Road Tests

First drive: Toyota GR Yaris is a hot hatch with rally pedigree

Time 1 year ago


What is it?

Toyota been developing its GR – or Gazoo Racing – section of cars, with the Supra being the most recent addition. Now, the rally-based team has turned its attention to one of Toyota’s smallest and best-known hatchbacks to create this the GR Yaris. It shares very little with the standard Yaris, has all-wheel drive and plenty of driver-focussed technology.

What’s new?

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The GR Yaris has been designed to homologate the next-generation Yaris World Rally car, so it sits on a brand new platform while the overall construction, aerodynamics and permanent all-wheel-drive system are all box-fresh too. Even WRC champ Tommi Making has had a hand in the car’s development.

The roofline is far more heavily raked than the standard Yaris, while the engine has been placed further back in the car for better weight distribution. And speaking of weight, the GR tips the scales at just 1,280kg – considerably lighter than rivals.

What’s under the bonnet?

Powering the Yaris GR is a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 257bhp and 360Nm of torque. Driven through a six-speed manual gearbox to all four wheels, it’s good to power the Yaris from 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 143mph. Fuel economy sits at 34.3, while CO2 emissions stand at 186g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

The whole car feels impressively ‘alive’, with a ride which is perfectly suited to the UK’s roads. It’s firm, make no mistake about it, but it manages to take the edge off bumps and imperfections in the surface impeccably well. Driven at a decent speed, this car monsters undulating roads. The traction governed by the all-wheel-drive system is immense too, as the limited-slip differentials combine to practically drag the car kicking and screaming through the bends.

The steering is well-weighted and direct, while the gearbox is one of the standout parts of the whole show. It’s pleasingly mechanical and a refreshing change from other overly-light ‘boxes you’ll find in rival offerings.

How does it look?

The GR Yaris really does look like a compact rally car which has just happened to find itself on a stretch of UK road. It’s super-wide, though its compact length gives it a punchy, aggressive appearance.

The roof has been heavily raked too, while the three-door layout (as opposed to the standard Yaris’ five) really does help to give a more coupe-like look. It’s a design which will find favour with many, we’re sure.

The front grille is completely different and with a big exhaust and lots of performance-based touches, it looks little like the standard Yaris.

What’s it like inside?

The interior of the GR Yaris might not rival more premium offerings when it comes to outwardly high-end materials, but it does the best to deliver a driver-focused experience which feels both well-made and ergonomically sound.

The large bucket seats have a good amount of support while there’s plenty of adjustment for the wheel, too. The gearstick is perfectly placed for neat changes, while the pedal spacing is bang-on too.

When it comes to outright practicality, however, the GR Yaris isn’t the best. That heavily raked roofline has resulted in a marked decrease in the amount of headroom. Average-sized adults will find it difficult to sit in the back – it’s far better suited for use by kids. There’s also just 174 litres of space in the boot on offer, too.

What’s the spec like?

Prices for the GR Yaris start from £29,995 and it gets all-wheel-drive, sports suspension, 18-inch alloys and ultrasuede seats. The Circuit Pack models costs £33,495 and adds front and rear limited-slip differentials, red brake calipers and 18-inch BBS forged wheels shod in ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Toyota predicts that most GR Yaris models will be fitted with this package.

What do the press think?

Autocar said: ‘It’s not cheap… A fully loaded one might cost you 50 per cent more than you expect to pay for a hot supermini. But the GR Yaris so plainly isn’t just another go-faster shopping car. Whatever the badge on its rump may suggest, it’s actually the kind of extra-special, rare-groove performance machine that comes along very rarely indeed.’

What do we think?

Toyota could have quite easily just transplanted a larger engine into its Yaris, stiffened the standard suspension and fitted some go-faster stripes to create the GR. However, the mechanical and development lengths it has gone to in order to ensure that it’s the real deal should be applauded.

For someone who wants a piece of motorsport-grade performance for the road, the GR Yaris is hard to beat.

The knowledge

Model: Toyota Yaris GR
Price: £29,999
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol
Power: 257bhp
Torque: 360Nm
Max speed: 143mph
0-60mph: 5.5 seconds
MPG: 34.3
Emissions: 186g/km CO2


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