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I like to think that somewhere, sometime, a little old couple with a flat cap and blue rinse will wander into a Toyota showroom to put down a deposit on a new Yaris.
They may baulk slightly at the £29,995 sticker price before opting for the £3500 Circuit Pack –“Is that something to do with the electrics?” – and waiting patiently for their new car.
When it does arrive, it won’t be the grandparents’ favourite that turns up. Instead, they’ll find an aggressive, beefed-up special-stage refugee with blistered arches and forged alloy wheels; a four-wheel-drive, 257bhp animal that’s reputedly able to beat a Nissan GT-R on track, while remaining every inch as practical as the 1-litre wonder they intended to buy.
Would they take it straight back? I’m not so sure, because the GR Yaris is a very special car indeed.
After acquiring Gazoo Racing back in 2015, Toyota dabbled in the hot-hatch market with the 1.8-litre supercharged GRMN, a hotted-up version of the previous-generation Yaris.
But while that might have proven consumer appetite for an expensive, more focused hatch, it was a mere toe in the water compared with the GR Yaris – a ground-up performance car created for World Rally Championship homologation to build on Sébastien Ogier’s 2020 title win.
Though it resembles the cooking model, the only exterior components shared amount to its front and rear lights, door mirrors and aerial.
The aluminium and carbonfibre composite panels are unique, and even the roofline is 45mm lower for a more streamlined, aggressive look.
Beneath the skin things are equally radical, with a heavily reinforced bespoke chassis, fully independent suspension, a six-speed manual ’box and a hugely impressive three-cylinder 1618cc turbocharged engine – the most powerful three-pot ever.
Then there’s Toyota’s proprietary four-wheel-drive system, which can be adjusted to bias the rear wheels or deliver equal torque to both axles via Torsen limited-slip diffs.
Weighing just 1310kg, what you have is a devastatingly quick point-to-point missile capable of hitting 60mph from nothing in just 5.5 secs and of going on to a top speed of 143mph.
But stats and specs only tell half the story.
The Yaris seems uniquely capable of carrying obscene speeds through corners; it’s beautifully balanced, with a chassis that comes alive with a flick of the wheel, yet planted and rock-solid.
Mix the slick gearchange with a characterful, high-revving engine and you have an addictive cocktail.
The GR Yaris doesn’t just live up to the hype, it exceeds it. This isn’t an insanely priced hypercar, but a hatchback within the reach of ordinary buyers.
It won’t even be rare: unlike most homologation specials, Toyota plans 25,000, despite putting its Yaris GR WRC plans on ice.
Images: Max Edleston
- Engine 1618cc turbocharged in-line triple; 257bhp @ 6500rpm; 266lb ft @ 3-4600rpm
- Transmission six-speed manual, four-wheel-drive; Torsen LSDs front and rear
- 0-62mph 5.5 secs
- Top speed 143mph
- Mpg 34.3
- Price £29,995