GR Yaris

You’d be impressed how easy Gazoo’s ultimate hatchback GR Yaris is to live with

We warned you long in advance about this. We told you that the car designed to thrill by Toyoda san himself was coming to reset the record books the Toyota Gazoo Racing way. Well, here it is and man, what a way to officially celebrate my first ever car launch! Meet the quite mad Toyota GR Yaris!



There’s no reason to go over all if it again — you can find the full story right here, but in quick summary, meet a Toyota like you’ve never seen before. The first turbocharged AWD Toyota ever in SA, this WRC bred Gazoo Toyota GR Yaris is the ultimate hot hatch. Ever.

Small, light and individually master assembled, its 198 kW 360 Nm 1.6-litre water spray chilled air-to-air intercooled ceramic ball bearing turbocharged, blueprinted and statically and dynamically balanced all-aluminium DOHC 12-valve 3-pot has a supreme 3.2kg/kW power to weight ratio. Add an intelligent quick-shifting 6-speed manual ‘box driving all four wheels through GR Sport’s 4WD 2.

Lightweight and rigid strut front and double wishbone rear suspension has pillow ball joints, performance springs and dampers with aggressive track and stage geometry. 356 mm grooved performance front disc brakes get four-pot callipers. Lightweight GR Yaris was crafted in the wind tunnel for optimal low centre of gravity and ideal 59:41 weight distribution. Its 0,154 kW per kg power-to-weight ratio rockets this little critter to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds and on to a limited 230 km/h top end.

GR Yaris


So, what’s the GR Yaris actually like to drive? Well, first and foremost, the biggest surprise is that it is actually a great all round motorcar. Designed from the bottom up to be enjoyable to drive, you can feel it the moment you drop the clutch. Never mind it’s fantastic to look at with those wide arches and aggressive front end, which give it mega road presence. And its surprisingly good as a daily driver as well.

Suspension is incredibly efficient on both track and gravel, which actually gives it fantastic ride quality on the road. Coupled with a comfortable, neat interior and a surprisingly quiet cabin it’s so easy to drive and could most happily be used everyday. And then the engine. The throaty little 1.6-litre turbo triple is the most efficient engine in the world from a power perspective in its category.

Special bits like that ball bearing turbo mean that turbo lag is nowhere near as bad as I’d expected. GR Yaris boosts up very quickly, even at low revs and then winds up in a linear fashion as you approach redline. That makes it incredibly easy to drive on the road as there is more than enough grunt down low to overtake and merge even in 6th. And its a practical car — boot size is sufficient and rear passenger space is more than I ever expected.

GR Yaris


But the GR Yaris is designed for one place and that’s the racetrack. Our time on the road was simply to drive to the track, where we were lucky enough to get a lot of time behind the wheel. And man, is this thing brilliant on track. That’s where it really comes to life! Its short wheelbase, and wide track width make GR Yaris incredibly agile. If you drive it right, its dimensions help you to get the car to rotate perfectly on the apex — that’s something we spend seasons chasing to get right in real racecars!

Then its suspension and diff settings are near perfect too. Makes it incredibly balanced, so it only starts to understeer when you really get close to the limit. Especially in track mode with a 50:50 front rear split. However, with the diff in sport mode (a 30:70 rearward bias) and a small adjustment to your driving style, it’s possible to guide the car with the rear and that’s where it really shines from a pleasurable driving point of view.

With a smooth yet persuasive turn in and a punch of power in the right rpm range, GR Yaris will light up all four tyres and exit the corner in a fantastic 4 wheel powerslide. However, instead of scrubbing speed and getting too sideways, the car rather propels itself out of the corner with exceptional lateral grip, literally clawing into the track to allow you to get on the power far earlier than you could imagine.

GR Yaris


Brakes are also great. Not too grabby on the road. But also not too supple for the track. And they didn’t show a hint of fade the entire day, especially in the rally package cars. That despite the likes of Giniel de Villiers, Michael van Royen and all the other members of the launch thrashing them all day long. Its comfortable to drive too — pedal positioning is exactly where you want it, while the gearknob and handbrake fall right into your hand, when you need them.

Yes. There are a few cons. But they’re so heavily outweighed by the pros that they don’t really matter! I wish it sounded a bit better for instance. And fuel economy on road was not impressive. Yet surprisingly, it never climbed that high on track. We averaged a poor 9 litres per 100km on the road between destinations. But amazingly it only peaked at less than 14 per hundred through the on track modules where we really thrashed it flat out.

Then the old bugbear — audio volume is adjusted via touch screen buttons which are difficult to use while driving. A dial would’ve been better, but it’s adjustable through the multifunction steering wheel as well, so not really an issue. The GR Yaris is also pricey, but it’s in such limited supply in SA that it will definitely become a collectors item and I expect it to appreciate in value in the future. But in all honesty, once you’ve driven this car, its premium price becomes more and more viable. It’s just that good!

GR Yaris


Toyota’s Gazoo Racing Yaris comes to South Africa in two derivatives — the more street-oriented car and the no compromise Circuit Packed GR Yaris Rally. That adds front and rear axle Torsen limited-slip differentials, performance-tuned suspension and tweaked power steering assistance. Rally’s 18-inch BBS forged alloys get Michelin Pilot Sport 4s trackday tyres and there are extra bolstered leather-Alcantara sports seats up front, a heads-up display and enhanced Toyota Safety Sense.

So there you have it. My first car launch done. And a dreamy one at that! The Toyota GR Yaris is a one of kind car. It has reinvented the hot hatch for once and for all. So, at just R606K for the GR Yaris and R715K for the Rally version — basically GTI money for far better exclusivity — and with a very limited number of cars headed our way, you’s better get down to your local Toyota dealership right now. This is a once in a lifetime car… — Giordano Lupini

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