In 2019, we got a brief drive in the previous generation Toyota Yaris GRMN and we were left suitably impressed by it performance credentials, the way it carved through a corner and the tactile driving experience it imbued the driver with. Only 3 of those models were brought to SA, not for sale, but rather as a marketing ploy to test the appetite for this sort of vehicle. Suffice to say, it left an indelible impression on us.
So when the company unveiled the new model - dubbed the at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK recently, we knew it would be something special and, if preliminary reports coming from our overseas colleagues is anything to go by, then it promises to be a cracker of a thing. And to back this up, the GR Yaris has all the credentials for competition success. At its heart is a new 200kW/370Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine - the world's most powerful mass-produced three-cylinder powerplant.
Along with an all-new platform, unique three-door body, aerodynamic styling and a new GR-FOUR permanent all-wheel drive system, GR Yaris has an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 156kW/tonne and sprints from 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds. GR Yaris is the first all-Toyota sports car and the company's first homologation model for WRC competition since the Celica GT-FOUR ended production in 1999. It brings motorsport technology directly to the world of the road car through the combined design and engineering skills of Toyota's title-winning TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and World Rally Championship teams.
Aerodynamic design and sports performance
As a bespoke three-door, the low tapered side profile and wide squat stance of GR Yaris mark it as a serious performance car. Sharing just three exterior components with the Yaris hatch - headlights, taillights and mirrors - the sculpted, aerodynamically designed car achieves a kerb weight of just 1280kg.
It features a Toyota-first carbon-fibre roof and aluminium panels for the bonnet, doors and tailgate.
The lightweight, compact 200kW turbo engine adopts motorsport technologies to deliver an exhilarating drive experience, including multi oil-jet piston cooling, machined intake ports and large-diameter exhaust valves. It is also equipped with direct and port fuel-injection, high-speed combustion, a single scroll ball-bearing turbocharger, an aluminium oil cooler and a large-capacity water pump and air cleaner.
Mated to a six-speed intelligent manual gearbox (iMT) with rev-matching on up and down shifts, its top speed is pegged at230km/h.
Agile handling and stability in safety
The GR Yaris has a new, dedicated platform that combines the front end of Toyota's GA-B platform (Yaris) with the rear of the GA-C platform (Corolla). This accommodates a new suspension design and GR-FOUR all-wheel-drive system, while also contributing to the car's excellent stability and handling. Driver-selectable AWD settings are Normal (directing 40% of available torque to the rear wheels), Track (50% to the rear wheels) and Sport (70% to the rear wheels). The system will adjust torque split automatically based on driver inputs, vehicle behaviour and road or track conditions.
Every element of the new fully independent front and rear suspension setups has been optimised for performance, including high-response shock absorbers. Front MacPherson struts are more rigid than the five-door Yaris hatch with newly developed knuckles and stiffer bushes for maximum control and stability.
A multi-link rear suspension, in contrast to the torsion beam layout in the standard Yaris, is also more rigid with new upper arms and stiffer settings for optimal responsiveness, handling and traction in high-speed cornering.
Large 356mm two-piece ventilated discs with four-piston callipers provide stopping power at the front, with 297mm ventilated discs and two-piston callipers at the rear, both designed to provide confident, stable and fade-resistant braking performance.
The short-stroke brake pedal has been tuned to provide a linear feeling with solid feedback while the clutch also features a mechanism to ensure consistent pedal feel and compensate for wear over time.
The driver-focused cabin marks GR Yaris as a serious performance car with a small-diameter leather-wrapped steering wheel with fingertip controls, leather-wrapped short-throw gear shifter and handbrake, and aluminium pedals.
Large ‘speedo’ and ‘tacho’ dials sit either side of a 4.2-inch multi information display that offers an array of details including turbo pressure and gear-shift indicators. Premium sports front seats offer the support and comfort of large bolsters. The adjustable driver's seat and tilt-and-telescopic steering column contribute to an ideal seating position.
Two rear seats feature ISOFIX anchor points and are split 60/40 - to expand the 141-litre luggage space.
The model is earmarked to launch in mid-2021. Detailed specifications, pricing and model line-up information will be released closer to introduction timing. Suffice to say that the entire team here at TopGear Magazine SA is salivating at the prospects of getting behind the wheel to see if all the hype thus far is warranted.