Has the Toyota GR Yaris already earned the title of 2020's most exciting car, just two weeks in? It's got to be in contention, combining WRC attitude with loads of power, not much weight and some clever chassis technology. It's especially notable for being a Yaris, too; Toyota may have committed to more performance cars than many manufacturers recently but, despite the rally link, it's a surprise to see such a serious Yaris in the pipeline.
All other hot hatch offshoots from the model in its two decades on sale have been pretty tame. In the UK we've had various SR and T Sports over the years, but nothing that's really captured the imagination of pocket rocket buyers in the vein of cars like the Suzuki Swift Sport and Fiat Panda 100HP.
There have been exciting Yarises, though - they've just been confined to Toyota's homeland. Consider the Vitz RS Turbo. The Vitz was the Yaris's name in Japan, RS was the equivalent of a T Sport and then, for just two model years, the RS was the turbocharged flagship. It came with 150hp - more than enough in a car that weighs less than a tonne - as well as a limited-slip diff and, in certain specs, Bilstein suspension as well. Accompanied by various TRD bits inside and out, plus a jazzy bodykit, it had all the ingredients of a proper fast Yaris. Only one we never got to experience.
Now though, thanks to the tombola-like turnover of the PH classifieds, there's a pristine Vitz RS Turbo for sale, in Bedfordshire of all places. It's interesting, too, as there are one or two commonalities between this car and the latest GR: there's just 100cc or so between engine sizes, they're both light for their class and both have limited-slip diffs on the front - admittedly the GR's is optional, and supported by a rear one. Not exactly blood brothers, sure, but worth a mention.
The RS Turbo in question looks lovely; recently imported from Japan, it's showing just 60,000 miles and is super clean inside and out - even the bespoke floor mats have survived 15 years largely unscathed. Despite only being imported in October, it's already had an oil and filter change, new plugs, four fresh Michelins and 12 month's MOT put on it.
Sure, six thousand pounds most certainly buys all sorts of very good hot hatch - see this Clio 200 Cup, for example - and the money might seem like lunacy to many for a Yaris from the mid-2000s. But it's a really interesting curio for those willing to consider a left-field option, and an affordable route into JDM ownership. Keep the Vitz protected against rust, prepare your best few sentences for explaining what it is and enjoy - thanks to the GR, it's okay to like a fast Yaris now!
SPECIFICATION - TOYOTA VITZ RS TURBO
Engine: 1,497cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 150@6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 145@4,400rpm
First registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 60,000
Price new: £N/A
Yours for: £5,995