Not your usual shopping trolley.
Should you consider the everyday Yaris somewhat tepid, yet find the shape appealing, Toyota can offer you an alternative. And should you choose to shell out the old fashioned way of (well over) twenty thousand pounds for, let’s be honest, a city based shopping car; for a wedge more folding, one could be firmly ensconced in this pocket rocket that will flash past the shops. Unlock your inner rally driver, Gazoo Racing style.
Toyota’s coffers are large enough to not only allow their extensive range, but also to indulge the whims of boss, Akio Toyoda. Himself a competent helmsman, Akio has been known to remove racing attire, don his suit and enter the boardroom to woo over those habitually concerned accountants.
The history of Toyota and Lexus is littered with their propensity to spend immense amounts of money on projects; Yaris GR contains no input from other manufacturers, causing those red biro hero’s to wince at the surmounting invoice pile. Now consider Yaris GR contains a blended chassis; sections of the TNGA-B and -C series (a la Corolla) along with far from cheap performance enhancing upgrades whilst circulating around the £30,000 range. Enough to make not only the bean counters but the quotidian Yaris and rivals cover their faces against the flying gravel. They appear not to be able to build ‘em fast enough.
Suezawa’s definition of the athlete in the starting blocks was lauded upon the wrong version – the GR releases the altogether different kind of athlete – the inner Evans, Ogier and Rovanpera onto the paying public, becoming quite the media darling in the process.
Casting out the hybrid, the space now filled under the unassuming bonnet is a three cylinder 1618cc petrol engine (topped by a red flash of plastic) with a single scroll turbo. Developing a faintly ludicrous 257bhp alongside 360 Newton metres, the car maxes out at 142mph. The all important ease of acceleration, to both rally fraternity and enthusiastic supporters of the manual six speed gearbox cleaves an impressive five second zero to sixty. There’s some electrical assistance in the form of a button marked iMT, the auto-matching of revs for downshifts should your heel and toe methodology not be to Röhrl standards.
All that go must eventually slow; those brake discs measure 365mm, larger and heavier than fellow GR flyer, the Supra. Ventilated, spiral fins, four pot calipers (naturally painted red on Circuit Pack versions) surely causing salivation with those who worship such names as Sainz or Toivinen – or maybe not. For this is the modern face of rallying.
An attempt to to introduce those maybe unsure that Toyota dwells in the forest or gravel stage of the World Rally Championship but with less aerodynamic addenda. That Toyota have built this Special Stage infused bolide suggests not only the inherent demand but also the lucrative customer rallying and racing side of proceedings. Fellow rivals Ford generate a fortune converting a standard Fiesta into a rally weapon according to the relevant regulations.
Yaris GR comes with 4WD as standard. From the figure hugging seats, using the digits orders the gear train characteristics. Normal (push the button!) lends a 40:60 power spilt, bias to the front. Click Sport changes this to 70:30, rear bias. Track being the balance, 50:50. Suspension upfront derives from MacPherson’s strut with trailing double wishbones aft. The standard and Convenience Pack models contain an open differential. Enter an extra £3.5k into the game slot accesses the Circuit Pack, Torsen limited slip differential, torque vectoring power and braking distribution alongside instant bragging rights.
Toyota’s website mentions the car’s weight accordingly; 1,280 Kgs kerb, 1,305 max-kerb and 1,645 GVW with four passengers aboard and genuinely, bracketing the following word, (people.) Wriggle room is wholeheartedly different from the city car and for those blessed with excellent vision, this is the only three door Yaris available.
Driver and a single front passenger can exist as Elfyn Evans and co-driver Scott Martin would. The rear area suited better for detritus storage over human forms. The boot is small, enough perhaps for a bag containing a change of underwear. Dropping the standard 60:40 split fold rear seat opens up the 174 litre space to, again, quoting Toyota’s site, enough room to transport four spare 18” tyres.
The ability to afford such a car warrants that spare rubber be brought along for those typical track day adventures; turn up on your Michelin good-un’s, swop over to the (potentially) cheaper boots to hoon around on and when done, store the shredded rubber, baked-on dusty wheels in the back. Best remember to bring some petrol money too; the tank is but 50 litres. AutoCropley managed a test worst of 15.7mpg.
But upon replacing the intact rubber, you can depend on the car happily burbling home in motorway traffic or tearing up that favoured B-road because this is a Toyota, with that warranty. Talking of which, the oil, plugs and points need fettling every 6,000 miles. Surely a small price to pay for a stertorous sounding beast?
To the sound of the oil pan scraping the gravel we hasten to the mundane side of Yaris life – colours remain priced as the city version but for GR, lesser choice. Free, solid white or for £900, Precious Black, Scarlet Fire and white pearlescent – that’s it. The roof is carbon fibre reinforced plastic as are the bumpers, which a finger can easily press inward, never mind a bollard or hay bale. There’s no rear screen wiper and in foul weather the rearward view isn’t great, scantly helped by blacked out quarter windows. But when did any rally driver use their mirrors for anything but checking the cut of their jib?
Even with such technical wizardry tucked away, reviewers warmly mention the old school feel of the GR, as if the car stems from the time when Burns, Mäkinen or McRae took centre stage in Japanese saloons. Added modernity allows the GR to be used everyday. But should you want one instantly, prepare to stump up considerably more than list price. And be prepared for the value halving in four years.
The GR smashes any impressions of Toyota being a stick in the mud; hurling the stick and more besides back at you.
 With added input from former peddlers, Kris Meeke and Tommi Mäkinen, Gazoo Racing rally boss, Jari-Matti Latvala and 2019 champion, Ott Tänak.
 Parking sensors, sat-nav, etc.