4.3 out of 5 4.3
Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

Fast, exciting and very different to a standard Yaris

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris (20 on) - rated 4.3 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £30,020 - £33,520
Lease from new From £391 p/m View lease deals
Used price £26,340 - £37,070
Used monthly cost From £657 per month
Fuel Economy 34.3 mpg
Road tax cost £155
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
  • Feels special

CONS

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

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris rivals

Written by Lawrence Cheung on

Is the Toyota GR Yaris any good?

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, 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 much space is there?

Since the GR Yaris is strictly a three-door model - the regular version is strictly a five-door - you'd expect rear seat space to have taken a hit. Access to those rear seats are limited, and while it's managed to retain a good amount of legroom for adults with plenty of feet space under those high-set front seats, the lack of headroom is the most limiting factor. Thanks to that sloping roof, you'll struggle to fit anyone taller than 5ft 8inches, so this is best reserved for children and smaller teenagers.

Boot space and storage

Boot space has also taken a hit compared with the regular Yaris, and that's even with Toyota generously quoting up to the roof, at 207 litres. The typical figure measuring up to the window line, with all seats up, is 174 litres and you won't find much space underneath the floor either, as that's where the battery sits.

With the dash being the same structure as the regular Yaris, storage space up front is almost identical with just the absence of a front centre cubby box that doubles as an armrest.

Read more about the regular Toyota Yaris' practicality

Is it easy to park?

Thanks to its small footprint, the GR Yaris remains easy to manoeuvre. The turning circle hasn't been compromised by much and despite the smaller rear windows, visibility isn't a big issue. The large door mirrors help, but taller drivers may find the positioning of the rear view mirror a little awkward – it’s so close in proximity it’s almost obstructing your left eye's peripheral vision, hiding cars and pedestrians enough that you find yourself peering around it.

The absence of a rear windscreen wiper might prove a little tricky in heavier rain, while the flimsy parcel shelf can be an annoyance when it gets stuck in windy conditions and ends up blocking your rear view out.

What’s it like to drive?

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 addictive and slightly raw (it sounds like a diesel minicab on startup), yet it’s all the better for it.

Some may be disappointed that it doesn't produce the most sonorous sound – the Active Noise Control (where engine noise is piped in through the speakers) is a little OTT and there is absolutely no exhaust note coming out of those twin pipes – but the feeling it engenders in the drive makes you want to work it hard through the gears.

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 through that narrow gate 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), but that does require quite a lot of space. 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.

Is it comfortable?

The GR Yaris does compromise on everyday comfort in certain areas, but it's not a big enough deterrent for daily use - even less so if you only intend to drive one occasionally.

We'll start with the positives. The front seats are grippy and provide plenty of support thanks to generous bolstering. Keen drivers will likely find themselves perched a little high, but thankfully the seating position is comfortable with the pedals, gearshift and steering all having 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.

The ride quality, although firm around town, is never as busy as a Ford Fiesta ST's. The long-travel suspension allows the GR Yaris to flow and breathe over bumps, especially as speeds increase. Combine all this with standard-fit adaptive cruise control and the GR Yaris is quite well-equipped to tackle a long-distance journey.

What you may find a constant companion is road noise. Even at 30mph you'll notice a high level of resonance in the cabin compared with most hatchbacks on sale. Combine this with the occasional clunks from the transmission and vibrations sent into the cabin and the GR Yaris feels a little old-school.

The six-speaker stereo struggles to drown it all out on the motorway (the eight speakers on the Convenience Pack may fare a little better, or even consider upgrading to aftermarket ones), but in a car that feels this special, the compromises don't seem to matter as much.

What models and trims are available?

There are three versions of the GR Yaris to choose from: standard, Convenience Pack and Circuit Pack. Engine performance remains the same on all three, with the Convenience Pack coming with kit to make everyday life easier - such as a head-up display, sat-nav, eight-speaker JBL sound system, all round parking sensors and blindspot monitor.

The Circuit pack focusses on handling performance, offering tuned suspension, Torsen limited-slip differentials on both the front and rear axles, lighter BBS wheels wrapped in stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres (standard tyres are Dunlop SP Sport), and red brake calipers.

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.

How much does it cost to run?

As you’d expect, the GR Yaris hot hatch will cost more to run than regular models. For starters, claimed fuel economy comes in at 34.3mpg on the combined cycle – significantly less than any other version. We saw an indicated 30.7mpg during our time of testing, and despite the larger 50-litre tank compared with a regular Yaris, the range seems to drop quite quickly when you make use of the performance.

The insurance rating will also be considerably higher, with CO2 emissions of 186g/km, plus you'll have to factor in replacing those performance tyres. It’s worth noting however, that the five-year, 100,000-mile warranty still applies.

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

Toyota Yaris GR Yaris rivals

Other Toyota Yaris models: