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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Manic performance from this red hot baby Toyota

Toyota GR Yaris drive by Steve Rogers

It looks like a baby Toyota Yaris and has a Yaris badge on the tailgate but this pint sized scorcher has little in common with its big brother.

This is the GR Yaris, Toyota's WRC rally car minus a roll cage and tiptronic gearbox, but decked out in everything needed for comfortable everyday motoring.... and the performance is manic.

If I didn't have to write about this car I would be lost for words, it is the hooligan of all hooligans and without doubt the most exciting car I have driven in 40 years as a motoring writer.

So how can I get so excited about a Yaris? There are a few things to clear up. The GR shares only six components with the normal Yaris, the rest is pure rally car. And the great Finnish rally ace Tommi Makinen helped develop the car which has a bespoke platform, bodyshell and engine.

The build team's target was for the best possible downforce, aerodynamic performance and stability and they have smashed it. The bodyshell is a mix of aluminium and carbon fibre so the car is super light at 1260kg. The carbon polymer roof is so strong an adult can jump on it and has a severe slope to accommodate the wing for the rally car.

The engine is a turbo charged 1.6 litre with 257bhp and is the world's smallest, lightest and most powerful three-cylinder. To complete the performance story GR is four wheel drive.

There we have it then but what is it like to drive and be driven in. Ask my wife and she will say it is far too uncomfortable. Well it is a rally car dear so the suspension is bound to be stiff but she did concede it was 'very very fast'.

That said my view is that GR's staggering performance is pushed into second place by the sensational grip. There are plenty of cars that can beat the GR to 60mph but I doubt there are many that can hold the road as well.

The best analogy driving GR is that it's like being behind the wheel of a race car in a computer game. Mere mortals would have to be incredibly reckless to lose control of the GR because it will go round bends faster than we have the nerve to take them. Whatever your limit, and I am talking about good fast drivers, add 30 per cent for a GR in professional hands.

Coming back to reality the cabin of GR is standard Yaris apart from special rally seats, a raised gearstick for faster changes, and drilled aluminium pedals. It has a full suite of safety features and all the usual bells and whistles found on a top of the range model.

Because the FIA, the governing body for world motorsport, decreed that a homologation of the GR rally car had to be road worthy and fit for competition Toyota built 25,000 of which 2,200 came to the UK. The bad news is that they have all been sold and the lords and masters in Japan have not decided whether any more will be built.

One thing is for sure, the GR is going to be an expensive commodity on the second hand market.

I have driven some super fast cars in the last four decades but nothing compares with the GR Yaris.

Remember this car because it will go down as the hottest hot hatch of all time.

Fast facts

GR Yaris GR-Four


1.6 turbo, 257bhp, 6sp manual

0-62mph 5.5secs; 143mph

34.3mpg combined

186g/km; 1st VED £870

Insurance group 35

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