The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is a deeply joyful car and an instant classic for driving enthusiasts. I mean, come on, a widebody hatchback hiding a three-cylinder engine boosted to over 300 horsepower with all-wheel drive and a manual transmission? I didn’t have many questions after reading the spec sheet, except for one: How will my dog like it?

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Welcome to Will It Dog, The Drive‘s car review series for canine owners. In this article, we’ll look at what the GR Corolla is like to live with if you have dogs and point out any specific aspects that help or hurt its case as a pooch taxi.

2023 Toyota Corolla GR Specs for Dog Owners

  • Base price (Core model with Performance, Technology packages as tested): $36,995 ($40,159)
  • Seating capacity (people): 5
  • Seating capacity (dogs): 3
  • EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city | 28 highway | 24 combined
  • Observed fuel economy: 24.5 mpg over 479 miles
  • Cargo volume (trunk): 17.8 cubic feet
  • Quick take: An exceptional performance car with a little room for practicality.
  • Will It Dog Score: 6/10

Interior Materials and Layout

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The GR Corolla’s drivetrain and design accents all scream “high-performance machine,” but the physical layout remains “Toyota hatchback.” In fact, it’s smaller inside than I was expecting. Rear passenger legroom is very lean. The cargo area expands markedly when you fold the seat down, but the ceiling is still pretty low—this became especially noticeable when we tried to slide a dog kennel in.

The car doesn’t feel as luxe as something similarly priced from BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus, but it doesn’t really seem cheap either—with the exception of the headliner, which is wrapped in a super-thin felt. At least dog hair is easy to peel off of it, though!

The seating material feels nice and robust, and while the dash plastic is relatively spartan I got the impression it’d age pretty well. There are a few pieces of piano-black plastic that will be smudge city and probably scratch easily; you’ll want to keep your dog’s claws away from that one on the center console.

Speaking of which, due to the compact nature of the Corolla’s interior, our Australian Shepard/Retriever mutts could basically use it as a footbridge from the back of the car to the front—not ideal for dog safety, you’ll definitely want to buckle animals in to keep them from climbing forward.

With the rear seats down, you could probably carry as many as five decent-sized dogs in a pinch, but it’d be a pretty chaotic cockpit and they’d have a lot of room to fly around in an accident. Three of our animals fit on the back seat bench but would have had trouble all lying down and settling together.

Climbing In and Out

The Corolla’s rear seats are nice and low and the back door opens wide enough to make it an easy jump. But it is still a tight rear seat, so it could be tough to maneuver if you’re trying to help a bigger animal climb into the back. The rear hatch is a bit higher off the ground, but if you’ve got a very large dog this might be a much easier point of ingress.

Driving With the Dog

Bramble’s made it clear that she’s not a huge fan of a stiff suspension. She’s pretty up for anything and practices agility every week, but when it comes to jouncing around in the back of a performance-oriented machine, she has a hard time relaxing.

The GR Corolla is appreciably stiffer than my modded Civic (on Koni Orange shocks and Tein High Tech springs) which alone makes it a tough proposition as an only car, unless you’re single and hardcore. Bramble eventually chilled and took in some mountain air through an open window. But she was definitely not curling up into a ball of bliss like she did in the Genesis G70 luxury car.

I’m not saying the GR Corolla is so intense that dogs can’t handle it, many should be able to just fine. But if you’re sniffing around one of these, understand that quite a bit of compliance was eschewed to achieve its level of performance. It’s not a do-everything car, it’s a performance car that happens to be wearing an economy car outfit.

Driving in General

This car’s all about grip, whooshy turbo noises, and making it really easy to pretend you’re a rally driver. It’s immensely fun. I found it likes to maintain high rpm to make the most of its engine—it’s not particularly eager to rev off a stop but once you’ve got the thing singing—hang on.

We’ve got a focused driving review of this car coming soon so I’ll leave it to my colleague Chris Tsui to get deeper into the details, but the quick and dirty is that when you’re not worried about dogs getting car sick you can have an absolute ball in this thing.

The cockpit layout, in general, may be basic Corolla, but the gauge selection is great (I loved the huge rally-style gear indicator you can toggle) and the infotainment screen can be switched off completely with minimal menu-scrolling.

The seats feel great, the pedal box had room for my wide feet, and shifter position is good. Catching the ridiculous fender flares in your rear-view mirror is guaranteed to put a smile on your face even if you’re just puttering around.

This is absolutely a car you’ll come up with excuses to drive, but make no mistake, it’s hardcore—long commutes in this thing, or road trips, won’t be for the faint of heart. It’s stiff and bumpy, which passengers don’t tend to like no matter what species they are.

Pack Hauling

This picture of Indi, Bramble, and Silas sticking their heads out the starboard-side window makes it seem like the back of this car must be miles deep. But they’re not actually in a sustainable sitting position here—these siblings are pretty much on top of each other, one big beautiful pile of dog. They’re happy to do it for a picture, but on a long ride they’d eventually settle and try to find more room to stretch out.

With the back seat down, I think all three dogs could relax. But then they couldn’t be buckled in—and even if you’re not as much of a stickler for safety as some people, this becomes problematic because of that low center console I mentioned. You’d really need a taxi cab-style net accessory to hang between the front seats to prevent pooches from climbing up into the front.

Otherwise, dogs in the back can get to the front so easily that you can expect a lot of tongues on your neck and ears. Not a dealbreaker for me, I put my Bramble in two-door coupes regularly, but maybe something you’d like to know about.

Carrying Kennels

I’m disappointed to report that the Corolla couldn’t quite swallow our hard kennel without breaking it down. I thought for sure one advantage of the hatch would be the ability to use a kennel for dog transpo, but, alas this won’t work for larger breeds. Though the rear cargo area is large enough for our flat-folded tent kennel to be stashed without flipping down the rear seats. The rear bench has a one-third/two-thirds split, so you can just drop part of it if you want.

The foldable kennel fit in the rear seating section too, if you’d rather stash it that way.

Toyota GR Corolla Dog-Friendliness Verdict

The Toyota GR Corolla is a delightful monster of a driving machine and its hatchback body lends itself to practicality. But as a dog taxi, the vehicle is just OK.

The ceiling is just a little too low and rear seats just a bit too shallow for medium-to-large dogs to really be easy to carry. And cars sprung to be this responsive ride hard, which most dogs are probably not going to love.

One to two medium-sized dogs would be fine, just break down their kennels and buckle them into the back seat. That would still give you enough cargo space for human luggage and maybe even room for a person (who doesn’t mind getting covered in licks and hair) in the back. Adding a baby seat to the mix would be a very challenging proposition, though.

If you’re a dog-owning driving enthusiast dreaming about a GR Corolla, I think most dogs could fit. But don’t get sucked into assuming the hatchback shape instantly makes it particularly canine-friendly, and don’t underestimate the taxation of hard suspension on passengers over significant periods of time.

Featured Dog Car Gear and Travel Accessories

  • Harness: Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength ($39.05 on Amazon)
  • Seat Cover: Dickie’s Repreve ($29.88 at Walmart)
  • Hard Kennel: PetMate Vari Kennel (1998 model, $NLA) (Similar: $159.50 on Amazon)
  • Soft Kennel: Backcountry x Petco Foldable Dog Travel Crate ($169.99 at Petco)

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