Here in the US, the Yaris hatchback serves—or rather, served—as Toyota’s cheapest car. But its strengths don’t include performance. So Gazoo Racing, the Japanese automaker’s performance division, stepped in to correct that. In doing so, it created the Toyota GR Yaris, an all-wheel-drive throwback to the brand’s rally days. It’s not coming to the US—but it may influence the Corolla hot hatch which is.
The 2021 Toyota GR Yaris is an illogical and incredible rally racer
Rallying is the reason for the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris’ existence. In fact, the automaker’s CEO, Akio Toyoda, a racer himself, directly helped with the hot hatch’s development, The Drive reports. He also gave the car his personal stamp of approval. That was a necessity given that its development broke “’ all of the company’s rules,’” a Toyota spokesperson told Road & Track.
Ostensibly, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris is based on the non-US 2-door Yaris, which has a different platform than the US model, Car and Driver reports. However, the GR Yaris only shares seven parts with the standard model, Hagerty reports.
Its platform’s rear half isn’t even from a Yaris, but a Corolla. It wears a production-based Yaris body, but only to comply with WRC homologation requirements, Car explains. And it really is a homologation special in the style of the Lancia Delta Integrale and Renault 5 Turbo.
Firstly, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris’ hood, trunk, and door panels are made of aluminum to save weight, Motor Trend reports. That’s also why the roof is made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. Plus, the roofline is lower than standard to provide better airflow to the rear wing, Top Gear reports.
The insanity continues underneath the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris. It has a 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine rated at 257 hp and 266 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. According to MT, it’s the most powerful production three-cylinder engine ever made. And it’s linked to a 6-speed manual with standard rev-matching.
Unlike the base Yaris, the GR Yaris has all-wheel drive with an electronically-controlled center differential. It also has 4-wheel independent suspension, which can be further augmented with the optional Circuit Pack. This also adds BBS wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, and two limited-slip differentials.
It’s a blast to drive
Depending on the specification, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris weighs about 2820 pounds, Motor1 reports. And with its 257-lb engine and AWD, it can go 0-62 mph in 5.5 seconds. But you don’t have to be going terribly fast to have fun with this hot hatch, Hagerty reports.
The Toyota GR Yaris has some practical touches. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is Toyota’s ADAS suite, including lane-keeping assist. That’s not to say it’s a practical car per se. There’s little room in the rear, which isn’t helped by the lower roofline. And instead of a spare tire, the trunk houses the battery for better weight distribution.
But when it comes to actually driving it, the GR Yaris “is, in almost every way, brilliant,” CarThrottle reports. The AWD and optional differentials, plus the well-balanced chassis, make for excellent handling. The suspension is a bit stiff, but not uncomfortably so. Its brakes “are stunningly powerful,” Hagerty reports. And the shifter commands descriptors like “mechanical” and “precise,” Car reports.
Plus, unlike the standard car, it has a manual handbrake for easy slides. Luckily, it has well-bolstered sport seats to keep you firmly in place.
More than anything, Top Gear reports, the Toyota GR Yaris wants to have fun. It has genuine rally qualifications, and it drives like it. And the fact that Toyota is still releasing it, even though the WRC version was canceled, is incredible in its own right.
To spend this much effort and money on a car like the GR Yaris doesn’t make a lot of sense. Which is exactly why it’s so exciting—and what makes the lack of a US model so infuriating.
Will the Toyota GR Corolla get anything from the GR Yaris?
That’s not to say that Toyota hasn’t heard the demands for a US-spec GR Yaris. It has, and it’s been teasing just such a model for some time, The Drive reports. Here’s what we know so far.
Firstly, we’re not getting the Yaris. Instead, we’ll be getting a Toyota GR Corolla, which is now the smallest car Toyota offers, Roadshow reports.
Officially, it hasn’t been confirmed if the Toyota Corolla hot hatch will use the GR Yaris’ powertrain. But rumors claim it will receive the smaller car’s 6-speed manual, AWD, and a version of its 1.6-liter engine, The Drive reports.
As for when this hypothetical Toyota GR Corolla will launch, that’s still up in the air. And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped matters. But if it can capture the GR Yaris’ charm, it’ll be worth the wait.
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