The Toyota GR Yaris is one of those rare cars that seems to be destined for greatness right from the get-go. Of all the high-end automotive exotica that emerged in 2020, none generated quite the same level of collective salivation as this steroidal, and comparatively affordable, Japanese pocket rocket.
In fact, since the first whispers of its existence emerged in 2019, every new glimpse of this compact, four-wheel-drive performance hatch has been shadowed by such fervent anticipation that you’d be excused for mistaking its arrival for the second coming.
It’s easy to see why. This is effectively the first ground-up performance car Toyota has developed on its tod for some 20 years, built using know-how distilled from a heavily revitalised interest in motorsport, and from considerable success on the stages of the World Rally Championship in particular. It’s also the car that was developed with the express purpose of homologating the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team’s 2021 racer. Complications relating to the pandemic eventually led to that competition car being sidelined, but not before the likes of Tommi Mäkinen, Kris Meeke, Ott Tänak and Jari-Matti Latvala had played a key role in the road car’s design and development. Toyota could have mothballed the GR Yaris at this point, but boss Akio Toyoda insisted that it see the light of day even though it looked certain the rally car would not.
And thank heavens he did, because the GR Yaris has unsurprisingly been riding high on a tsunami of success since its launch late last year. First, it scored top marks in our initial UK first drive review. Then it won our ‘Junior Handling Day’ competition, before taking on vastly more powerful and vastly more expensive supercars at our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout. It secured a podium position there, too.
Now, what is arguably the most exciting hot hatchback in a generation finds itself under the cold, clinical light of the Autocar road test. Expectations are high, but will the GR Yaris be able to add another five stars to its already crowded trophy cabinet? Time to find out.