Does AWD Let the Toyota GR Yaris Blitz Past the Honda Civic Type R?

Until the rumored Corolla hot hatch arrives, all US enthusiasts can do is pine over the Toyota GR Yaris. And all-wheel drive is just one of the many upgrades it enjoys over the standard Yaris. However, up until a few years ago, the biggest name in forbidden Japanese hot hatches was the FWD Honda Civic Type R. Now, though, it’s part of the US Civic lineup—a part that can out-pace some older supercars. But which is the faster hot hatch: the Toyota GR Yaris or the Honda Civic Type R? British YouTube channel Carwow investigates.

2021 Toyota GR Yaris vs. 2020 Honda Civic Type R: performance and performance features

A red 2021 Toyota GR Yaris slides on a track
2021 Toyota GR Yaris | Toyota

The 2021 Toyota GR Yaris and 2020 Honda Civic Type R have a few things in common. They’re both hatchbacks with turbocharged engines and come solely with 6-speed manual transmissions. But under the skin, they follow different hot hatch formulas.

The Toyota GR Yaris is really only half of a Yaris; the back half is based on the Corolla’s platform, Road & Track reports. Plus, unlike the standard car, it has AWD and double-wishbone rear suspension. Then there’s the carbon-fiber roof, the aluminum doors, trunk, and hood, stiffer chassis, and wider rear track, Hagerty reports. And under the hood is a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 257 hp and 266 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports.

A gray 2020 Honda Civic Type R on a city street
2020 Honda Civic Type R | Matthew Skwarczek

In contrast, the Honda Civic Type R is a FWD hot hatch. But it pairs that with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. The Civic Type R also comes with Brembo brakes, a standard limited-slip differential, and stiffer suspension than the standard Civic, Car and Driver reports. And for 2020, the CTR gets a few upgrades. The standard adaptive dampers respond faster, the brake rotors are lighter, and the suspension has stiffer bushings, new ball joints, and tweaked geometry, Motor Trend reports.

The rear view of a gray 2020 Honda Civic Type R on a city street
2020 Honda Civic Type R rear | Matthew Skwarczek

While the 2020 Honda Civic Type R is more powerful than the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris, it’s also heavier. The CTR weighs roughly 3100 pounds, Car and Driver reports. But even in its heaviest form, the GR Yaris weighs less than 2900 pounds, Hagerty reports. Plus, it has AWD, though the dual LSDs are optional extras, MT reports.

Still, on paper, the Honda Civic Type R is faster. In Car and Driver’s testing, the FWD hot hatch went 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The Toyota GR Yaris, meanwhile, needs 5.5 seconds to go 0-62 mph, Top Gear reports.

But what happens when they go off the paper and into real life?

Carwow’s testing setup

To start, they have to deal with water, because it was raining when Carwow ran its tests. That gives the AWD Toyota GR Yaris an advantage already.

Speaking of tests, Carwow ran three ¼-mile drag races. The first was from a standing start, while the other two had rolling starts from 50 mph. The first rolling race had the hot hatches in Normal Mode, starting in 6th gear before down-shifting to 3rd. The second rolling race put them in their sportiest driving mode and 3rd gear from the start. After that, the Toyota GR Yaris and Honda Civic Type R competed in a brake test from 70 mph.

In terms of other performance advantages, both the CTR and GR Yaris have automatic rev-matching on downshifts. But as host Mat Watson pointed out, the Toyota has a manual handbrake, so it can be held more securely to build boost and revs for the launch. And again, with AWD, it’s easier for the Yaris to put its power down. So even though it’s down on power, the Toyota GR Yaris isn’t necessarily out of contention.

Which is faster, the Toyota GR Yaris or the Honda Civic Type R?

Interestingly, Carwow had to run the first drag race twice, because the Toyota GR Yaris developed a brief power steering malfunction. But it appeared to be a glitch, and the hot hatch was soon ready to go.

And go it did. The GR Yaris beat the Honda Civic Type R in the standing-start race, running the ¼-mile in 13.8 seconds. The CTR was 0.1 seconds slower. And in the brake test, the lighter Toyota stopped shorter than the Honda.

However, the Honda Civic Type R beat the GR Yaris in both rolling races, even though Watson noted the FWD hot hatch spun its wheels at times. And even in the standing-start race, the CTR was closing in on the Toyota towards the end. So, it’s possible that, in drier conditions, the two hot hatches could be even more evenly-matched.

The rear 3/4 view of a white 2021 Toyota GR Yaris on a racetrack
2021 Toyota GR Yaris rear 3/4 | Toyota

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In short, US enthusiasts don’t have to worry about missing out on the Toyota GR Yaris’s speed with the Honda Civic Type R. But it does mean once the GR Corolla gets here, the hot hatch rivalries will really heat up.

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