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Road tests

New Toyota Yaris GR Sport hybrid 2024 review: useful power upgrade comes at a cost

Toyota has enhanced the Yaris supermini with more tech and a more powerful hybrid offered only with the top trim levels…

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The extra shove from the more potent hybrid powertrain helps the Toyota Yaris to feel genuinely nippy around town now, instead of merely smooth and efficient, and a little more comfortable with rapid cross-country travel. It somehow manages to be more economical, too. But it’s only available on the top two trim levels, which means a hefty price premium, and almost all of the tech upgrades on the car are just as valid on mid-spec Excel with the original 114bhp set-up. We’d still point our money in that direction.

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Plenty of brands are getting out of the small-car market, but Toyota views its baby models as great ways of bringing new, generally younger customers into its dealerships. The Yaris is at the heart of this, with combined sales of more than 10 million vehicles since the Mk1 was launched back in 1999. And now the current generation has been treated to a mid-life nip and tuck.

This facelift differs from the usual bumpers-and-headlights fare too, with heavily revised cabin tech instead of any major external changes, a new range-topping trim level and, in the case of the car we’re driving here, the option of a more powerful petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. It’s still based around a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol motor producing 91bhp, but the electric motor contributes a lot more to the overall system output, boosting it from 114bhp to 129bhp. There’s significantly more electric-motor torque available from the system, too – 185Nm compared with 141Nm.

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The cabin upgrades bring across tech that will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Toyota Corolla recently. The old analogue dials are swapped out from all but the entry-level Icon trim, replaced by fully digital instrument panel measuring seven inches or 12.3 inches, depending on trim level. Even the base model now gets a nine-inch infotainment system, while the top three grades feature the same 10.5-inch display as that found in the Corolla. Wireless Android and Apple connectivity is now standard throughout.

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Other enhancements include additional safety kit, including a warning that flashes up if you’re about to open the door into the path of a passing cyclist or pedestrian.

The range starts with Icon, from £22,630, which brings 16-inch alloy wheels, air-con, electric windows all round, auto wipers and heated side mirrors. Design gets a different design of alloys, the seven-inch instrument panel, LED front and rear lights, and rear privacy glass. Excel steps up to 17-inch wheels and includes keyless entry and start, dual-zone air-con, the bigger digital instrument panel and the 10.5-inch infotainment system, part-leather upholstery, auto folding side mirrors and wireless smartphone charger. These three versions come with the original hybrid powertrain.

To get the extra power of the hybrid you’ll have to spec at least a GR Sport, which also moves to 18-inch wheels and gets ambient cabin lighting, sportier seats and styling add-ons, and a couple of extra speakers on the audio system. Finally there’s the new Premiere Edition, which adds kit without the sporty theme; it also features two-tone paint as standard, along with a head-up display and fancier JBL speakers.

We’re trying a GR Sport today, keen to see how much of a difference the additional power and torque really makes to the Yaris on the road. There’s no doubt that around town, you can feel better response when nipping through traffic or pulling out of junctions; nor, it must be said, does the petrol engine seem to kick in any more often. If anything, in fact, this system does an even better job of surviving without combustion – and the CO2 figures support this, since they’re lower on the 129bhp models than they are on the 114bhp versions.

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On paper at least, the performance gains are modest, with just half a second trimmed off the regular car’s 0-62mph time. Yet the gains are perhaps even more noticeable out of town, where you can now squirt the Yaris along at a decent lick without the CVT gearbox sending the engine’s revs into orbit. That extra electrical assistance brings a range of benefits, then.

The TNGA platform beneath the Yaris continues to be sophisticated by class standards, although if anything, it probably delivers better body control than it needs to. Yes, it can be fun to lean on the capable chassis in corners but we’d trade a little of that composure for a teeny bit more compliance, particularly over sharper urban bumps and potholes, which tend to be transmitted through to the cabin, particularly the rear. The GR Sport’s 18-inch wheels probably don’t help much here either, it must be said.

The facelift has not added a single millimetre to the Yaris’s overall dimensions, so this remains one of the smaller cars in the class, coming in at under the magic four-metre mark. The rear cabin is tolerable for children and very small adults only as a result, and the boot, at 286 litres, is some way short of what you’ll find in a Renault Clio, which offers 301 litres in full hybrid guise. In this respect, the Yaris is unashamedly supermini, with no pretence of being a small family car.

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There are no major upgrades in interior quality but then, there really didn’t need to be. The Yaris continues to have a few harder plastics here and there but in general it’s neatly finished, with soft, padded fabrics in all of the key places and sensible, easy-to-use controls, such as physical dials and switches for the heating and ventilation. It all continues to feel like one of the more mature offerings in the class, with a sophisticated cabin ambience to match the powertrain. The new infotainment system backs this up further, with a crisp display and quick response to screen prods.

Mind you, this extra power and kit does come at a price. The Yaris GR Sport costs from £28,805, which seems a lot for a small car with modest practicality. And Toyota isn’t exactly giving them away on finance either; put down £3,000 on a three-year, 30,000-mile deal for this model and you’ll pay £432 per month, which is family SUV money and pushes the Yaris further north of key electrified rivals like the Renault Clio and, we suspect, the forthcoming all-new MG3.

Model:Toyota Yaris GR Sport
Price:£28,805
Engine:1.5-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
System power:129bhp
Transmission:CVT auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.2 seconds
Top speed:109mph
Fuel economy:65.4-67.3mpg
CO2 emissions:96-98g/km
Size (L/W/H):3,940/1,745/1,500mm
On sale:Now
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Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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