Winner Toyota

We Put Toyota’s Incredible Gazoo Racing Yaris to the Test

The past weekend’s maiden Gazoo Racing Media Challenge race at Killarney’s 2022 Extreme Festival season opener is a case in point. The car in these pictures is one of six Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris test units that was simply fitted with a roll cage and seat, the required safety kit and the rest to make it race legal.

Yes, they fitted a set of Dunlop semi slicks to each of the cars and stickered it up, but for the rest, there’s no difference to when we tested this white one a couple of months back. My point? Well, these bog stock super hatches lapped quicker than our quickest of the made-to-race Polo Cups over the weekend. Just a tenth or so quicker, but still.


That speaks volumes of this car. See, GR Yaris has completely rewritten the performance car rulebook. Never has such a small car delivered such an incredible level of performance as the Gazoo Yaris does. A Toyota – no make that a car – like never before, this WRC bred and now race proven flier is the ultimate hot hatch. Ever.

Small, light and individually master assembled, its 198 kW 360 Nm blueprinted and statically and dynamically balanced all-aluminium 1.6-litre turbocharged, DOHC 12-valve 3-pot is a technological gem. It has a supreme 154 kW per tonne power to weight ratio split in ideal 59:41 distribution. Turning an intelligent quick-shifting 6-speed manual ‘box the über-Yaris drives all four wheels through Gazoo Racing all-wheel drive. You know, the WRC Gazoo Racing?

GR Yaris also has lightweight rigid strut front and double wishbone rear suspension with aggressive track geometry and race spec brakes. Figure out its launch control, clutch release and the ideal throttle point and it rockets to 100 km/h in a quite incredible 4.57 seconds! The quarter mile follows in 12.7 seconds at a mesmerising 172 km/h. This is a Toyota Yaris, for goodness sake! Yes. But it’s a very special Yaris. And now it is Auto’s Performance car of the year 2022, too!


Crafted in the wind tunnel with full World Rally Champion cred, GR Yaris has mega road presence. There’s nothing fancy in the cockpit. Only what you really need. It’s practical though, with more than the expected passenger space. And a sufficient boot too. GR Yaris is actually a great all round motorcar. And a surprisingly good daily driver. Ride quality is plush and the cabin’s quiet.

On the road, there’s virtually no turbo lag. It spools up quickly, even at low revs. And then bolts to the redline. With more than enough grunt down low to overtake and merge, even in 6th. But drop the clutch in anger, push it like mad and GR Yaris becomes an absolute gem. Incredibly agile thanks to its short wheelbase and wide track, the car rotates perfectly on its apex. Something we spend seasons chasing to get right in real racecars! Brakes are also great. And fade free.

Incredibly well balanced, GR Yaris only understeers when you get really close to the limit. Select track mode with a 50:50 front rear split and the diff in sport in a 30:70 rearward bias, and GR Yaris really shines. Get on it far earlier than you’d normally dare and it literally claws into the tarmac. There’s exceptional lateral grip, enough to light up all four tyres to exit in a fantastic tyre shredding four-wheel drift. Fangio style!


We only wish it made a better noise. Like this one now makes in race spec. Seems they freed the flow up a bit. It sounds incredible on start-up, creamy on track. And that’s easy to remedy on a street version. And it’s a bit of a drunkard on fuel. But like the price, does that really matter? It’s already collectable anyway. And we hate touch screens! But who cares…

Because the Toyota GR Yaris is a one of a kind car. It has reinvented the hot hatch for once and for all. It’s a once in a lifetime gem that also most deservedly snatched our hallowed Performance car of the year award off a most adept bunch of proven rivals earlier in the year. Yes, it really is that good! – Michele Lupini

Images & Testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota GR Yaris 1.6T GR-Four Rally
Engine: 198 kW 360 Nm 1.6-litre turbo petrol I3
Drive: 6-speed manual AWD
0-60 km/h:        2.21 sec
0-100 km/h:       4.57 sec
0-120 km/h:       6.17 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:       R733K
RATED:            9
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