The unlikely Toyota Yaris is the model that’s been tasked with launching the Gazoo Racing sub-brand in Europe. With a limited run of just 600 cars (400 in Europe and a further 200 restyled versions for the Japanese market) it’s more of a toe in the water exercise than a full-on assault, but its character will set the tone for a raft of go-faster models from the Japanese firm.
Aimed squarely at the likes of the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport and the forthcoming Fiesta ST, the Yaris hot hatch has been developed over two short years by a small team of dedicated car nuts who are keen to remind the world that Toyota still knows how to have fun. To this end it packs a 209bhp supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, heavily revised suspension and a limited slip differential.
Subscribe to evo magazine
Given the limited time and budget for its development, the Yaris is actually a real hoot. For starters it’s genuinely quick, the mix of fizzy motor and closely stacked ratios making for rapid progress. And while the chassis lacks the ultimate finesse and poise of the 208 GTi, it makes up for that with an infectious appetite for fun. Whereas the Peugeot remains a little aloof until you really dig deep, the Yaris eggs you on from the moment you prod the starter button. Perhaps more amazing still is how Gazoo Racing has turned the roughest of supermini sow’s ears into a really desirable silk purse. It’s not cheap and they’re all sold out, but the Yaris GRMN deserves consideration among the top tier of hot hatches.
Toyota Yaris GRMN in detail
> Performance and 0-60 time - You'll have to snatch third before hitting 60mph in 6.3 seconds due to the short gearing. The Yaris tops out at a 143mph.
> Engine and gearbox - Its supercharged, 1.8-litre engine develops 209bhp and 184lb ft of torque – the latter coming on stream at 5000rpm.
> Ride and handling - The chassis setup is well-judged, fostering confidence and exhibiting a pleasing degree of adjustability.
> MPG and running costs - Unsurprisingly the supercharger has a deterimental affect on fuel consumption in the real world, however Toyota quotes a combined 37.7mpg.
> Interior and tech - The lack of adjustment for the driving position doesn't do the hot Yaris any favours.
> Design - The GRMN-based makeover adds some visual aggression lending the Yaris a purposeful road presence.
Price and rivals
At £26,295 the Toyota Yaris GRMN is an expensive go-faster supermini – as a comparison the Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, the only real alternative, is £23,550, which is hardly a bargain price. However, this financial argument is largely academic, because all the UK cars have been sold. And while the Yaris isn’t cheap, it does feel like a special car that’s been engineered by people who understand the thrill of driving. While we eagerly await the Ford Fiesta ST, the Yaris just edges the Peugeot as our favourite pocket-sized funster.