Finalist Toyota

Performance car of the year 2022 Finalist: Gazoo Racing Toyota Yaris GR

Every now and again, a car comes along to totally reset the performance rulebook. This time the smallest car in this gig happens to be the one that does that best of all. Akido Toyoda san’s pet project has thrust his Gazoo Racing badge straight onto the supercar mainstream. Yes, it may be little, but it’s completely bezerk. Meet the quite mad Toyota GR Yaris!


A Toyota like you’ve never seen before, 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.

But wait. It beat those claims by a second in our tests! Figure out its launch control intricacies. Get that clutch release to perfectly match the throttle point it needs. And it rockets to 100 in a quite incredible 4.57 seconds! Never mind it dispatched the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at a mesmerising 172 km/h. This is a Toyota Yaris, for goodness sake! But a very special Yaris.


Fantastic to look at, wide arches and an aggressive front end give it mega road presence. The cabin is… well… still a Yaris with a few fancy bits bolted in. Nothing fancy in there. Or blasé. Just what you really need. It’s practical too, with more than expected passenger space. And a sufficient boot. Perhaps the biggest surprise, GR Yaris is actually a great all round motorcar. And a surprisingly good daily driver too. Ride quality is plush and the cabin quiet.

On the road, there’s virtually no turbo lag – it spools up quickly, even at low revs. And then bolts to the redline. So there’s more than enough grunt down low to overtake and merge, even in 6th. But drop the clutch in anger and the throaty little 1.6-litre turbo triple barks to life. Push it hard and GR Yaris is a gem. Its short wheelbase and wide track make it incredibly agile. If you drive it right, its dimensions help you rotate the car perfectly on the apex. Something we spend seasons chasing to get right in real race cars!

Suspension and diff settings are near perfect. Makes it incredibly well 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 at a 30:70 rearward bias, and affecting a small adjustment to your driving style, it’s possible to turn it with the rear. That’s where GR Yaris really shines for the driver. Get on it far earlier than you’d normally dare thanks to that exceptional lateral grip, and literally claws into the track. It will even light up all four tyres to exit in a fantastic 4 wheel drift.


Brakes are also great, fade free. Most controls fall right into your hand, when you need them. There are a few cons. We wish it sounded a bit better. And fuel economy. Well, like the price, does that really matter in this company? It’s already collectable anyway. There are a few aesthetics issues – we hate touch screens! Who cares… Because the Toyota GR Yaris is a one of kind car. It’s reinvented the hot hatch for once and for all. This really is a once in a lifetime performance car.

Toyota GR Yaris 1.6T GR-Four Rally
Engine: 198 kW 360 Nm 1.6-litre turbo petrol I3
Drive: 6-speed manual AWD
0-100 km/h:       4.57 sec
0-160 km/h:       10.82sec
400m:             12.7 sec @ 172 km/h
80-120 km/h:      3.15 sec
120-160 km/h:     4.65sec
VMax:             230 km/h
Fuel:             7.6 l/100 km
CO2:              172 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K./9 service 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R726K
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