What is it?
The Toyota Yaris GRMN reminds you of that old chestnut of a gag about asking for directions in some faraway place, only to be told: “if that were where I was heading, I certainly wouldn’t have started from here.”
Among the current crop of turbocharged hot superminis, it feels every inch the misfit that you might imagine a warmed-up Yaris would make. It is also, however, one of the more involving, simple and likeable hot hatches we’ve driven of late – not to mention a car that, while a long way from perfect, ought to be embraced by any keen driver for plenty of reasons.
Chief among those reasons is the fact that it represents an important beginning. It’s the first European-style hot hatch done with any real commitment by Toyota for an awfully long time – arguably, that it has yet attempted – not to mention the first GRMN-branded performance special ever to be built, developed or sold on European shores.
That acronym – which trips about as lightly off the tongue as an armour-plated cough sweet that’s been glued in place – stands for ‘Gazoo Racing Meisters of Nürburgring’, and it’s the branding that all of Toyota’s most performance-focussed models will share. The ‘Gazoo Racing’ part is the important bit. Toyota founded what has become its de facto factory motorsport and tuning arm last year when it returned to the World Rally Championship and will offer performance-tuned models under that banner at several discretely positioned levels, with the GRMN ones at the top of that hierarchy.
This Yaris might strike you as an odd car for Gazoo Racing to have chosen to get this particular ball rolling though, since it’s a limited-series offering of which only 80 examples will make it to the UK (only 400 will be sold in the whole of Europe) so it’ll be a particularly rare sight on British roads. In tandem with that kind of rarity, you’d expect an ambitious price, and in this case, it’s £26,295. Ouch.
However, Toyota sources suggest that full-fat GRMN models will continue to be limited-series productions, priced above what you might consider to be their closest rivals. Toyota, for the record, doesn’t think the Yaris GRMN has a natural rival – though it also concedes that there are quicker and more powerful hot superminis you could buy. Which sound like rivals to us.