Is the Toyota Corolla considered a sports car

Is the Toyota Corolla considered a sports car?

One of the most well-known names in the automotive industry is Toyota, and among the most popular models it has produced for the past several decades is the Corolla.

The Toyota Corolla nameplate is part of the subcompact and compact category of cars, and with 12 different generations of it made, it’s basically unavoidable in popularity at this point.

But other than the dimensions and popularity of the car itself, can even a single generation of the Corolla be considered a “sports car”?

Furthermore, does anything about the Toyota Corolla even resemble anything technically considered “sporty”?

While we do have a straightforward answer below, we’ll also be going through several different factors that determine whether or not the Corolla (or any car) can be considered a sports car.

Is the Toyota Corolla a sports car?

The Toyota Corolla is not a sports car as it was not originally intended for performance driving from the factory.

While older generations of the Corolla had “sportier” versions and featured RWD drivetrains, they are still not considered sports cars.

When it comes to the Corolla nameplate itself, people generally don’t view it as a sports car at all. 

Only a handful of Corolla models even feature a “Sport” badge, and we know that we obviously cannot rely on just that to consider something a sports car.

This is why we’ve also included several factors that go into manufacturing a sports car, so we can compare it to what the Corolla has and come to a more detailed conclusion.

Of course, they will serve as just a general guide. In reality, the definition of a sports car always changes with more modern automotive technology and better performance standards.

What makes a car a sports car?

A sports car is a car that is more focused on showcasing its performance capabilities, whether in a straight line or around a corner, while also having the sporty looks to go with it.

However, there’s more to it than meets the eye, especially with today’s modern standards in cars.

We have several features below usually taken into consideration when it comes to calling something a sports car, and we can see if the Corolla ticks the boxes while we’re at it too.

Engine Performance

A big selling point of any sports car is the engine itself, as it allows the car to have better acceleration and a higher top speed than the average car in most cases.

But while a lot of sports cars have bigger engines, such as V6s or higher, this isn’t always an actual requirement.

There are plenty of sports cars out there that only have as few as four cylinders in their engines, such as the Porsche 718 Cayman, Ford Mustang EcoBoost, and even the Toyota 86.

Interestingly enough, the Toyota 86 is actually inspired by the popular Toyota Corolla AE86 (Levin/Sprinter Trueno) of the 1980s.

But as “sporty” as both of these cars are, even they’re arguably not the fastest in a straight line for a lot of people.

This is more so true for the “average” Toyota Corolla model, which, unlike the 86 and AE86, is not even built for performance driving in the first place.

Toyota Corolla GenerationEngineHorsepowerTop Speed
1st-Generation Toyota Corolla (E10) (1967 to 1970)1.1/1.2L I4 OHV60 to 65hp87mph (140km/h)
2nd-Generation Toyota Corolla (E20) (1970 to 1978)1.2/1.4/1.6L I4 OHV/DOHC55 to 75hp91mph (146km/h)
3rd-Generation Toyota Corolla (E30 to E60) (1975 to 1979)1.2/1.3/1.4/1.6L I4 OHV/DOHC55 to 108hp93mph (150km/h)
4th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E70) (1979 to 1986)1.3/1.5/1.6/1.8L I4 Pushrod/DOHC60 to 110hp97mph (156km/h)
5th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E80) (1983 to 1987)1.3L/1.5L/1.6L/1.8L I4 SOHC/DOHC58 to 130hp112mph (180km/h)
6th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E90) (1987 to 1995)1.3/1.45/1.5/1.6/1.8/2.0L DOHC64 to 165hp106mph (171km/h)
7th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E100) (1992 to 1997)1.3/1.5/1.6/2.0/2.2L I472 to 117hp109mph (175km/h)
8th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E110) (1997 to 2002)1.3/1.4/1.5/1.6/1.8/1.9/2.0L I4 SOHC/DOHC69 to 125hp115mph (185km/h)
9th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E120/E130) (2002 to 2008)1.3/1.4/1.5/1.6/1.8/2.0/2.2L I4 SOHC/DOHC90 to 192hp120mph (193km/h)
10th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E140/E150) (2007 to 2013)1.3/1.4/1.5/1.6/1.8/2.0/2.4L I4 VVT-i90 to 224hp124mph (200km/h)
11th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E160 to E180) (2014 to 2019)1.2/1.3/1.4/1.6/1.8/2.0L I4 VVT-i (with hybrid versions)110 to 160hp122mph (196km/h)
12th-Generation Toyota Corolla (E210) (2019 to Present/2022)1.2/1.5/1.6/1.8/2.0L I3/I4 (with hybrid versions)90 to 145hp

