The 2023 Toyota Aqua is fresh off of a redesign, and the hatchback is now also getting a refresh as part of Toyota’s GR lineup in Japan. The Aqua GR Sport has more in common with the Toyota GR Yaris, but the Aqua is better associated with the Prius in the U.S., which basically makes the new Aqua GR Sport the closest thing we’ve seen to a GR Prius. Well, at least until the new Prius Prime is released in the U.S. sometime soon.
The Toyota Aqua was sold as the Prius C in the U.S. until it was discontinued in 2019; the Prius C (or c for city) was billed as a smaller version of everybody’s favorite hybrid, but didn’t catch on for a few reasons — not the least of which was how uneventful it was to drive. After the Prius C was discontinued, the compact hybrid mantle passed on to the Corolla Hybrid in the U.S., but the Toyota Aqua lived on overseas, including in its home market of Japan.
Now that the latest model is out, Toyota Gazoo Racing is treating the new Aqua to a few upgrades. The Aqua GR Sport isn’t a full on GR model, however, so it’s not going to make more power than the standard model; the hatch will still be powered by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine making about 90 horsepower and just over 88 lb-ft of torque. The five-seater hatch will be sold exclusively as a 2WD model with power sent to the front wheels.
The base Aqua has a curb weight of 2,535 pounds so Toyota engineers leaned into the car’s small size and weight, tuning the suspension for better handling and improving steering response by tweaking the power steering control. Toyota GR also wanted to make the car more rigid, so they added bracing under the floor and reinforced the rear bumper for more stability while cornering.
And because this is a GR trim, the Aqua GR Sport also gets a few exterior and interior design touches to set it apart from other Toyota Aquas zipping around Japan sipping fuel. The base model gets 79 miles per gallon combined (WLTC) but the Aqua GR Sport will get slightly less, at 69 MPG. The added weight of the bracing and reinforcements don’t help here, nor do the larger 17-inch aluminum wheels. But the Aqua GR Sport looks the part, and I bet the new suspension and steering makes the small car fun to toss around. Light cars that handle are a treat, and a Prius with a GR badge and retune is a lovely idea. The Aqua GR Sport will start at ¥2,595,000 in Japan, or $18,761 at current exchange rates.