New Toyota Yaris GR Sport 2023 review
The new GR Sport adds some performance elements to the hybrid-powered Yaris, but can it be called a hot hatch?
The success of Toyota’s GR-branded models means we’re likely to see more of these GR Sport variants. It’s a shame Toyota hasn’t pushed the Yaris GR Sport further towards the performance realm, because it’s a long way from encroaching on GR Yaris territory. For £25,000, there are also plenty of compelling superminis with more dynamic flair.
With the excellent GR Yaris, Supra and the GR86 within its stable, Toyota’s GR brand (shortened from Gazoo Racing) hasn’t taken long to cement itself in the performance car world. It’s fair game, then, that the GR name should extend to milder cars, in a similar vein to Ford’s ST Line and Hyundai’s N Line trim levels.
Step forward the Yaris GR Sport. We love the GR Yaris here – so much so that we gave it our coveted Performance Car of the Year award in 2021, fending off competition from the Ferrari Roma and Porsche 911. You should reign in your expectations, however, because the Yaris GR Sport is based on the standard Yaris, rather than the rally-bred, limited-run three-door model.
Like the old Yaris GR Sport, the new one gets a hybrid powertrain, including an auto gearbox. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for performance and we’ll get into that later but it’s worth noting the previous Yaris GR Sport commanded a £3,045 premium, whereas this new one only cost an extra £2,040 over the entry-level Icon model.
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So what extras do you get for the additional outlay? The exterior revisions certainly give the GR Sport a warm-hatch appearance, with bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels with red accents, a new mesh front grille, a rear diffuser and a rather tasteful chrome exhaust. A smattering of GR Sport logos also adorn plenty of body panels to ensure no one mistakes it for a more lowly Yaris.
The interior has been given a GR makeover too. GR Sport badges are dotted around the cabin and there’s red stitching to the seats, gear lever and steering wheel. The sports seats feature a bit more side bolstering and you can specify heated suede seats as an option.
On the face of it, then, the Yaris GR Sport differentiates itself from the standard Yaris range nicely. So let’s assess the way it goes down the road.
Toyota tweaked the chassis set up of the GR Sport to, in its words, “deliver sharper handling”. The changes consist of extra underfloor bracing for increased structural rigidity, reduced aerodynamic drag from revised wheel-arch liners, and retuned shock absorbers and springs for better responses during cornering - although the actual ride height is unchanged, unlike the old GR Sport’s, which was 15mm lower. The tyres are also slightly wider than you get on other models.
Even with the changes above, the difference between the GR Sport’s handling and the regular model’s will be imperceptible for most drivers. It’s not bad, by any means, because the current Yaris is a perfectly capable supermini in the bends, but in terms of driving dynamics, we’d prefer the GR Sport to have been placed closer to the GR Yaris to help it stand out.
The steering feel is light and quick, with the front end responding well to inputs. Throw it into a corner and the Yaris GR Sport actually feels pretty stable, with not much body roll to speak of – thanks in part to the current Yaris being a little wider than the previous generation, and weighing a little over a tonne.
An issue raised with the slightly firmer suspension and big wheels is the GR Sport’s ride is a little fidgety. In town you’ll notice bumps and ruts will transmit jolts through the cabin, although on the motorway it does settle down.
The powertrain is a disappointment, however. It’s the same 1.5-litre, three-cylinder hybrid as the standard car, with 114bhp, and it never gets into any rhythm, thanks to the hybrid transmission. There are selectable drive modes, with a blank space (we can assume this is ‘Normal’ mode), ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’. There’s not much difference here, although the electric motor feels a bit more keen to step in with Sport mode engaged. At low speeds there’s a distant hum of the electric motor if you accelerate hard, which gives it a bit of character.
Acceleration is unchanged, so the GR Sport takes 9.7 seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint, and thanks to those aerodynamic tweaks, the top speed rises by 1mph to 109mph.
The Yaris GR Sport does have the capacity to drive on electric power only – although expect this for a short amount of time only, and in low-speeds area such as supermarket car parks and built-up traffic. As the powertrain hasn’t been tweaked, Toyota claims the GR Sport returns 64.2mpg on a combined cycle, although we found it closer to 55mpg in real-world driving.
For a supermini, the GR Sport is well equipped. The eight-inch central touchscreen only features Toyota previous-generation infotainment, but it’s simple enough to operate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard, along with automatic wipers and headlights, and there’s also a reversing camera. Safety systems include lane assist and hill start assist.
For £25,070 (including our test car’s £920 Scarlet Flair pearlescent paint option), the Yaris GR Sport has plenty of rivals. You can still buy the Ford Fiesta in ST-Line trim, and that car does a much better job at providing warm hatch driving experience, plus there’s also the engaging Hyundai i20 N Line, which is available with a manual transmission. Both of these cars are also several thousand pounds cheaper.
Toyota Yaris GR Sport
1.5-litre, three-cylinder hybrid
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