The Sunday Times


Toyota’s latest pocket rocket is aimed at hardcore enthusiast­s with cash to burn


There’s little mystery to Toyota’s new GR Yaris “Rallye”. It delivers exactly what the name promises — a rally-bred hot hatch. The Rallye is “almost the closest you can get to the Yaris World Rally Car without joining our World Rally team”, says Sean Hanley, Toyota’s vice president of sales and marketing.

If the regular GR Yaris is like Subaru’s WRX, then the Rallye is the more focused WRX STI.

It takes the turbocharg­ed, four-wheel-drive GR Yaris hot hatch to a new level, thanks to the addition of track-tuned suspension, front and rear limited-slip differenti­als, improved front brake cooling and lightweigh­t wheels shod with the sort of Michelin tyres usually found on a Porsche or Ferrari.

You get the same swollen arches and carbon fibre roof as the regular GR Yaris, bodywork ensuring it will never be mistaken for runabouts preferred by retirees.

Trainspott­ers can pick the special Yaris by the slightly different wheels, red brake calipers and pearl white paint that stands apart from the regular model’s red, black or plain white duco.

On the inside, sports seats and a compact steering wheel are joined by a numbered build plaque, which is odd as this isn’t a limitededi­tion car. It has the same 7-inch touchscree­n with satnav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and eight-speaker JBL stereo as the standard car.

The Rallye costs about $60,000 drive-away, roughly $5000 more than the standard GR Yaris according to today’s pricing, or an eyepopping $20,000 more than its introducto­ry offer last year.

Toyota says the first 200 Yaris Rallyes sold for $56,200 drive-away, with subsequent models priced from $54,500 plus on-road costs. Red-hot demand means you’re unlikely to get hold of one this year.

Power from the three-cylinder motor remains the same — you get 200kW and 370Nm from a heavily turbocharg­ed 1.6-litre unit. Charmingly effervesce­nt in everyday driving, it’s always ready to deliver punchy bursts of speed. The exhaust doesn’t pop or crackle, but can serve up turbo sound effects from time to time.

It feels strong on track, helped by close-ratio gearing in its six-speed manual transmissi­on.

Sharp steering and enormous brakes allow you to attack corners with poise few cars can match.

Toyota claims it reaches 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, though independen­t tests suggest it is even quicker.

The Yaris’ sub-1300 kilogram weight contribute­s to the cause, undercutti­ng the equivalent Subaru by more than 200 kilos. A sophistica­ted all-wheel-drive system with a driver-selectable torque split is key to the Yaris experience.

You can choose from an even 50-50 split in “track”, 70 per cent rear-biased torque in “sport” or 60 per cent front-focused in “normal”. Torsen locking differenti­als in the Rallye transform its behaviour in slippery conditions, making the Yaris more controllab­le, agile and effective when pushed. We tested it in controlled conditions and came away impressed by its poise and precision.

The most effective change in everyday driving is a switch from Dunlop to Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. In our opinion, the French hoops are the best all-round performanc­e tyres on sale and well worth the $100-per-corner retail premium.

Firmer suspension with superior body control also helps, but you might find its firmer ride taxing on the school run or urban commute.

Unlike most rivals, the Yaris does not have multi-mode suspension with a comfort setting for rough roads or everyday driving.

It also has a high seating positition and more road noise than you might expect from a premium-priced vehicle.

Practicali­ty is not a strong point — it only has two doors, a tiny back seat and small boot.

It is a thrilling machine with a singular focus. It’s right there in the name.

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