Toyota GR Yaris: the affair continues
GR-badged hot Toyotas were a party of one until the Yaris turned up to keep the Supra company. Do they really have anything in common – and which is best?
Plus, just what is a Cupra Formentor, and Chris Chilton’s chamber of M horrors
If Toyota’s Gazoo Racing product roll-out is a sports-day relay race, the GR Supra has charged from the start to just a cheer from its mum, only to pass the baton to the GR Yaris so it can triumphantly break through the finish tape. There’s no doubt the little hatch has stolen the sport car’s thunder, so it seemed appropriate to compare the two as our Supra gives way to a new arrival, the Yaris GR.
The Supra fields a longitudinal six-cylinder engine and auto transmission with a classic rear-drive/two-seat layout.
The Yaris mounts half as many cylinders transversely in the engine bay, comes with a manual gearbox, and stuffs all-wheel drive into a compact hatchback body.
It’s not just the specs that are poles apart. Where the Supra reaped economies of scale with partner BMW, the Yaris is brilliantly – and perhaps puzzlingly – bespoke. No other Yaris uses a three-door bodyshell, nor all-wheel drive, and even its roof is lower. Distant echoes of Audi Sport Quattro and Impreza 22B here, a welcome throwback given the clock is ticking on this stuff.
James Taylor is running the Yaris, and as I take my final drive in the Supra to meet him, it rearms how much I’ve bonded with the coupe. The driving position is low-set perfection, I love the smoothness, flexibility and sophistication of the straight-six, and it’s been a great long-distance companion, though lockdown has capped mileage.
The Supra isn’t perfect – I’ve said before that I thought a different example I drove had more traction, the steering is numb, and the rear suspension travel can be abruptly checked on trickier surfaces. I’d be tempted to mod the chassis – but, that said, get into a flow through a series of quick third- to sixth-gear corners and you’ll wonder why the Supra hasn’t fared better in tests. Its front-end bite, strong brakes, keenness to turn and throttle adjustability are all big plus points. It’s a shame we don’t get the more powerful US spec, but rarely has it left me wishing it had more than 335bhp. Had lockdown not condemned it to mostly shorter trips, I’m sure I’d have seen 32mpg.
The Yaris might look sensational, and has brilliant seats with tactile suedey centres, but it gets off to a bad start with a bar-stool driving position. ⊲
Everything gets better from here. The 257bhp three-pot turbo immediately feels energetic and flexible, with perky throttle response – it’s clear that the Supra has more muscle when James scoots off ahead, but the Yaris doesn’t lag so far behind (at 1280kg to the Supra’s 1495kg, it’s down 24bhp and 40lb ft in the power-toweight stakes), and I’m astonished at how keen and revvy it feels, quite unlike the usual three-cylinder econo-motors that wheeze and thrash at peak revs. This thing wants you to wring its neck and always feels pokey, though I’d prefer a less artificial soundtrack.
Cutting over B-roads, the Yaris quickly reveals its dynamic character, helped by this car’s optional Circuit Pack, with uprated
Count the cost
Cost new £55,050 Part exchange £42,615 Cost per mile 17.8p Cost per mile including depreciation £2.56 suspension. The ride is firm and connected, if with plenty more compliance than my old Renault Megane RS Trophy, the steering light, pacey and more feelsome than the Supra, the brake feel reassuringly meatier too (the front discs are actually bigger than big brother’s), and the gearshift precise enough if no match for Civic Type R perfection. The pedals aren’t ideally spaced, but you can heel-and-toe no problem.
It takes a little longer to dig into the chassis on these wintry roads, even if early signs are encouraging. Select Sport mode and you get a 30/70 front-to-rear torque split, but in tighter corners it just feels pleasingly rear-biased and understeer-resistant while soaking up all the performance.
The Supra is quite tractionlimited in similar corners, so it’d probably find a little Yaris looking pretty big in its mirrors, especially in less than ideal conditions.
The Yaris’s playful side emerges in quicker turns, where the chassis offers the kind of bung-it-in adjustability of the best front-drive hot hatches – childish fun, yes, but also key to a fluid dynamic that lets you optimise your line through corners. Then it marries that with the throttle-steerability of rear-biased all-wheel drive – a sensation that the rear tyres are really driving the car out of the bend that was always the reserve of larger all-wheel-drive machinery with longitudinal engines until the Mk3 Focus RS re-wrote the rules.
Add all this together and the Yaris GR is both a proper little bundle of fun and a serious and mechanical feeling bit of kit. I’ll miss the Supra, but the Yaris’s blend of entertainment, practicality and affordability makes it the car I’d sooner own.
I’ll miss the Supra, but the GR Yaris’s entertainment, practicality and a ordability make it the car I’d sooner own