Toy­ota Yaris GRMN

The ef­fer­ves­cent Yaris GRMN may not be of­fered for sale in South Africa but it’s an ex­cit­ing sign of things to come

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

WITH just three of the 400 Yaris GRMN (Ga­zoo Rac­ing Mas­ters of Nür­bur­gring) units pro­duced glob­ally made avail­able to Toy­ota South Africa Mo­tors, our short stint be­hind the wheel served more as a teaser of the brand’s in­ten­tions with the newly repo­si­tioned Ga­zoo Rac­ing per­for­mance-fo­cused brand than an in-depth con­sumer re­view.

Based on the three-door ver­sion of the Euro­pean-model Yaris – the one of­fered in SA be­fore the lat­est-gen­er­a­tion model de­buted ear­lier this year – a host of al­ter­ations has been made to the donor ve­hi­cle to cre­ate the Yaris GRMN, chief among which is the 1,8-litre su­per­charged mo­tor pro­duc­ing a bois­ter­ous 156 kw and 250 N.m.

In­side, mean­while, there’s a small-cir­cum­fer­ence, leather- wrapped steer­ing wheel sim­i­lar to the one found in the GT86 and sub­stan­tial Ga­zoo Rac­ing-branded bucket seats (that feel po­si­tioned a touch too high).

The most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween the run-of-the-mill Yaris and the GRMN, how­ever, is in how it drives.

Prod the branded start but­ton and the char­ac­ter of this hot hatch is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent, with the su­per­charged, four-cylin­der mill fizzing to life. Con­duct the cus­tom­ary gear­lever wig­gle to en­sure you’re in neu­tral and en­gage first, and you’re given a glimpse of the sheer me­chan­i­cal qual­ity of the six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. There are no drive modes to ad­just or vari­able dampers to set here; you sim­ply get in and go.

The 170 km launch drive from our ac­com­mo­da­tion to Port Shep­stone re­vealed cruis­ing at the na­tional speed limit in sixth gear sees the revs hov­er­ing at a fairly re­laxed 2 800 r/min. We dis­cov­ered there’s enough stop­ping power to avoid a stray cow that made its way onto the N2 and more than suf­fi­cient over­tak­ing urge to pass slow-mov­ing trucks. For such ma­noeu­vres, the drop­ping of a cou­ple of cogs

gave us a proper feel of the tac­tile gearshift and clutch ac­tion, plus the op­por­tu­nity to hear the raspy in­take note as the dual-vvt-i sys­tem came on song.

Off the high­way, the whee­land-tyre combo works in har­mony with the Torsen lim­it­ed­slip diff serve up prodi­gious me­chan­i­cal front-end grip. The Yaris GRMN is ea­ger to be pushed and glee­fully re­wards its driver when it’s worked hard. It of­fers a sense of driv­ing en­joy­ment and pre­ci­sion not too dis­sim­i­lar to that of the out­go­ing Ford Fi­esta ST200, al­beit with a slightly more manic per­son­al­ity and an even more un­for­giv­ing ride at low speeds.

Once on the smooth sur­face of Dezzi Race­way, I had a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence just how en­gag­ing a drive the Yaris GRMN is. Tip­ping the scales at 1 135 kg, the ve­hi­cle feels light on its feet, with its plucky pow­er­train de­liv­er­ing a level of re­spon­sive­ness not of­fered by tur­bocharged ri­vals with their of­ten laggy re­ac­tions.

Once loaded up in a cor­ner, the steer­ing is well weighted and pro­vides a pleas­ing level of feed­back from the front tyres. There’s just a whis­per of cor­ner-en­try un­der­steer be­fore the lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial hooks up and the nose of the ve­hi­cle is dragged to the apex of the cor­ner.

The 2ZR-FE mo­tor pulls heartily above 5 000 r/min and urges the driver to push all the way to the 6 800 r/min red­line. Down­shifts are slick, too, with a pleas­ing punch for­ward as the gear en­gages smoothly thanks to a spot of rev-match­ing us­ing the well-po­si­tioned alu­minium ped- als. Again, we found our­selves wish­ing for a lower driv­ing po­si­tion, with the fast off-cam­ber sweeps of Dezzi Race­way mak­ing the Yaris GRMN feel a touch top heavy when perched so high.

The up­rated brakes, though, pro­vide pre­dictable feel and demon­strate lit­tle sign of fade, even in this pun­ish­ing en­vi­ron­ment. In short, the Yaris GRMN de­liv­ers an ex­pe­ri­ence to savour on the track and, rather re­fresh­ingly, asks its driver to com­mit fully to the ex­pe­ri­ence.

If this hot Yaris is any­thing to go by, we can’t wait to see what Toy­ota’s racier wing does next. This plucky hot hatch is proof the Ja­panese firm can cre­ate re­spon­sive, com­mu­nica­tive and ul­ti­mately fun cars that work equally well on the com­mute and at full at­tack.

clock­wise from top Cen­tral ex­haust and black spoiler con­firm this is no or­di­nary Yaris; light­weight 17-inch BBS al­loys wrapped in Bridge­stone Potenza RE050 rub­ber; alu­minium ped­als are per­fectly po­si­tioned; bucket seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive; Ga­zoo Rac­ing-branded start but­ton and model-spe­cific in­stru­ment clus­ter.

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