built quality is also solid and despite the infotainment system being dated in appearance, it is an easy bit of kit to use and bar the connectivity features, also comes with a complimentary 15 GB bundle as part of Toyota’s Connect system.
Not as pleasing is the old-fashioned foot-operated brake that will, admittedly, became a less of an annoyance with constant familiarity.
While the term “slam dunk” is unusual in its applying to a crossover, it most certainly does to the Toyota Corolla Cross GR Sport.
A visual makeover executed well, it warrants its R15 000 price hike over the Xr by looking the part while sporting the same uncomplicated mechanicals combined with a newfound sporty flavour unlikely to sully what has become the new benchmark in crossover family hauling.
As with the rest of the range, the Corolla Cross GR Sport’s R453 200 asking price includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a six-service/90 000 km service plan.