Ga­zoo Rac­ing Yaris

Toy­ota Yaris GRMN

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - Words by Stephen Do­bie


The best Toy­ota Yaris ever. And that’s not merely the faint praise that it first ap­pears… It also hap­pens to be a P1.9 mil­lion Toy­ota Yaris. A com­pletely sold-out P1.9 mil­lion Toy­ota Yaris, mak­ing any qualms you have about its price null and void. And it’s a car whose ethos needs cel­e­brat­ing. Toy­ota was among a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers seem­ingly drop­ping per­for­mance cars a decade ago, as an economy cri­sis (and in­creas­ingly strin­gent emis­sions rules) put lots of them off mak­ing fast stuff en­tirely.

The Yaris GRMN is a car that sim­ply wouldn’t have made sense back then, but an in­creas­ingly stri­dent hot hatch­back mar­ket seems the per­fect time for Toy­ota to launch a new per­for­mance on­slaught, via a sub­brand called Ga­zoo Rac­ing. It’s been preva­lent in Ja­pan for a while, but now it’s go­ing global.

While Toy­ota cites links to the Yaris that com­petes in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, it does seem an odd car to start things off when there’s the GT86 coupe cry­ing out for more power and a new Supra around the cor­ner. There have been mildly heated up Yarises in the past, but none hot enough to even slightly chip away at the car’s OAP-friendly im­age. Yet one small blip of the GRMN’s throt­tle im­me­di­ately takes a whole chunk out of it. Squeezed un­der the hood is a

1.8-liter su­per­charged en­gine very closely re­lated to ones used by Lo­tus in the Elise. Not re­sort­ing to a turbo makes the Yaris com­pletely unique among its ri­vals, though it’s more down to Toy­ota uti­liz­ing its re­la­tions with Lo­tus—given the GRMN’s tight de­vel­op­ment sched­ule—than any wish to of­fer some­thing sur­pris­ing.

Un­like the WRC car, it’s fron­twheel drive, but a Torsen lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial en­sures none of the

209hp/250Nm is scrab­bled away. Even with a huge amount of steer­ing lock in a tight cor­ner, you can use the throt­tle early with­out wheel­spin. It’s ex­tra­or­di­nary, and the power goes on to be de­liv­ered in a keen and lin­ear way most tur­bos can only dream of. The gear­box is one of Toy­ota’s six-speed man­u­als with re­in­forced com­po­nents, while the sus­pen­sion in­cor­po­rates very ex­pen­sive Sachs dampers.

Weight has been cut wher­ever pos­si­ble, with the wheels 17in, not 18, and the brake discs they house kept as small as pos­si­ble to re­duce un­sprung mass, min­i­miz­ing how much work the al­ready busy front axle has to do. Weigh­ing just 1,135kg, the GRMN goes on to claim the best power-toweight ra­tio in its class, aid­ing a 6.4sec

0–100kph time. It’s a bit of a nerd’s car, if you’d not yet no­ticed. But driv­ing nerds will find no small hot hatch on sale as ex­cit­ing as this. It’s just so raw. The throaty roar from the ex­haust is louder and more en­com­pass­ing than any­thing else in the

class. Get to a cor­ner and its agility and alert­ness are un­matched, too.

The dinky steer­ing wheel is bor­rowed from a GT86, and flicks you ur­gently into a cor­ner, and there’s a lot of fun to be had. Lift off the throt­tle, or turn in on the brakes, and the GRMN is will­ing to move around a bit. If you want to just grip and go, you can, but there’s amuse­ment if you go look­ing for it. With the free­dom of a track, the rear end can re­ally be teased out of line.

GRMN stands for Ga­zoo Rac­ing tuned by Meis­ters of the Nür­bur­gring, which gives you a clue as to where a rea­son­able amount of de­vel­op­ment has taken place. You might ex­pect the Yaris to be a bit stiff as a re­sult. It is in­deed a firmly sprung car, and with just one sus­pen­sion set­ting; no driv­ing modes here. Toy­ota’s en­gi­neers seem to have soft­ened it off a bit since we drove a de­vel­op­ment car last July (is­sue

299), how­ever, and they’ve also qui­etened down the ex­haust when you’re only on a light throt­tle, so high­way cruis­ing and ur­ban driv­ing are now far less an­ti­so­cial. It should still be hab­it­able.

Does it feel spe­cial enough for P1.9 mil­lion? The me­chan­i­cals say yes. The in­te­rior, not so much. There’s a pair of ex­cep­tional suede bucket seats, but you can tell the Yaris cabin was never meant to fea­ture such things. They’re squeezed in, and get­ting a per­fect driv­ing po­si­tion is tricky. The plas­tics and switchgear are also clearly from a cheaper, less in­ter­est­ing car.

Yet I’m not sure the Yaris GRMN’s

600 buy­ers will care. Its dy­nam­ics man­age to be ma­ture yet highly en­ter­tain­ing, and it feels ex­tremely durable on track. As a car to launch Toy­ota’s new Ga­zoo Rac­ing brand, it’s a bril­liant demon­stra­tion of the en­gi­neer­ing prow­ess that will go into fu­ture prod­ucts. Ones which will be larger in num­ber and lower in price, per­haps.

En­joy the bucket seats; de­spair at the plas­tics

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