The Most Powerful Three-Cylinder Engine In A Mainstream Car - SUV VEHICLE

The Most Powerful Three-Cylinder Engine In A Mainstream Car



  • The GR Corolla is not your average three-cylinder car – it packs a powerful 300 HP turbo engine for a speedy 0-60 MPH in under five seconds.
  • Toyota’s performance division, Gazoo Racing, fine-tuned the GR Corolla with a GR-FOUR AWD system and race-ready suspension for top-tier performance.
  • Priced above $36,000, the GR Corolla may not be cheap, but it’s the most powerful non-hybrid three-cylinder car on the market, winning awards for its quality.

In today’s automotive landscape, many manufacturers have turned to hybrid and EV power to achieve either impressive performance or superb fuel economy, sometimes both. While this is definitely impressive and a step in the right direction in terms of future sustainability, there are a few models that look to achieve those impressive stats with a traditional combustion engine.

Enter the three-cylinder engine. The three pot is a rising star in certain regards, as it has shown proven viability in the modern market. This alone is impressive, as just a decade ago they were as rare as a three-dollar bill. Their rising star is thanks to a few models, most notably the Koenigsegg Gemera and BMW i8. However, there is another, quite impressive, three-cylinder vehicle that boasts respectable power and efficiency. Oh, and it’s not a hybrid.

The Toyota GR Corolla is a testament to doing more with less, as its humble three-cylinder isn’t so humble on the racetrack. In fact, it is currently the most powerful non-hybrid vehicle to feature a three-cylinder engine. Not only that, Toyota equipped the GR Corolla with numerous aftermarket and race-tuned components that are sure to get any race junkie’s blood pumping. Let’s take a look!

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including Toyota, Toyota Newsroom, JD Power, and

The GR Corolla Is Straight From The Racetrack

When we consider three-cylinder engines, it’s easy to imagine a humble commuter car. And you’d be (mostly) right. Though the GR Corolla doesn’t agree with most modern standards. This becomes apparent just by glancing at the hot hatch and noticing the clear indicators of a performance vehicle. And its looks are not deceiving.

2024 GR Corolla Specs


1.6-L Turbocharged Inline 3-Cylinder


300 HP @ 6,500 RPM


273 Lb._Ft. @ 3,00 – 5,500 RPM

0-60 MPH

4.9 Seconds (mf claim)

Top Speed

143 MPH


6-Speed Intelligent Manual (iMT) w/ Rev Matching




Front-engine, AWD, five-door, five-passenger, hatchback

(Source: Toyota)

Under the hood rests a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline three-cylinder engine that pumps out a respectable 300 horses and 273 pound-feet of torque. This is enough power to launch the GR Corolla from 0-60 MPH in under five seconds, topping out at nearly 145 MPH. Suffice it to say the GR Corolla is an adrenaline rush in the form of a sporty hatchback sedan, and that’s not even half of its appeal.

One of the most coveted features included in the GR Corolla package is its six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching. This car is strictly row-your-own, meaning if you can’t drive stick, you can’t drive this. The manual transmission is slowly being phased out in favor of the much more efficient automatic. This becomes more alarming when we consider that automatic transmission is advancing and even accommodating for the lack of driver engagement with shift paddles. The GR Corolla aims to preserve this feature, at least for now, making it a gem. Even if only for the driving experience.

Race-Tuned Components Translate To Race-Level Performance

Understanding the spicy powertrain is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, as when you dive deeper into the parts and tuning that went into crafting the GR Corolla, you begin to realize that Toyota purposefully built this hatch to reflect their motorsport heritage. In fact, “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, one of Toyota’s performance divisions. This is exactly the level of confidence you get in the form of the GR Corolla’s GR-tuned suspension and GR-FOUR AWD system.

Key Performance Upgrades

  • Turbocharged engine
  • GR-tuned suspension
  • GR-FOUR AWD system
  • Aerodynamic body style

The GR Corolla features a MacPherson-style strut-type front and double-wishbone type multilink rear suspension, both with stabilizing bar. The GR tuning really comes to life in the chassis and suspension setup, as the innovative, and highly versatile, GR-FOUR AWD system is allowed to achieve various levels of traction and control with the solid suspension working in concert with the driver input. Three settings, which are front (60:40), rear (30:70), and track (50:50), allow drivers to remain in control no matter the road conditions or race requirements. This is where we start to get an idea of what Toyota was trying to achieve with this three-cylinder track weapon.

