4 out of 5 4.0
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Fast, exciting and very different to a standard Yaris

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris (20 on) - rated 4 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £29,995 - £33,495
Lease from new From £432 p/m View lease deals
Used price £22,205 - £26,620
Used monthly cost From £554 per month
Fuel Economy 34.3 mpg
Road tax cost £150
Insurance group 35 - 36 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Fabulous acceleration and performance
  • Four-wheel drive handling is safe and exciting
  • Compact and confidence inspiring

CONS

  • Sounds less than exciting
  • High seating position isn't sporty
  • Too extreme for daily driving?

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris rivals

Written by James Dennison on

Despite sharing a name with the five-door Toyota Yaris hatchback, the GR (Gazoo Racing) performance model should be viewed as a separate car entirely. Built on a unique platform and sharing just four exterior body parts, the GR Yaris was built to satisfy WRC (World Rally Championship) regulations stipulating that any competition car must share a certain number of components with its road-going counterpart.

The end result is something really rather special. Developing 261hp and 360Nm of torque, it sends power to the road via a six-speed manual gearbox and Toyota’s own GR-Four all-wheel drive system.

That means 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and a limited top speed of 143mph – heady numbers for a car that’s similar in size (it’s three-door only) to a Ford Fiesta ST. In fact, it’s closer on performance (and thrills) to larger and more powerful hot hatches such as the Renault Megane RS, Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type R.

How fast is it?

The engine in the GR Yaris is a 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 261hp and 360Nm of torque. Like the rest of the car, it was specifically designed to be competitive in the WRC and thus features a level of pedigree seldom found in small hot hatches.

The 0-62mph time is just 5.5 seconds, while top speed is limited to 143mph, yet the figures only tell part of the story. This is a wonderfully flexible engine, with maximum pulling power available between 3,000-4,600rpm delivering a brawny, urgent feel that leaves you questioning how much slower it is than a 320hp Honda Civic Type R. Not much, is the answer.

And yet, there’s still enough to make you want to rev the engine hard and go beyond the 6,500rpm peak power point. It’s not the most sonorous – and the Active Noise Control (where engine noise is piped in through the speakers) is a little OTT – but the feeling it engenders in the drive makes you want to work it hard through the gears. It’s addictive and slightly raw (it sounds like a diesel minicab on startup), yet it’s all the better for it.

The six-speed manual gearbox, meanwhile, feels like an evolution of what you got on the Toyota GT86 sports car. There’s still the same level of tactility and involvement, yet the gearstick movement is slicker and more precise – even if the overall throw could be shorter.

What's its handling like?

Needless to say, the GR Yaris doesn’t handle like a regular Yaris. Power is distributed by Toyota’s own GR-Four all-wheel drive system and as a result the level of traction on offer is prodigious. Even on wet, leafy country roads the GR Yaris sticks to the tarmac like few other cars on sale today. Three different drive modes means you can choose what ratio of the car’s drive is sent to the front and rear axle, with Normal delivering a 60:40 (front/rear) split, Sport 30:70 and Track 50:50.

Unlike the front-wheel drive Ford Fiesta ST and Honda Civic Type R, it’s harder to adjust the car’s line mid-corner with a lift off the throttle, yet you do get the benefit (especially in the Sport drive mode), of being able to drift it (where the rear of the car breaks traction and steps out of line). Yet, because of the all-wheel drive safety net, such antics are very easy to control and enjoy.

What’s especially appealing about the way the GR Yaris drives, however, is its diminutive size out on the road. Many modern high-performance cars are difficult to thread down narrow country lanes at any real speed, yet the GR Yaris solves this with a short wheelbase and width. It’s also super-stiff and responsive, so – although the ride is undoubtedly firm – it makes up for this with electric agility and responses.

Keen drivers will likely find the GR Yaris’ seating position a little high, yet the pedals, gearshift and steering all have a good feel and weight to them. What’s more, for those who aren’t yet comfortable with heel-and-toe gearchanges, the GR Yaris has a rev-matching system that can blip the engine for you on down changes.

A quick word on the Circuit Pack, that adds Torsen limited-slip differentials on both the front and rear axles, red brake callipers, tuned suspension and 18-inch forged alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres (standard tyres are Dunlop SP Sport). We’ve only driven cars with this fitted, so can’t comment on the standard setup. However, given how sure-footed the GR Yaris feels with the Circuit Pack, we’d be keen to experience how it behaves without – especially as it represents a £3k+ saving.

What's it going to cost to run?

As you’d expect, the GR Yaris hot hatch will cost more to run than regular models. For starters, fuel economy comes in at 34mpg on the combined cycle – significantly less than any other version. The insurance rating will also be considerably higher, as is the CO2 emissions output art 186g/km. It’s worth noting however, that the five-year, 100,000-mile warranty still applies.

Read on to see whether we think the the Toyota GR Yaris is worth buying.

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris rivals

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