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The Toyota GR Yaris in its prototype form performs like an everyday sizzling hot hatch that never fails to entertain.

20 Dec 2019


It seems Toyota is getting ready for a new GR Yaris hot hatch, one that will be following the footsteps of the Yaris GRMN - a juicier hot hatch that's sold exclusively in Europe and limited to just 400 units.

Yes, GRMN - an acronym that stands for Gazoo Racing Masters of Nurburgring - is Toyota's performance division that's likely to be on par with German brands with performance arms such as the Audi RS, BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and Volkswagen R.

Thankfully, the GR Yaris will not be a limited-run model. Due to homologation regulations for the race car, a production of at least 25,000 units needs to be required.

The car in its prototype form that you see here is just about a month away from its official debut - scheduled just in time to unveil to the world at the Tokyo Auto Salon from the 10th of January 2020.

Aggressive design

GR-4, its concept name, indicates the car's four-wheel drive characteristic
Numbers and dates aside, Toyota says that the GR Yaris is developed by the same Toyota Gazoo Racing team that crafted the Toyota GR Supra. This explains why the 'GR' moniker is being featured in the name of the new hatchback.

Design-wise, it's clear the hatchback is capable of something fast and serious. Despite being in its prototype stage, clad in its familiar camouflage livery that was also used by the recently revived GR Supra, several exposed areas form the part of a typical hot hatch.

One such area are the twin tailpipes that ever so often seen on go-fast cars such as the Hyundai i30N, the Seat Leon Cupra and the Volkswagen GTI. I can also see the obvious swollen rear arches, rear spoiler and a rather antagonistic body kit that will be a good match to the car's high-performance nature.

Antagonistic drive

The car holds its own very well on the wet track
And high-performance it is, indeed. Underneath the bonnet, the GR Yaris is powered by a 1.6-litre three-pot engine that feeds 250bhp and 350Nm of twisting force to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.

Toyota has not provided an in-depth technical data of the hot hatch, but a quick chat with the Project General Manager, Shinichiro Ishikawa, has confirmed that the car will hit the century sprint in under five seconds - a timing that's even faster than the MINI JCW.

This is the result of a combination of a powerful engine in a small car, one that is always capable of an enthusiastic nature whether you're on the public roads on your way to Estoril circuit or at the 13-turn race circuit itself.

Every turn is handled with accuracy and aplomb
Once you're there, at the famed circuit, the GR Yaris gets up to shape and speed that is undoubtedly more immediate than almost all of its turbocharged rivals that's a notch above its class, exhibiting a character that's without any of the lag or hesitation that many of them are often associated with.

As a result, the three-door hot hatch manages to pull cleanly from idle to its 7,000rpm redline freely and lightly with absolutely no form of fuss. From one corner to the next, the GR Yaris manages to tackle them with aplomb and accuracy, accompanied by an invigorating yet memorable exhaust note that will ignite all your senses.

Further provoking your emotions is the use of the slick and quick six-speed manual transmission. Not only does it keep the keen driver entertained at all times, it allows you to slot into cogs easily and smoothly every single time.

Unpretentious cabin

Much of the car's cabin has been masked, but important bits such as the steering wheel, instrument cluster and gear shifter can be seen
Less provoking, unfortunately, is the car's cabin. Major areas of the interior, such as the seats and the dashboard, have been masked for the purpose of this test drive.

Despite the cover-up, it's evident that the car allows the driver to focus on what's important - driving. Neither impressive leather materials nor unnecessary technology can be found for the sake of keeping up with the competition. This is indeed a breath of fresh air.

That said, important bits have been revealed. From what I can see, the multi-functional steering has cruise control buttons, amongst the usual volume and phone control keys.

The GR Yaris comes with three driving modes that alters the distribution of torque to front and rear wheels
The new Toyota also has a toggle located just in front of the manual gear stick that allows you to choose three different drive modes - Comfort, Sport and Track - none of which alters the suspension setting, weight of the steering wheel or the driving sensitivity.

Instead, only the distribution of torque to front and rear wheels are altered when the different modes are selected.

Honest car

The Toyota GR Yaris is proof that the Japanese carmaker is capable of something more than just your everyday mass market cars. Not only is the hot hatch entertaining in ways that many of its peers cannot match, it is a statement to the world that Toyota, as a known car manufacturing brand, is far from boring.

And far from boring it will be when the car arrives here in the fourth quarter of 2021.
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