From £26,2957
Can a supercharged 209bhp engine, a Torsen differential and a host of other changes turn the Yaris into a true Mini Cooper S Works 210 rival?

What is it?

Incongruity: with silent cars from Jaguar, £240,000 'coupés' from Range Rover and sports utility vehicles from Ferrari (even if it won't actually call it an SUV), in 2018, we’re immersed in it.

But none of those things is perhaps quite so improbable as a Toyota supermini that not only packs 209bhp but also puts it to the Tarmac through a Torsen differential with the help of (passive) dampers from Sachs.

That last pair of assets is very much what you might expect of a full-bore, full-sized hot hatch and not something that, in its most basic form, costs a whisker under thirteen grand.

The car is garrulously known as the Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing Meisters of Nürburgring (or Toyota Yaris GRMN), with Gazoo Racing being the in-house division that plays keeper to the rally-winning Yaris WRC.

It’s likely the first of several Europe-bound GRMN specials, and despite a narrow appeal, owing to its £26,295 asking price, very nearly all 80 UK examples are already spoken for.   

We’ve driven the car abroad already, so know that this supercharged 1.8-litre 2ZR-FE engine – built in Deeside by Toyota, modified by Lotus and then united with its steed in Valenciennes on the Franco-Belgian border – is an engine of addictive character.

Here, it’s tasted for the first time on British roads, which have a reputation for making or breaking the dreams of hot hatch marketeers. We also have a full road test in the works – this will be appearing in the magazine in due course.

Yaris grmn 3511

What's it like?

What you notice straight away is that the GRMN's peak power figure of 209bhp doesn’t arrive until 6500rpm, and the ascent to that point is Peugeot delectably linear compared with turbocharged rivals'.

This car really is something special. Fed by the frigid air of Salisbury Plain, the intake hisses at high crank speeds with the intensity of a severely maligned moggy. Lovely stuff. The exhaust is a little nasal, but it sings a tight, dense, angry tune that wholly subverts what you know to be true – that you’re driving a Toyota Yaris.

At this price point, you’d expect the chassis dynamics to match, if not better, what’s under the bonnet. But on British roads, the results are mixed.

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The GRMN’s cause is hardly helped by a high-set driving position and a steering wheel with minimal adjustability. The body is tall, too, and thus sacrifices some of the natural agility of hotter Mini Cooper variants. The low-speed ride, meanwhile, can be so brutal that attempting to accurately jab the low-resolution infotainment touchscreen is a uniquely frustrating endeavour.  

You quickly forgive that, though, because this Toyota, more so than even the rear-driven GT86, is life-affirming to drive fast. With a footprint that feels almost four-square, you’re dicing with instability much of the time, although the dampers come into themselves with speed and provide magnificent composure. In this sense, the GRMN is not dissimilar to the original Ford Focus RS.

That composure allows you to push refreshingly hard – certainly enough to gently loosen the rears by way of either that limited-slip differential or the satisfyingly firm, high-biting brakes – and to do so with confidence. There is some torque steer, yes, and the front axle isn’t the most predictable companion on British roads, but there’s satisfaction to be had in driving around any issues. As they say, the throttle pedal goes both ways.

On the subject of pedals, they’re slightly wide-spaced in the GRMN, so necessitate proper ankle articulation for heel-and-toe shifts. In truth, this only adds to the sense that you’re in a proper rally refugee. It’s also something that illustrates that getting the best from this supersonic Yaris isn’t as simple as you’d think – but we’ll go into further detail on that in the forthcoming road test.

As for fuel economy, do you even care? Well, for those hardcore enough to run this car as a daily driver, our figures suggest you’ll manage around 26mpg if you’re reasonably well behaved most of the time but prone to bouts of mischief. Also note that the GRMN's 205-section tyres have broadened the turning circle to the extent that at some time or another, you’ll end up making an unforeseen three-point turn – probably in full public view.  

Yaris grmn 3513

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Should I buy one?

The GRMN is pretty much sold out, so you’ll need to do some digging about Toyota's UK dealer network to get a sniff of a build slot

There’s also the small matter of the new Ford Fiesta ST – a car for which an Autocar verdict is due imminently and, as you’d imagine, given Ford’s track record, should be rather favourable. Moreover, its asking price is likely to slip below £20,000.

The Mini Cooper S Works 210 – our current pick of the hot supermini market, owing to its sublime chassis – is also in the mix and is positively useable in comparison to the small, unforgiving GRMN.

However, to an owner, we suspect neither of those rivals will feel quite as special or as wonderfully uncompromising as this steroidal Toyota Yaris. And so, outrageous as Toyota’s pricing strategy is, we’d understand the logic of anybody who shells out. In fact, we’d applaud it.  

Toyota Yaris GRMN

Where Wiltshire On sale Now Price £26,295 Engine 4 cyls, 1798cc, supercharged, petrol Power 209bhp at 6800rpm Torque 184lb ft at 4800rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1135kg Top speed 143mph 0-62mph 6.4sec Fuel economy 37.7mpg CO2 rating 170g/km Rivals Mini Cooper S Works 210, Peugeot 208 GTi

Yaris grmn 3512

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
justaviewman 13 March 2018
5wheels 13 March 2018

Toyota rallyman

Some u oafs in here may remember me from posts going back a bit. Rallying first with rear wheel drive Starlet ( biggest hoot ever even trashed Cossies on tarmac.mountain stage) progressed to rear wheel drive corolla + great car, and finally frint wheel drive corolla. Why? Because in 12 years over 100 races unlusing the acropolis never had mechanical failure of any kind. Thus Yaris is going ti he a clubman's tool. I would love one
xxxx 13 March 2018

Remember your last rallying post

"Some u oafs in here may remember me from posts going back" it was only about 2 weeks ago

bowsersheepdog 24 March 2018

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

"Some u oafs in here may remember me from posts going back" it was only about 2 weeks ago

Given that you appear to assume that we all require reminding about fucking Norway every half-hour, I'd say that two weeks between rally mentions is pretty respectable.

k12479 13 March 2018

...silent cars from Jaguar, £240,000 'coupés' from Range Rover..

This is what's known as product placement.