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Garage Review: Toyota Yaris GRMN is feral fun

A specific persona comes to mind when you think of a Toyota Yaris. A timid middle-aged recluse is who I automatically think of. One who has remained single for practical reasons. You know, we all have that friend. The type who is overly frugal, despite having a well-paying job. He reads a novel a week and only shops at Pick n Pay clothing, because “it’s exactly the same as Woolworths”.

The interior of his car smells like a complimentary pine air freshener and the glove compartment is full of fuel receipts. With that vision in mind, imagine if that person decided to forgo their conservative habits and go through a radical transformation, completely contradicting everything they believed in. Out with Pick n Pay clothing, in with Gucci. Books traded in for Netflix and fuel slips are tossed in the bin. All of a sudden, your friend has discovered their fun side, and everyone loves it. In fact, everyone can’t get enough of this new change.

But a week later the old dreary friend returns. Eyes roll as you try understand this boring relapse. Your friend’s response? “I just wanted to see how you guys would feel if I was a bit more, exciting, you know”. What kind of reasoning is that? Why play with our emotions like that? Because they can, that’s why.

You know who is like this friend? A large Japanese company that is a hit with Uber X owners. The same company that gave us a plain jane Yaris recently.  So, you can imagine the shock and horror I experienced when I drove one of three Yaris GRMN models, brought into South Africa to specifically annoy journalists such as myself. And annoy me it did. This (much better looking) 3-door Yaris Gazoo Racing variant is one of 400 units worldwide and it did a great job at helping us see what Toyota can really do – annoyingly so. From the moment you start it and listen to the burble. To the seats, which are comfortable and hug you tight at the same time, albeit a little high. The most annoying aspect of it however, has got to be the engine. With 156kW/250Nm of supercharged power at your disposal, each time you crescendo the red line you scream “why Toyota!”. Yes, the Yaris GRMN is annoyingly good and irritatingly exciting to drive.

Can we talk about the chassis and how frustratingly good the Yaris GRMN turns in or how animated the entire experience is? How can Toyota bring something so good, simply to taunt us? During my time in the car I had members of the public mob me with various questions, even taxi drivers gave me a thumbs up. It’s the Toyota hot hatch we’ve been all longing for. Growing up, we drooled over cars like the Corolla RSI 20-valve.

Till then, talk to the hand because as Drake says in his newest Album, “I’m upset”. The Yaris GRMN is brilliant, but you can’t buy it. Toyota “just wanted to see how we would feel if they were a bit more…exciting.” Francisco Nwamba

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