How often on PH do we grumble that things aren't what they used to be? There aren't three-door hot hatches anymore, there aren't motorsport-inspired cars anymore, nobody shows off real engineering nous unless it's on a million-pound hypercar. Quite a lot, we'd wager, given it sounds like the office discussion. Pleasingly, then, let's all be upstanding for the Toyota GR Yaris: "developed directly" from world rallying (with input from Tommi Makinen Racing), three-door and manual-only, and with a bespoke platform underneath for only this car. You're going to like the GR...
It's one we've seen camouflaged for a little while now, the wraps now taken off at the Tokyo motor show. And doesn't it look great? In the Renault Sport Megane mould, it shows a punchy hot hatch silhouette can be made without resorting to wild bodykits. Obviously the tracks are wider, but the roofline of this GR is 91mm lower than a regular Yaris, too, which obviously contributes to that squat stance.
Effort has been made, moreover, to keep the 260hp Yaris fairly light: the bonnet, doors and boot are aluminium, while the roof is carbon fibre polymer. That means a claimed kerbweight of 1,280kg, which is the same as a front-drive Polo GTI with 60 less horsepower - a laudable achievement.
Then it gets really clever. Because the Toyota New Global Architecture series of platforms are modular, this GR uses the GA-B platform from a regular Yaris at the front, but then the rear from the GA-C platform, as used in larger Toyotas like the C-HR and which makes the all-wheel drive possible. Furthermore, it means the standard car's torsion beam has been ditched as well, with a double wishbone rear set up complementing the Macpherson struts at the front. Brakes are by 356mm disc at the front, 297mm behind.
As for the all-wheel drive system, a high-response coupling splits power between front and rear; different gear ratios for the axles mean that, in theory, 100 per cent of the power can go forward or back. A 4WD dial for the driver gives a 60:40 split front to rear in Normal mode, 30:70 in Sport or 50:50 in Track for "fast, competitive driving". Toyota believes it has the best of both worlds with this all-wheel drive system, delivering sharper responses than an on-demand equivalent without the weight penalty of permanent four-wheel drive - so it'll be fascinating to see just how it performs.
Speaking of performance, the 1.6-litre, three-cylinder turbo powering the GR Yaris is all-new, and boasts 260hp alongside 265lb ft; with the aforementioned six-speed manual "engineered to accommodate high torque levels", the car should be capable of 0-62mph in less than 5.5 seconds and a limited 143mph top speed. Those keen to use their GR to its full potential should probably tick the box named 'Circuit Pack', too. Not only does it bring uprated suspension and forged wheels on Michelin PS4 tyres, it also gives the Yaris a Torsen limited-slip diff - on each axle!
So yeah, there's a great deal to be very excited about with the super-Yaris. The old Yaris GRMN was a giggle even when a fast one was never in that base model's remit; given that this GR has a bespoke platform and engine with which to show off its potential, expectations are justifiably very high indeed. There's no word yet on UK spec or availability, only that it will be launched in the second half of this year. Rest assured we'll be keeping this one updated as regularly as possible.
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