This is the Toyota GR Yaris, a small Fiesta-sized hot hatchback designed specifically as an homologation model for the firm’s 2021 WRC contender. It’s powered by a bespoke three-cylinder turbocharged engine, runs a compact and lightweight all-wheel-drive system and features a lower, wider and stiffer body than the standard Yaris on which it is loosely based. As hot hatchbacks go, this is an exciting one.
It was revealed at the start of 2020 as the second model in Toyota’s high-performance Gazoo Racing range, joining the Supra that arrived last year. Although we’re still a few months away from its arrival here in the UK, local specifications have now been revealed, with prices starting from £29,995.
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Powertrain and chassis
Powering the GR Yaris is an all-new, bespoke 1618cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine that is mounted lower down and further back than in standard Yaris models. The unit features a part-machined intake port, four valves per cylinder and a single-scroll turbocharger. Peak power is quoted at 257bhp, with torque rated at 266lb ft. These outputs make the GR Yaris the most powerful three-cylinder model in the world. Toyota quotes a 0-62mph time of 5.5sec and an electronically limited top speed of 143mph.
Power is transmitted via a six-speed manual transmission (there is no automatic or dual-clutch option available) to a four-wheel-drive system that distributes torque between the axles via a central coupling, as opposed to an on-demand Haldex-style system as found in other small all-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks such as the late Audi S1. Torque split between the axles is variable depending on a selected driver mode, with Normal, Sport and Track modes dividing drive 60:40, 30:70 and 50:50 respectively.
GR Yarises fitted with the optional Circuit Pack include Torsen limited-slip differentials on both front and rear axles combined with a different set of 18-inch forged alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40 R18 Michelin Super Sport tyres, and a more track-oriented suspension tune.
Despite sharing a name with the standard Yaris hatch, this three-door-only model features a bespoke body that’s significantly wider and 91mm lower than the standard five-door model. The new body has been designed with rallying in mind, with new suspension pick-up points, a wider track and a double-wishbone rear axle all bespoke to the GR Yaris. The body itself incorporates lightweight materials to keep the weight down to 1280kg, with a carbonfibre roof skin and aluminium doors, bonnet and bootlid.
Prices and specifications
Toyota will initially bring the GR Yaris to the UK in two specifications: an entry-level version starting at £29,995, and the even more aggressively specified Circuit Pack costing from £33,495. As standard, all UK cars will feature Ultrasuede-trimmed sport seats, a leather steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, a dual exhaust system and Toyota’s latest infotainment set-up accessed via an eight-inch high-mounted touchscreen. Models featuring the Circuit Pack receive the additional equipment already mentioned.
In Japan’s domestic market, Toyota will also offer the GR Yaris in a stripped-out RC form, which will remove most of the interior’s non-essentials such as the infotainment system and air conditioning. A naturally aspirated, front-wheel-drive RS model will also be available fitted with a CVT transmission, helping to widen the GR’s appeal to buyers, getting it closer to the homologation build number requirements.
Why go to all the effort and expense of re-engineering things such as the roofline and axles for a homologation special? Gazoo Racing’s 2020 Yaris WRC car differs so much from the standard Yaris that this homologation model will need to be produced. In contrast to old Group N WRC rules, which required a limited number of closely related road-going examples to be built in order to comply (think early Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX), today’s rules allow a wider chasm between the road and rally versions. However, venture outside these limitations, as Toyota Gazoo Racing has done, and a large production run is required to homologate the race car.
As such, the GR Yaris will not be limited to just a few hundred units. Instead Toyota will need to produce a full 25,000 next year in order to comply with WRC regulations. Order books are open now, and first examples are set to reach UK customers in October.