Jaco Van Der Merwe
Remember those epic television ads about the laaitie boasting that his dad’s Hilux was “tougherer” than those of his schoolmates’ fathers? I’d say the Toyota GR Yaris warrants something similar.
Only this time, it should involve girls discussing how much fun their mothers’ cars are. After the first have given testimony of how much fun she has in the back of her mom’s trusty’s old 1.0-litre Yaris, a Toyota GR Yaris powers slides around the corner in a puff of tyre smoke.
As the first one’s jaw drops to the ground, she hears: “My mom’s Yaris is so much funnerer than your mom’s.”
Holding the distinction as South Africa’s top-selling car brand for over four decades, Toyota is associated with may thing. Toughness, reliability and dependability immediately spring to mind. Fun? Not so much.
Apart from a few epic Corollas, like the 20-valve models at the turn of the previous century, your quasi racing driving cousin’s go-to car to impress girls would generally not be a Toyota badge. The exception to the rule being of course falling back on his grandmother’s trusty Conquest when his ambitious shifting leads to the demise of his own gearbox.
But Toyota’s days as being the mundane people’s choice was numbered with the introduction of its GR portfolio a few years ago. Cars wearing this badge is developed by Toyota Gazoo Racing, the umbrella organisation for Toyota’s global motorsports programme.
According to Toyota’s the programme’s work is based on three pillars: developing people through participation in motorsport, creating fans through the excitement of motorsport and applying the knowledge gained from motorsport to make ever-better, fun-to-drive cars for the road.
The badge debuted on the GR Supra in 2019, but this superb machine never got the recognition it truly deserved due to sideshow debates.
Instead of appreciating it for what it is, the GR Supra was generally brushed off as a rebadged BMW Z4, the car it is based on as a result of a joint-venture between the Japanese and Germans. And in reality, apart from hardcore petrolheads, not too many average daily commuters associate with a Supra.
Enter the Toyota GR Yaris, the perfect showcase for re-establishing the fun element in the carmarker’s repertoire. It’s a car both everyday motorists and petrolheads can relate to. It bears a nameplate similar to the one on your auntie’s 51 kW ride, but yet it is quicker than a BMW X5 or X6 M50d.
Developed by Gazoo Racing and Tommi Mäkinen Racing, Toyota’s partner in the World Rally Championship, the GR Yaris is rightfully dubbed a “rally car for the road”. It’s 1.6-litre, three-cylinder, ball-bearing turbocharged engine produces a crazy 198 kW of power and 360 Nm of torque, sent to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
Road Test Editor Mark Jones was recently treated to the Toyota GR Yaris’ full repertoire of party tricks during its launch drive which included some racing around the track. When our test unit in R726 300 top-spec Rally guise arrived, there was only one place left to go: the test strip.
ALSO READ: GR Yaris will forever change the way you look at Toyota
Toyota claims that the GR Yaris can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in 5.5 seconds. After experiencing its launch control which is nothing less than brutal, our test figure of 5.32 seconds was not really that surprising at all.
Comparing the GR Yaris to other all-wheel-drive hatchbacks on our historic road test data chart isn’t exactly comparing apples with apples, as the Toyota is very much a unique species. It is just slightly off the 5.13 seconds recorded by the 208 kW Golf 7 R, the fastest Volkswagen pocket rocket we have ever tested.
For record, the fastest Golf GTI we have on record was the limited-edition TCR that clocked 5.67 in our sprint test last year. But unlike the usual hot hatch suspects, which traditionally offer everyday practicality, the Toyota GR Yaris is an unashamed brute.
It is a three-door hatchback with very little legroom in the rear and tiny boot space. In fact, apart from the superb racing-styled cockpit, it has compromised every bit of practicality to make the car as fun as possible.
It is only available with a manual transmission that features a proper racing clutch that is not meant to be slipped in city traffic. It is not built for school runs either, but for the track along the old adage of “straights are for fast cars, corners are for fast drivers”. In fact, it feels like you are abusing this car by not throwing it around a corner or not letting it rev over 6 000 rpms.
The original Yaris was a mass-produced city hatchback famous for its reliability. The GR Yaris is a car produced in small quantities aimed at putting the fun back in Toyota. The average motorist is not going to be able to afford one. But he or she is going to want one. Take a bow Toyota.
For more information on the Toyota GR Yaris, click here.