Gazoo Racing Yaris
Toyota Yaris GRMN
A HOT HATCH OF QUALITY FROM TOYOTA SUB-BRAND GAZOO RACING
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