The Toyota GR Yaris on test for Changing Lanes!
The Toyota GR Yaris on test for Changing Lanes!

2021 saw the exciting arrival of the new Toyota GR Yaris to the Toyota range in Ireland. The high performance GR Yaris is just the second global GR model, following the Supra (GR stands for Gazoo Racing and is Toyota’s motorsport division!)

The GR Yaris heritage is astounding at a time when hybrid and electric are taking over the world, even at Toyota, where the brand has been bringing hybrids to market for over 20 years.

You can’t even really talk about the GR Yaris in the same sentence as the Yaris Hybrid for example because they share so little. The only things they have in common are the wing mirrors, the antenna on the roof and the front and rear lights. Everything else is new and well frankly mad for a Yaris!

The GR Yaris is a four wheel drive supermini putting out 261 hp from a three cylinder engine, the most powerful in the world. It retails in Ireland from €50,565.

The Toyota GR Yaris puts out 261 hp from a three cylinder engine
The Toyota GR Yaris puts out 261 hp from a three cylinder engine

What’s so special about the Toyota GR Yaris?

When Toyota announced its return to the World Rally Championship in 2015, building a rally-inspired sports car for the road was part of the plan. For Toyota President Akio Toyoda, the creation of a sports car made purely by Toyota – the first in 20 years – was a personal ambition. Following on from winning the WRC manufacturers’ championship in 2018, he saw a winning car as being key to achieving global recognition as a true auto manufacturer.

From the beginning, the development team worked closely with Tommi Mäkinen Racing to bring the GR Yaris to the road. Professional rally drivers, including members of Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, drove the prototype models and gave feedback.


The GR Yaris is built on a unique platform, combining Toyota’s new GA-B platform (which debuted on the new generation Yaris hatchback) and a rear section adapted from the GA-C platform used for the Corolla and C-HR. It’s a little bit of a mutant Yaris. You will know by looking at it that something is up. A wide track and flared wheelarches give it a sporty and purposeful stance, shod with 18″ black alloy wheels. The rally team emphasised the importance of light weight in the car’s design so the doors and bonnet are made from aluminium, while the roof is forged carbon composite roof. The lower, tapering roof line has been designed specifically to direct wind flow onto the large rear rally car spoiler to generate extra downforce. As with a competition car, the shaping of the lower body efficiently channels airflow down the sides of the vehicle.

It’s 3-door only but all the weight saving has not binned practicality. You do get back seats and a small but useful boot. The cabin is Yaris but with more salubrious materials and two mighty sports seats. It might not feel like the cabin of a €50k car but they never really do. It’s a small compromise to be made in a car this exciting with such amazing pedigree. We will stop by saying the cabin is comfortable and well-made with the latest convenience features and infotainment compatible with your smartphone.

Inside the Toyota GR Yaris
Inside the Toyota GR Yaris

Driving the Toyota GR Yaris

To the really good stuff now. The GR Yaris has a kerb weight of just 1,280 kg. The engine is new, a 1.6-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 261 hp and 360 Nm of torque. It complies with WRC2 technical regulations and can launch the GR Yaris from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds, and on to an electronically limited top speed of 230 km/h. It has features derived directly from motorsport, including a ball bearing turbocharger, large-diameter exhaust valves and multi-jet oil piston cooling. That’s cool, huh?

Engine power is harnessed through Toyota’s new GR-FOUR permanent, electronically controlled all-wheel drive system. Another competition-inspired feature, this provides three driving modes with different front/rear drive torque to suit the conditions – Normal, Track and Sport.

This is where we begin to extract the fun from the Toyota GR Yaris, as you like it. When you get into the car, the controls all feel heavy and tactile. There is a rumble from the rear of the car. Inside the engine note is bass but not as noisy as what you might think. However once you put your foot down in the GR Yaris, it’s a completely different story. It feels fast with a magnificent roar for a three cylinder engine!

The Toyota GR Yaris also excels in the way it handles. Firstly, equipment. It’s a manual by default with a delicious mechanical feel to the gear change. The gear shift lever has a high position on the centre console, raised by 50 mm and set close to the steering wheel, helping the driver make quick shifts. The action is light with short shift strokes, adding to the performance quality. The GR Yaris also has a mechanical hand-operated parking brake.

The GR Yaris is an unforgettable rally car for the road
The GR Yaris is an unforgettable rally car for the road

Did you like it?

Hell, yeah!

Driving modes also help extract more play from the GR Yaris, altering the torque distribution to the front and rear wheels. In Normal mode the ratio is 60:40 front rear, in track mode it’s 50:50 and in Sport mode it’s 30:70!

The grip is sensational. It doesn’t matter what you throw at it, even the worst Irish asphalt – the GR Yaris is not thrown by bumps mid-corner. It stays absolutely stable throughout making it a true rally car for the road, designed for challenging roads. The ride is firm, but it’s not comically firm. The only you will be laughing about is how good this car feels!

The GR Yaris feels gloriously simple and mechanical on the road, like all the best sports car. You have to really understand cars to enjoy this car.

It’s in a different league to front wheel drive compact ‘hot hatchbacks’ like the Fiesta ST and the i20 N. It’s about the way this one has been developed, the DNA and the heritage. It’s about Toyota’s passion for motor racing and willingness to gift the fans with an awesome rally car for the road.

Toyota GR Yaris on sale now
Toyota GR Yaris on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Toyota GR Yaris with Luxury Pack
1.6-litre turbo petrol
Power:  261 hp
Torque: 360 Nm
Top speed: 230 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 5.5 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
186 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€600 per year