Is the Toyota GR Yaris as good as everyone says?
It's not all that perfect...
Is there a hypest car at the moment? I think not. There has been unprecedented infatuation around this car, and it's not complicated to understand why. Toyota has built a car that makes no sense in today's world, and that is awesome. The Japanese have for once left the logic on the side and built a passion project. It's true, the GR Yaris is kind of unique in its segment. To put even more oil on the fire, every single journalist on planet earth who has tried this car has found it exceptional. Therefore, it's useless to say that my expectations were rather high.
What the hell happened to Toyota? First, they revive the Supra name. Then, they release a hot Yaris that isn't really a Yaris at all. Last but not least, we're expecting soon a GR Corolla to mess around with the Golf R, and a 999 PS hypercar that will be basically a road-going version of a Le Mans race car. Seriously, what is going on? How can such an established company that builds the Prius start messing around with niche sports cars? I don't know, but I really like it. Thanks to the involvement of GR (Gazoo Racing), the future looks bright for sporty Toyotas, so hopefully, we will see these future projects come to fruition.
Last year we had the chance to try the Toyota GR Supra 2.0. We found out that the sports car with its iconic name was fantastic to drive, but that it relied too heavily on BMW components. It's a completely different story with the GR Yaris. Initially designed as a homologation special to go Rallye racing, Toyota needed to sell 25'000 of their car to enter the competition. However, the Japanese actually never went racing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not all bad news as Toyota was still keen to produce their homologated car for the grand public.
The result is a Yaris, that has nothing to do with your regular Yaris. It may have kept the doors mirrors, the front, and backlights from the normal city car, but the rest is entirely new. Gone are the rear doors, the GR is exclusively available with three doors. Exactly as a hot hatch should be. The car is wider, and it's only once you're standing behind it looking at those hips that you realize just how much presence it actually has on the road. In terms of design, it all works. It's not a beautiful car but, unlike a Civic Type R, it is fairly inconspicuous among the non-car people. I think it's a good thing. Other elements such as the front bumper's air intakes, sloping carbon fibre roof, and double exhaust pipes make you realize that you're not in front of just any other Yaris. Inside, I'll say that it's pretty minimalistic. You even get analog dials, how refreshing. It's not particularly cozy in there, and the only piece of tech that you get is the infotainment system that works pretty fast and that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For some reason, the cars equipped with the optional circuit pack do not get navigation. Not sure why, but it's kind of funny. Also, I find the infotainment screen to be installed a bit too high up to my liking. It kind of prevents visibility in corners, especially since it's positioned right under the rear-view mirror. Another odd element is the seats. They might be quite comfy and supportive, but the driving position is slightly off. You're sitting too high and the passenger seat cannot even be adjusted vertically. Apart from that, I really liked the interior as it was simple, straightforward, and easy to use.
The cherry on the cake comes when you start talking about the GR's specs. They are not only good, they are phenomenal. Equipped with the lightest and most powerful three-cylinder in the world, the little hot Yaris makes a whopping 261 PS for only 1'280 kg! In a Yaris?! It is paired to a bespoke all-wheel-drive system (it's a rallye car after all) and a six-speed manual gearbox. Have we reached heaven? I won't deny it, the GR Yaris is extremely fast and fun to drive. Capable of going from 0 to 100 km/h in only 5.5 seconds, it will also hit a top speed of 227 km/h. It simply destroys any car in its category. Our particular car was equipped with the optional Circuit pack which comes with 18'' BBS wheels, front and rear Torsen limited-slip differential, tuned suspension, and red brake calipers. These extras will cost CHF 4'500.- more (£ 3'500).
The GR Yaris may be quite a radical and focused hot hatch, but you can still drive it every day of the week. It's a Toyota Yaris after all, so expect a reliable daily that will last long. Even though on paper it seems the car is a perfect little all-rounder, it actually took me quite some time to get used to driving smoothly because of the clutch. It's not too much of a problem when the engine revs high, but I actually stalled quite often in the beginning. I'm just maybe a bad driver, who knows.
All in all, I found the GR Yaris to be a very refreshing hot hatch that does it like no other car of its segment. Yes, it's a great sports car, but I expected something more "radical", like the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R maybe. Something you could not possibly drive every day, and that felt like a true rallye car for the road. I was far from disappointed, the GR Yaris is a very well-executed car that wants to bring extra spice to your daily life, and it did its job perfectly. Now, if like me you're waiting for the extra spicy stuff to come out, the name is GRMN and it promises to be an even more hardcore version of the GR Yaris. Toyota, are you sure everything is alright?
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Toyota Switzerland for allowing us to discover this very cool GR Yaris. Without them, this article would have never been possible. The team has been extremely nice and has been very helpful in the process of getting us a car for a week. We cannot wait to collaborate more with them in the near future.
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