Interior Tech And Capability Are On The Cutting Edge

Stepping into the cabin of the GR Corolla reveals a sleek and modern layout that resonates with the most upscale models, while catering to the driving purist who may find themselves behind the wheel. A standard 12.3-inch digital Multi-information display (MID) sits behind the steering wheel and displays various info including AWD modes, turbo pressure, gear-shift indicator, and more. This digital aid is designed to enhance the driving experience with a modern touch to tactile driving.

At the center of the dash is an eight-inch touchscreen that comes equipped with a range of connectivity and integrated technologies. Such features as Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard, of course, but on the higher trims, a JBL audio system, heated front seats, and wireless charging pad become standard as well. Material-wise, you can’t go wrong, with the base GR Corolla Core featuring fabric sport seats, and the higher Premium and Circuit Edition trims include Brin Naub and leather-trimmed seating, steering wheel, and shift knob.

Standard Safety And Assist Are Extensive

Toyota didn’t skip any steps when crafting the GR Corolla inside and out, which includes the standard safety and assist suite. Standard across all 2024 GR Corollas is Toyota’s Star Safety system, which includes enhanced stability control, traction control, four-wheel ABS, and more. Toyota’s Star Safety system is put in place to assist any shenanigans one may get into in the GR Corolla.

Key Safety Features

  • Pre-collision system w/ pedestrian detection
  • Dynamic radar cruise control
  • Road sign assist
  • Enhanced vehicle stability control
  • Anti-lock brakes

On top of the Star Safety system, Toyota also includes its Safety Sense software, which adds a detailed suite of safety and assist functions, such as a collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, and lane tracing assist. These safety systems are standard on all 2024 GR Corollas, meaning you will never have to sacrifice safety for a lower price tag. And if the Star Safety system and Safety Sense suite weren’t enough, the GR Corolla also includes 10 standard airbags that provide total occupant coverage in the event of a collision.

The Aggressive Exterior Is Indicative Of What’s Inside

2024 Toyota GR Corolla Grille-1

Before you get behind the wheel, you’re faced with a menacing portrait, sharp glances, and a commanding stance. A large grille dominates the front-end real estate with a blacked-out open-patterned design. Right above that sits a sleek bonnet with unique, and quite aggressive, front headlights. The contouring that surrounds the front-end features also alludes to the racetrack readiness of the GR Corolla, considering the quality aerodynamics employed throughout.

The flared fenders, both on the front and back, aid in the GR’s commanding stance, while also accommodating the 235/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 high-performance summer tires that are standard on all 2024 GR Corollas. 18-inch gloss black-painted 10-spoke or 15-spoke alloy wheels further bring to life the sleek and stealthy performance attitude. The rear-end design is just as aggressive, sporting triple exhaust and a roof spoiler. The interesting contours on the rear hatch are right in line with the overall personality of the GR Corolla, as well as the esthetic associated with Toyota’s GR and motorsport heritage.

The 2024 GR Corolla Is A Compelling Option For Multiple Reasons

The three-cylinder engine is pretty unique, but the GR Corolla brings so much more to the table that one can easily forget the number of cylinders it has. This is thanks to the stellar suspension and surrounding components. All of which work together to exude a race-quality experience every time. Plus, the preservation of the manual transmission in this day and age is commendable, at the very least.

With a starting MSRP of $36,500 for the base Core trim and $45,140 for the top Circuit Edition trim, the GR Corolla certainly isn’t winning the cheapest three-cylinder award. Though it will walk away with the most powerful non-hybrid three-cylinder mainstream vehicle. The GR Corolla also won Best New Car from Autotrader, while the Toyota brand snagged Best Resale Value from KBB. The future of the GR Corolla isn’t set in stone, meaning we may see the axing of the manual or future electrification down the line. But for now, we’ll just enjoy the race-ready hatch that is.


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