(300hp for GR Corolla)

123mph (198km/h)

(142.9mph for GR Corolla)

The average top speed of a sports car is usually in excess of 140mph, which none of the ordinary Toyota Corolla models from each generation can achieve from the factory.

The only Corolla capable of going over 140mph from the factory is non-other than the GR Corolla, which was tested to top out at 142.9mph (230km/h).

While there is no exact horsepower requirement for a sports car, a lot of modern entry-level sports cars easily come with more than 200hp out of the box.

Very few Toyota Corolla models have this sort of power, which include only some models from the newer generations that were fitted with the most powerful engine options.

Power-to-Weight Ratio

Aside from gauging a car’s performance just by its maximum horsepower, there’s something called the “power-to-weight ratio” that doesn’t just limit you to what’s written on paper.

When it comes to the power-to-weight ratio, you’re essentially measuring how much power a car has relative to how heavy it is.

Of course, this means that a lighter car with more horsepower will have a better power-to-weight ratio. But how exactly do we measure it?

While there are several ways to actually measure the power-to-weight ratio, we’ll be sticking to “horsepower per pound” (hp/lb) to simplify things.

You will basically just divide the car’s horsepower by its weight. In this case, the higher the resulting number is, the better the power-to-weight ratio.

We’ve found that entry-level sports cars typically have a power-to-weight ratio of 0.07hp/lb or more. This number further increases when we start talking about supercars. 

From the Toyota Corolla lineup, the new GR Corolla has an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 0.0923hp/lb thanks to its 300-horsepower engine making quick work of its 3,250lbs of weight.

This definitely puts it well within sports car territory, although it’s technically referred to as a “sports hatchback” more than anything else.

In contrast, most ordinary Toyota Corolla models get somewhere between 0.04 to 0.07hp/lb depending on the engine and the generation. 

Only a handful of them ever makes it past 0.07, while some older models even have as low of a power-to-weight ratio as 0.03hp/lb.


Another important consideration for sports cars is that they usually handle better in the corners and under braking when compared to average commuter cars.

This is one of the reasons why cars like the Mazda Miata/MX5 are still considered sports cars. Despite being relatively slow in a straight line, it handles very well in the twisty parts.

This proves how it’s not always about producing the most power when it comes to engineering a proper sports car from the get-go.

Other than being as light as possible, there are a lot of other factors that make a sports car’s handling a notch above the rest.

Some of these include performance-focused suspension setups, performance tires, and even the various technological features that aid in the overall handling of the sports car.

Aside from these, sports cars are typically lower to the ground than the average car, which aids in lowering their center of gravity and, thus, improving stability when cornering.

Although you could modify a Toyota Corolla to your heart’s content in hopes of beating actual sports cars, the factory model wasn’t really made to do so.

This is because it lacks a lot of the typical sports car features we’ve mentioned above, which all make a big difference in how any car handles the turns.

Exterior and Interior Styling

Even to the average person, simply looking at how a car looks from the outside can easily tell them if it’s a sports car or not.

Although a lot of non-sports cars have decent performance specs to rival some sports cars, they’re still nowhere near the level of aesthetics that a sports car possesses.

In most instances, a lot of the exterior design features of a sports car were also made for a purpose, and that purpose is to generally go faster than the average car.

Aside from obviously making it look good, a lot of these design features also go hand-in-hand with a sports car’s performance on the straights and in the turns.

These can include lighter body panels (or carbon fiber body panels) to save weight, aerodynamic styling to make it cut through the air easier, and a lower ride height.

Even looking at the interior of a sports car will reveal to you a lot of features not present in an average car.

