Toyota GR Yaris review – the modern homologation special at its very best

Toyota’s new road-going rally special is a great driver’s car of the type we worried we’d never see again. It’s a little gem.

Evo rating
  • Huge cross-country pace belies figures on paper; sense of purpose; gutsy engine
  • Steering and chassis balance could be sharper still; seating position high

We can’t think of a modern performance car that has generated more hype surrounding its arrival – and has lived up to it. The Toyota GR Yaris has defied critics and shaken this weight off its shoulders with a truly unique driving experience that’s as exciting as we all hoped it would be when we saw its stout little body for the first time in 2019.

This instant success is compounded by many of its talents, but few resonate more than the fact it’s a – relatively – affordable performance car not created solely on the basis of a marketing plan, or to lower a meaningless lap record around a given circuit, but to serve as the ideal base from which to mount a top-flight motorsport campaign. The Toyota GR Yaris is a true homologation special in the most literal sense.

This approach has given us some of the most revered evo cars of all time, from the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth to the Porsche 993 GT2, and so many more. And it’s one that (thankfully) resonates with buyers, with demand far outstripping supply across Japan and Europe, creating lengthy waiting lists and values that continue to rise over and above the list price.

Toyota GR Yaris: in detail

Prices, specs and rivals

The GR Yaris is available in three flavours: base (£30,020), Convenience Pack (£32,200) and Circuit Pack (£33,520). Mechanically, the first two are identical, with the Convenience Pack car building on the interior specification with integrated satnav, a larger JBL stereo, head-up display and parking sensors. Circuit Pack cars don’t share these interior upgrades, instead bringing those key changes under the skin that make best use of the GR’s sweet little chassis. These include larger brakes, forged Enkei wheels with Michelin PS 4 rubber (Dunlops are standard), a stiffer suspension tune and a locking differential on both axles.

Direct rivals are varied, with no hot hatchback matching the GR in size, performance and price point. The current king of the supermini hot hatchback is the Ford Fiesta ST, which even in ST-3 guise is still cheaper (£24,580) but down on power and front-wheel drive only. The more expensive Edition model (£28,770) is worth the extra cash on account of its vastly improved coilovers and lighter flow-formed wheels, and also feels just that bit more special with bespoke paintwork. The new £24,995 Hyundai i20 N is also a key rival from below. It’s brilliantly involving and feels more substantial on account of its extra kit and N’s typical driver-mode mellay.

At the other end of the size spectrum is the Honda Civic Type R, which is comparable to the Toyota on price but a very different – if equally impressive – car in character.

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