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Toyota GR Yaris crowned 2021 UK Car of the Year. Image by Toyota GB.

Toyota GR Yaris crowned 2021 UK Car of the Year
Pocket homologation tearaway from Toyota eclipses the competition in judges’ voting for UKCotY title.
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2021-05-16: Driven: Toyota GR Yaris

What's all this about?

The absolutely magnificent Toyota GR Yaris has picked up another top accolade, as it has been voted the UK Car of the Year (UKCotY) 2021 by a panel of expert motoring journalists. Well, we say that; it's actually a panel of 28 expert motoring journalists and then one mug who may or may not be writing this news piece. Anyway, it is just reward for one of the most brilliant cars of the 21st century.

Sounds good. What was it up against?

A shortlist of 11 other vehicles in various categories, including the very machine the GR is oh-so-loosely based upon, the regular Yaris. This was the Best Supermini in the UKCotY Awards 2021 and, funnily enough, it has also recently been voted the European Car of the Year for 2021 as well. Toyota is on the crest of a wave right now.

Were only various models of the Yaris permitted to enter UKCotY or something?

Of course not! With the normal Yaris landing Best Supermini and the GR already crowned Best Performance, the other contenders were: the charming Honda e, which was Best City Car; moving up to Best Small Hatch, it was the Volkswagen ID.3 which took the honours; a double-win for the Skoda Octavia saw it pick up Best Family and also Best Estate gongs; the technofest-on-wheels that is the Mercedes S-Class took the Best Luxury category; and then, moving into the lucrative SUV marketplace, Ford's Puma won the Best Small Crossover, its bigger Kuga sibling was honoured with Best Medium Crossover and the icon reborn that is the Land Rover Defender was christened the Best Large Crossover; which just left the challenging-looking BMW 4 Series as the Best Coupe and the not-challenging-looking-at-all-but-in-fact-drop-dead-gorgeous Lexus LC Convertible to deservedly scoop Best Open Top.

Tough crowd to beat. It's unusual for a homologation special to win overall honours though, right?

It is indeed, as the GR's success breaks a two-year hold on the crown by EVs; the previous two UKCotY winners were the Tesla Model 3 and the Jaguar I-Pace. The Honda e and Volkswagen ID.3 were therefore probably pre-match favourites this time around, in all honesty.

Just how close was the margin of victory?

Very. With four of 29 judges' votes still to be counted ahead of the closing deadline, five cars were still in the running for the top honour. John Challen, the director of the UKCotY Awards, said of the winner and the closeness of the battle: "The GR Yaris exudes the same sort of emotions found in the original breed of hot hatches, with a modern-day twist thanks to advances in automotive technology. It's the most fun I've had behind the wheel of a car for many years.

"Such was the strength in depth of the 12 cars in the overall category, that with just four votes remaining, five cars were still in the running. This fact shows that vehicle manufacturers are creating truly impressive, desirable and focused products for their customers."

The GR won the votes of many of the panel, with glowing appraisals all heaped upon its stocky little shoulders. Fellow UKCotY director Alisdair Suttie added: "Raw, aggressive, rapid - the Yaris GR is the hot hatch done properly. Get these thrills while you can."

Jonny Smith, another judge and host of The Late Brake Show, said of it: "Uncompromised, motorsport-chasing cars of this calibre come along so seldom these days," while CAR magazine's Anthony ffrench-Constant felt moved enough to suggest the Toyota was 'more fun than a bath full of otters'. Which sounds like a lot of fun indeed.

And what about you? What did you think?

Well, you can read our full review by clicking on the first hyperlink at the top of this news piece. However, we (I) also went on record as saying: "The GR Yaris is not just the best performance car I've driven this year; it might be the best performance car I've driven this century."

That's some claim! So presumably Toyota is happy?

Naturally, although it must have known it had a massive hit on its hands when the car was being developed. Agustin Martin, president and managing director of Toyota GB, said: "Our sincere thanks go to the UK Car of the Year judges for giving this prestigious award to GR Yaris. This unique car perfectly expresses Toyota's focus on the pure joys of driving and how we are drawing directly on our motorsport activities to create ever-better cars for the road. The unprecedented reception for GR Yaris - and for the all-new Yaris range more widely - is transforming the perception of our brand as a maker of desirable cars that are genuinely fun to drive."

If you want to find out more about the awards process and the other judges involved, please do pop on over to

Matt Robinson - 8 Mar 2021

2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.

2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota GB.    - Toyota road tests
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