Engine / Transmission: 1.6 litre – 6 speed manual
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 7.6L/100km combined
Price: From around $60000… sort of.
I met Akio Toyoda, the president of the Toyota Motor Corporation at CES a few years ago. He is a hugely charismatic individual and a complete car nut. He continues to make time to race, mainly in tarmac rallies and is a real driving force behind Gazoo Racing – Toyota’s motorsport arm.
Along with racing sports cars in the World Endurance Championship and racing production cars in the Nurburgring 24 Hour and Dakar, Gazoo Racing is serious about WRC – the World Rally Championship. It is this discipline that spawned the Yaris GR.
The Yaris GR is Toyota’s latest attempt at dominating the World Rally Championship and is a no holds barred homologation special with only a smattering of Yaris parts. The GR shares only the front half of the chassis, the front lights, the wing mirrors, and the antenna with the rest of the Yaris range.
So serious is Toyota about the Yaris dominating WRC, it gave access to the early design to its rally chief; a Finn who knows a thing or two about going sideways in the dirt – Tommi Maikenin. Following the multiple WRC victories Toyota has enjoyed since he came onto the team in 2017, Tommi was asked to provide input to the GR’s design.
Aspects such as the oil-injected piston cooling for the little three pot engine, forged carbon fibre roof, and a huge increase in the number of welds used in production are signatures of his involvement in the design of the GR. Need further evidence of just how special this little car is? Toyota doesn’t even make a three-door Yaris anymore! The body, doors, manual gearbox, flared arches… all unique to the GR.
Wonderfully, the things that make the Yaris GR a spectacular basis for a WRC car also make it a cracking road car.
The Yaris GR isn’t so much about the tech on the inside as it is the tech underneath. While the GR uses the front chassis from the regular Yaris, it uses the rear chassis of a Corolla. This switch allows for the fitment of the electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system. And what a system it is! The GR four-wheel drive set up can send up to 100% of drive front or rear, but its party trick is the ‘Sport’ mode where you gain a steady 30/70 front/rear split! This gives the little Yaris all of the attitude of a rear-drive weapon with the added security of front end grip. In a little car like this, it is breathtaking.
It is impossible to not be impressed by the Yaris GR and everything it represents – Toyota, a mega-player in the automotive world, stretching its collective muscle to produce what must have been a staggeringly expensive project for such little return. Seriously, with such a limited production run and such advanced and bespoke engineering solutions, there is no way that Toyota will turn a profit on the GR.
Still, it was never about profit margins. The Yaris GR is all about Toyota showing the world that it can produce hugely reliable, confidence-inspiring, fun cars whenever it chooses to. Be under no misunderstanding, this is one of the biggest names on the planet saying, ‘we can do anything if we choose to’. I just wish Akio would choose to do so more often. A Camry GR for the family man? Sign me up!
Not So Impressive:
There is only one fly in the Yaris GR’s ointment – price. Toyota launched the Yaris GR at an almost reasonable $39990 drive away. This price was the ‘pre-launch’ price. Plenty of folks were brave enough to throw their hard-earned down on a $40k Yaris sight unseen and the first shipment sold out immediately.
The second shipment saw a $5k price hike. The 2021 shipment is now on offer for a fairly salty $56200, but there’s a catch; only 200 examples are slated at this price. Customer #201 will be shelling out $60724. Now, I can’t express to you enough just how impressed I was by the Yaris GR. I adore it, but this price (and the kick in the guts of the constant hikes) is, frankly, ridiculous.
Even at $60k, Toyota has no chance of recouping the production costs of the GR so it comes across as gouging. I’m sure Toyota Australia has their reasons, but it leaves a bitter taste, especially when the price of the Yaris GR in the UK is similar to a high spec Corolla.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
This is tricky. At $40k, there is nothing out there even remotely as special or bespoke as the Yaris GR (but an MX5 still steers better).
At $55k a whole range of new and second-hand gems start to enter the picture: low kay Mercedes A45s; an Audi RS3 or TTS; the odd BMW M2; or even an older Ford Focus RS, which is just as bespoke, just as bonkers and should soon start to increase in value.
As good as the Yaris GR is, at $55k – $60k there are just too many other options available.