In-depth reviews

Toyota GR Yaris review

Developed as a ‘World Rally Car for the road’, the Toyota GR Yaris is no ordinary supermini

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Real-world usability and pace
  • Subtly aggressive styling
  • Just enough power
  • Firm ride
  • Maybe a touch pricey?
  • Driver’s seat set a little too high

If you love cars then you’ll be hard-pushed not to find the Toyota GR Yaris an immensely attractive proposition. You won’t find any aftermarket, boy-racer looks here, just an immensely well-executed homologation hero with input from Toyota’s motorsport arm, Gazoo Racing. 

Everything about the GR Yaris so well-judged, from the usable 257bhp generated by its turbocharged three-cylinder engine, to the hot hatch’s dinky but dynamite proportions - just looking at it makes you want to get in and drive.

Ok, if it was your daily driver you might find the ride a bit firm, and they’ll be some that just cannot grasp the terms ‘Yaris’ and ‘£30k’ being in the same sentence, but that’s just nit-picking because we think the GR Yaris is inspired. Buy one if you can.

About the Toyota GR Yaris

Although recent history might suggest otherwise, Toyota actually has pedigree with making rally-inspired four-wheel-drive road cars. But, unlike the high performance Celica GT-Four of the 1990s, the GR Yaris doesn’t use a ubiquitous 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, instead its 257bhp comes from a purpose-built, turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder unit.

The fact that it created an all-new powerplant for this homologation special really sums up Toyota’s approach to the GR Yaris. This is a genuine bespoke project with support from the company’s motorsport division, Gazoo racing. 

The only parts shared with the standard Yaris are the lights and door mirrors, while there’s a carbon fibre roof plus an aluminium bonnet, tailgate and doors to help reduce overall weight. 

And, if you really want to slip the anorak on, you’ll be impressed with Toyota’s commitment to ensuring the GR Yaris has a suitably rigid body. There are 259 extra weld points used in production compared to the basic Yaris model, most of which are concentrated around joint areas to help increase strength.

You couldn’t point to one particular rival as providing direct competition to the GR Yaris, such is its remarkable engineering and the car’s price point. The cheaper Ford Fiesta ST is a sublime hot hatch thoroughbred, while the similarly-priced Hyundai i20 N is expected to be a strong performer, but neither go to the extremes the Yaris GR does in the search for performance.

For those willing to part with more cash, the larger Honda Civic Type R is one of the best front-wheel-drive hatchbacks you can buy and is also our hot hatch of the year, while keen drivers might also be interested in the 261bhp BMW 128ti.

All of the above are worthy contenders in their own right, but the commitment from Toyota to the GR Yaris project shines through, with company president Akio Toyoda himself being involved in the car’s development and eventual sign-off.

If you’re in the market for a GR Yaris, then the choices are pretty straightforward. All cars use a six-speed manual gearbox with permanent all-wheel-drive. You can opt for the standard car at a smidge under £30,000, or add the extra kit of the Convenience Pack for a further £2,000, while the lighter forged alloy wheels, limited slip differential and tuned suspension of the Circuit Pack model means that this sits at the top of the range, priced at almost £33,500.