New Toyota Yaris GRMN 2018 review

Does the pricey Toyota Yaris GRMN hatch deliver the performance goods?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Toyota’s individual approach with the Yaris GRMN is refreshing. This souped-up supercharged supermini has genuine driver appeal and talent to match. Gloss over the foibles inherent to the standard Yaris platform and the depth of development is obvious. You can’t ignore that price tag, though, even if it does mean you will have exclusivity on your side.

We’ll start by covering the thorny issue of price. Yes, this is a £26,295 Toyota Yaris – but it’s no ordinary Yaris.

Those four letters on its tailgate, GRMN, stand for “Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of Nürburgring” and indicate where the Yaris has been partly developed. It also hints at the performance on offer, maybe more subtly than the garish stickers, the 17-inch black BBS wheels and the wing.

Toyota is dipping its toe in the watery pool of the hot hatch market then, with the price partly explained by the limited 400-unit production run for Europe.

Best hot hatches on sale

The spec is delightfully individual, too. In a world of turbocharged hot hatches, the 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine proves Toyota is still keen to do things its own way. It produces a healthy 209bhp and 250Nm of torque, which is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a Torsen limited-slip differential.

The chassis has been tweaked to cope with the power, with stiffening to the structure and the firmer suspension lowered by 24mm to reduce the centre of gravity with bespoke Sachs dampers. Big four-piston front brake calipers clamp grooved and ventilated discs.

The result is a car that drives very sweetly on lumpy, gnarly, twisting British roads. Whereas rivals’ engines deliver their power in a turbocharged lump at the lower and mid-reaches of the rev range, the Yaris’s supercharged motor goads you into keeping the throttle pinned because the free-revving feeling and rush towards the top end is quite addictive. That 250Nm is delivered relatively high up at 4,800rpm, but working the short-throw six-speed gearbox is no hardship, and with the throaty growl from the exhaust the GRMN’s extrovert nature is obvious. 

Strong traction, helped by the differential and the linear engine not overwhelming the front tyres like a turbo car does, means the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 6.4 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 143mph.

You really feel that diff working on the way out of corners, and you can carry serious speed into and through them thanks to those chassis mods. Despite the GRMN’s singular focus on going fast, the damping delivers a good level of comfort, with plenty of compliance in the top part of the suspension’s travel. 

As you work the chassis harder it offers a good level of support, but it does run out of ability over the worst roads at higher speed, thumping into its bump stops. This is only at the extreme edge of the Yaris’s envelope, though; the rest of the time it’s engaging (helped by the nicely weighted steering and new GT86 steering wheel), and all the elements combine to deliver a cohesive package that’s genuinely enjoyable.

It’s less impressive when it comes to the rest of the stuff a hot hatch has to do. The 286-litre boot is average, the rear is cramped, you sit too high in the bucket seats and the material quality and infotainment trail the best in the class. But the engineering here should be lauded, because it shows Toyota is serious. We hope this foray back into the compact hot hatch class delivers a more affordable fast Yaris in the future.

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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