This car is actually rather significant, the first true performance model developed entirely in-house by Toyota in more than 20 years. We've had quick models from the brand in that time, but only with outside assistance; the GT86 (developed with Subaru) and the GR Supra (co-created with BMW). The GR Yaris in contrast, is entirely the work of Toyota's Gazoo Racing performance division, hence the 'GR' moniker.
There was a wild version of the last Yaris too, the Yaris GRMN, but this car is quite a bit more powerful, now has 4WD and will be made in much greater numbers. Its purpose is to aid homologation the next generation Yaris World Rally Car, at the same time as boosting the image of the freshly launched fourth-generation Yaris supermini. Chief engineer Naohiko Saito couldn't believe his luck when Toyota asked him and his team to create a Yaris like no other. He's done exactly that.
This, the second Toyota GR Motorsport-influenced product, is quite differently orientated to the first. Whereas the GR Supra is a sports car developed through track racing, the GR Yaris is a model engineered through participation in rallying. A car very much in the mould performance classics of the past like Subaru's Impreza WRX and the Mitsubishi Evo. Those cars used 2.0-litre engines but units of that size wouldn't fit in the Yaris - and anyway would be too heavy. Even the 1.6-litre powerplant that is used here has just three cylinders - but it packs quite a turbo punch; 257bhp, 360Nm and 62mph from rest in just 5.5s. The old Yaris GRMN, for reference, put out 209bhp.
This GR Yaris's powertrain is mated to a 6-speed 'IMT' 'Intelligent Manual Transmission' stick shift gearbox with permanent four-wheel drive provided by the brand's latest GR-Four system. This features a multi-plate clutch delivering power to all four wheels via three pre-set torque distribution levels; 'Normal' has a 60:40-split front-to-rear; 'Sport' pushes nearly all the power to the back 30:70; and 'Track' has an equal 50:50-split. There are big brakes too - 356mm grooved front brake discs featuring 4-pot calipers. And a set of sticky tyres too - either Dunlop Sport Maxx or Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Plus the regular Yaris model's basic torsion beam rear suspension is replaced by a more sophisticated double wishbone set-up.
Design and Build
Engineer Naohiko Saito was put under pressure here to retain the regular Yaris model's 5-door body shell, but he wasn't having it, holding out for the stiffer, bespoke 3-door body that no other Yaris model in the range can have. Rally homologation rules required this body shell to closely follow that of the ordinary production Yaris but within that brief, the design team were still able to make a few other changes. The roofline for example, could be substantially lower and the rear could feature a much wider track, with beefier rear wheel arches.
Weight saving was a massive consideration, which is why some of the body parts (intentionally) flex to the touch. The panels make extensive use of carbon fibre and aluminium, which is why the car weighs in at only 1,280kg. Underneath it all, the platform this car sits on shares only the front end from the ordinary Yaris model's GA-B chassis; the rear end uses the bigger GA-C underpinnings from the larger Corolla hatch.
Market and Model
Would you pay £30,000 or more for a Toyota Yaris? Apparently, quite a lot of people would because Toyota reports great interest in its UK GR Yaris allocation. Three versions are available: the standard GR Yaris, priced at around £30,000; the GR Yaris Convenience Pack, at around £32,200; and the GR Yaris Circuit Pack, at around £33,500.
The standard variant comes with 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres plus dual-exit exhaust pipes, a leather steering wheel, keyless entry and active noise control. The more track-orientated 'Circuit Pack' variant adds a pair of limited slip differentials, red brake calipers, tuned suspension and stickier Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. Both variants come with white paint standard, but customers can choose red, black or silver finishes as an option.
Obviously, there are lots of supermini hot hatch rivals that cost substantially less - the Ford Fiesta ST and the MINI Cooper S come to mind. But none of them will feel as special or as race-ready as this wild Yaris. It'll sell to the kind of person who might otherwise have chosen something like Honda Civic Type R.
Cost of Ownership
If you're buying this car, you won't give two hoots about fuel economy and CO2 emissions. For reference though, you'll probably be averaging about 25-30mpg in regular use - provided you don't continually floor the thing. And if you resist the temptation to do that on a regular basis, then you probably shouldn't have bought this car in the first place. The car is covered by the usual comprehensive five year/100,000 mile Toyota warranty. the CO2 figure is rated at 186g/km.