It may not have been around long, but the Toyota GR Yaris has already built up a cult following in the motoring world.

It’s no normal hot hatch, having been designed from the ground up to win elite rallies – rather than for normal road use.

But that’s precisely what makes this pure performance car into such an attractive proposition for those who want to enjoy cutting-edge motorsport technology on an everyday basis.

Watford Observer: The fantastic Toyota GR Yaris pictured during a test drive in West Yorkshire

Low, wide and lightweight, it boasts magnificent handling capabilities and a hugely-punchy 1.6-litre, three-cylinder Turbo engine, putting out 261hp.

Its aerodynamic design includes weight-saving materials to give it the edge in the World Rally Championship.

For example, the roof is made of carbon fibre, which saves 3.5kg, while the the bonnet, door skins and tailgate are all aluminium, which removes another 24kg.

Watford Observer: The Toyota GR Yaris pictured during a test drive in West Yorkshire

The experts at Toyota Gazoo Racing have had a big say in the development of this little bundle of fun - and the results are exhilarating.

A key factor underpinning the car’s rally-like performance is the state-of-the-art GR-FOUR system – Toyota’s first sports all-wheel-drive innovation in 20 years.

It’s thought to be the lightest four-wheel-drive system on the market, but it’s also quite complex as it changes the torque split between front and rear wheels depending what mode you select.

In normal mode, the split is 60:40 front to rear, Sport is 30:70 and Track 50:50.

It’s clever stuff!

The only transmission option is a six-speed manual gearbox which is, as you might expect, ultra-slick.

Watford Observer: The Toyota GR Yaris pictured during a test drive in West Yorkshire

So why has a rally car – to all intents and purposes – gone on sale to the general public, albeit in limited numbers?

It’s all to do with the regulations that govern top level rallying, which stipulate that cars have to be based on an existing road vehicle – something called ‘homologation’.

The rally car can deviate from the road version in some areas, but many aspects - such as basic body shape - have to be the same. What’s more, you have to build 25,000 of em!

So that’s largely why we’ve ended up with a Yaris ‘with attitude’ that’s so far removed from its more sensible stablemate.

Nowhere is this more evident than the roofline. Toyota’s rally boss wanted it as low as possible so as not to block air from the rear wing, so the dramatic way it slopes away has little in common with the high roof on the normal model, designed to give backseat passengers decent headroom.

Watford Observer: The Toyota GR Yaris pictured during a test drive in West Yorkshire

On the B-roads, the combination of high power, low weight and excellent aerodynamics make for a rewarding driving experience.

It feels incredibly nimble and agile when cornering briskly, while the incredible grip levels inspire a feeling of the car being well-planted on the road.

There are one or two drawbacks, such as a blind spot created by the positioning of the central touchscreen and – predictably – a lack of space in the back seats.

You could argue that the exhaust note isn’t that great either and doesn’t really reflect what fun it is to drive.

But, frankly, the people who have rushed to get their hands on one of these ‘instant classics’ were prepared for compromise and won’t have any complaints.


Some may say Toyota took a risk by trying to find 25,000 people to buy a road-going version of a rally car.

But, with the sell-out success of this homologation hero, it turns out 25,000 simply wasn’t enough!

  • Last month, the GR Yaris became the first performance car to be voted the Northern Car of the Year.Watford Observer:

It topped the annual poll carried out by the 36-strong Northern Group of Motoring Writers, which includes the Telegraph & Argus.

The Group’s traditional award, the miner’s lamp, was presented at the SMMT test day north.

The Lowdown

GR Yaris GR-FOUR Circuit Pack

PRICE: £33,520 on the road

ENGINE: 1.6-litre turbo, three cylinder

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and 143mph top speed

ECONOMY: Emissions of 182g/km and 34.3mpg

TRANSMISSION: Manual six-speed