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?
  • First Drive

    Toyota Yaris GRMN 2018 UK review

    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?
  • First Drive

    Toyota Yaris GRMN 2018 review

    First new-breed Toyota hot hatch is expensive but within sight of its best-handling rivals.
13 March 2018

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.

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 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 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.

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.  

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 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

Join the debate


13 March 2018

 That’ll do for the Tesco run.....!

Peter Cavellini.

13 March 2018

...from such a high-tech avanguard brand like Toyota is (for me at least) unexplainable.

Neither from a marketing point of vue, as the Yaris -- sold mostly as Hybrid nowadays -- wouldn’t gain any image boost from a (very) limited series of this hot-version.

The sky-high asked price has certainly to do with the anecdotical number of cars produced -- a factor that will surely make this bland, but fast Yaris a collector’s dream.

...Who would have thought this to happen to a Toy-iota without an iota of charm? :-)

-- Old fart with petrol in veins, so off the e-cars grid literally --

13 March 2018
BeamMeUpScotty wrote:

Neither from a marketing point of vue, as the Yaris...wouldn’t gain any image boost from a (very) limited series of this hot-version.

It's not about the Yaris per se though, it's about the Gazoo brand. The obvious link is the Yaris as that's what's used in the WRC. It get's people clicking on reviews and it presumably aims to attract young buyers to the brand at a relevant price point. As for collectible, the Audi A1 Quattro and Beetle RSi were similarish concepts, they've held their value or increased slightly but not rocketed.

13 March 2018

Can't understand why they'd Supercharge a 1.8 'city car' but not given the much bigger 'Sports car' GT86 the forced air option it deseves.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

13 March 2018

 The fact that 80 or summer are mostly spoken for suggests that Toyota could have maybe sold 800, and when you look at the price it’s a little high,but, to the right buyer it’s a bargain, exclusivity, and the fact it’s different from the other run of the Mill Hatch backs like the Fiesta ST for instance, this Ford is bland beyond words, no, this a neat Car!

Peter Cavellini.

13 March 2018

If they've haven't sold the 80 yet then any more would will be slow to shift. It's like an 'All Saints' gig they tell you they're nearly sold out when there's still 80% of the tickets left, so to speak.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

13 March 2018

This is what's known as product placement.

13 March 2018
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

what's life without imagination

13 March 2018

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

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

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