While some sports cars can feature back seats, like the Nissan GT-R, the typical sports car usually only has two back seats as part of the traditional 2-door coupe body style.

When it comes to the driver and passenger seats themselves, sports cars usually feature special “sport bucket seats” that are meant to keep you in place better while cornering.

It’s also very common for sports cars to have a “launch control” feature, which enables you aggressively launch the car from a standstill.

In the photos below, you can see how a typical modern Toyota Corolla fares in the design department against a true sports car from the same brand, the Toyota GR Supra.

Toyota Corolla and Toyota GR Supra

As you can see, the difference in design is night and day between the Corolla and the Supra.

While the modern Toyota Corolla has decently aggressive styling and a good-looking interior, the Supra, being the sports car that it is, is in a completely different league of its own.


The drivetrain of a true sports car has been a debatable topic for years, especially since improvements in automotive technology made a level playing field for cars of all drivetrains.

But as for what’s considered the traditional drivetrain configuration of a sports car, it would be front engine and rear-wheel drive, otherwise known as “FR”.

The Toyota GR Supra featured above perfectly fits the traditional drivetrain layout for a sports car.

This is because its engine is situated at the front and drives the rear wheels using a connecting driveshaft and differential.

The majority of Toyota Corolla models ever made, however, were fitted with an “FF” drivetrain, or “front engine and rear wheel drive”.

If we’re going to go by the traditional way of defining a sports car by its drivetrain, then the Toyota Corolla definitely doesn’t make the cut.

Although some early Corolla models were made in FR configuration, such as the 5th-generation Corollas, this alone did not classify them as sports cars.

But if we’re going to stray away from what’s considered the traditional sports car drivetrain, then there are actually plenty of sports cars out there that don’t use an FR drivetrain.

A good example of this is the new Honda Civic Type R, which actually uses an FF drivetrain just like the Toyota Corolla.

But unlike the Corolla, the Civic Type R actually has tons of sporty design features with impressive performance figures that only a sports car is capable of pulling off.

If we’re talking about a base Honda Civic model, on the other hand, then it would not be considered a sports car, just like the average Toyota Corolla.

What class of car is a Toyota Corolla?

What class of car is a Toyota Corolla

Ever since the 1991 model year, the Toyota Corolla has officially been classified as a compact car.

Early Toyota Corolla models manufactured from 1966 to 1990 were officially classified as subcompact cars due to their smaller dimensions. 

Currently, the Toyota Corolla is produced in three different body styles, namely the sedan, hatchback, and station wagon body styles (pictured above).

Is the Toyota Corolla fast?

The Toyota Corolla, with an average top speed of only 108.3 mph (174.3 km/h) across all 12 of its generations, is not really that fast.

While it does have a decent top speed for an ordinary car, it gets left in the dust by most sports cars that are able to go over 140 mph (225 km/h) on average.

The Corolla also has quite a sluggish 0 to 60 mph time of 7.3 seconds for the SE Apex trim, which is already the quickest trim of the 2021 model year. 

Again, it’s a decent time for an ordinary car, but not so much when compared to a sports car such as the Toyota Supra, which has a 0 to 60 mph time of just 3.9 seconds.

Can the Toyota Corolla be a race car?

Can the Toyota Corolla be a race car

The Toyota Corolla, much like any car out there, can be converted into a proper race car given you have the right tools and knowledge.

A lot of modifications go into turning a car like the Toyota Corolla into a full-blown race car.

Aside from modifying or swapping out the engine for a more powerful one, racing teams often reduce weight from the car by removing unnecessary parts from the interior.

This is why you most commonly see race cars with fully-gutted interiors, as this helps them achieve a much better power-to-weight ratio than when they were stock.

Race cars with fully-gutted interiors

Heavy body panels from the factory are also removed in favor of ones that are made of lighter materials, such as carbon fiber and fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP).

These body panels are also designed to be more aerodynamic, which helps the race car cut through the air easier at high speeds, leading to better performance.

Of course, a proper racing suspension setup is also a must-have for the Toyota Corolla, as its stock suspension would just not be able to handle the corners as a race car would.