What do you get when you build a powerful, lightweight, all wheel drive rally car designed to take on all comers in world rallying and then sell it to the public? Magic… magic happens!
The 260hp/360nm GR Yaris is an astonishing car. The Gazoo Racing Yaris weighs as much as my left leg and features the most powerful 1.6 litre petrol engine you can buy. GR is the abbreviation of Gazoo Racing and it is to Toyota what ‘M’ is to BMW or ‘AMG’ is to Mercedes-Benz. The new 5-door Yaris is a great car and the current European Car of the Year but apart from the name the three-door GR Yaris shares next to no common parts. The GR Yaris was built to meet WRC regulations that required a limited number of cars to go on sale to the public in order to qualify to race and most likely win international rallies. Sadly since the GR’s conception and delivery the rules of WRC have changed. Now to enter the intended class cars must be hybrids and the GR isn’t! The irony is not lost as Toyota more than any other brand is synonymous with hybrid technology.
The 1280kg GR Yaris is squat and wide. The arches are flared and the rear track is especially broad as underneath is a modified rear axle form a Corolla. The entire suspension geometry and layout is very impressive and the GR’s handling and dynamic ability is testament to this work. The lightweight aluminium bonnet, doors and tailgate are complimented by the GR’s roof that is made from ultra-lightweight CFRP (carbon fibre re-inforced plastic). The GR Yaris is incredibly lean and trim – there isn’t even a rear wiper as that would add weight!
Inside the cabin is well equipped e.g. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, dual zone climate control and 8-inch touch screen are standard. Our test car even had a HUD head up display and JBL sound system as part of its ‘Luxury Pack’ option. Sadly the dash features a lot of hard plastics and this is a little depressing in day to day use but on the upside the plastic is lightweight. The seats are sporty but not overly hip-hugging and you can rack up a lot of kilometres without any hip ache.
The six-speed intelligent manual (iMT) gearbox feels wonderfully mechanical and its short-throw is very MX-5 like. The GR takes a bit of patience to drive smoothly in stop start traffic as it really just wants you to floor the accelerator and dump the clutch! Second and third are brilliant gears in the GR. Second will take you to just shy of 100km/h and ‘third’ is needed to record a 0-100 time of 5.2 seconds (max speed is 230km/h). A rotary dial in front of the gear shift lets you select drive modes. In default it is ‘normal’ mode with its front-wheel drive biased all wheel drive (AWD). A twist to the left selects a more rear-wheel biased AWD and ‘Sport’ mode is perhaps most fun on Irish roads. A twist of the dial to the right delivers ‘Track’ mode and this features four-wheel drive traction. A press on the centre of the button will return the drive mode to normal.
On the road the steering is precise and quite heavy but it is communicative. The ride is astonishingly good for a car designed for WRC. The GR has an impressive power to weight ratio of 4.9kg/hp. The GR Yaris can be positioned and driven with remarkable precision on any road you care to travel down. The car’s pint-size is joyous on back roads and as you sit relatively tall in the GR (my only gripe) you can really enjoy making enthusiastic progress thanks to the excellent forward vision. If you want the ultimate WRC experience you can select the optional ‘Circuit Pack’ for €6,800. The key ingredients are a front and rear LSD and GR circuit suspension.
The Motomachi, Japan built GR Yaris has a section of the car market all to itself. Its far superior to any supermini hot hatch out there. For example I can safely say the GR Yaris makes a Fiesta ST seem dull – and that is an astonishing statement! So how much is this awesome car? Pricing starts at €50,565 – our test car with the additional ‘Luxury’ pack weighed in at €54,345. The Toyota GR Yaris is a bundle of driving joy!