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Driven: Toyota Yaris GRMN. Image by Toyota.

Driven: Toyota Yaris GRMN
Toyota returns to the hot hatch fraternity with its new rocket supermini.


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Toyota Yaris GRMN

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

In creating the Yaris GRMN, Toyota drew from its extensive knowledge in motorsport to help build a car that sets a new standard in the junior hot hatch segment.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota Yaris GRMN
Price: 26,295 (as tested)
Engine: 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
Combined economy: 37.6mpg
Top speed: 142mph
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
Power: 212hp at 6,800rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 4,800rpm

What's this?

Having successfully carved out a name for itself in the hybrid market, Toyota returns to the hot hatch segment with the Yaris GRMN. This limited-run car has already sold out its entire European allocation of 400 units, with a further 200 cars destined for Japan, where the car is badged as the Vitz GRMN. What is GRMN you might ask? It stands for Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of the Nurburgring. This designation is reserved for Toyota's most high performance models.

To date, all GRMN models have been assembled in separate production lines in Japan, and typically have been limited to very low volumes. But for the first time, Toyota charged its factory in Valenciennes, France, which produces the three-door Yaris model, with the responsibility to build all 600 GRMN units. Seven a day will roll off the production line, with final assembly being overseen by a team of 20 specialists.

Every aspect of the Yaris GRMN has been approached with the intention of delivering an involving and rewarding driving experience. Five different powertrain options were considered before the team settled on the supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit. Additional work on it is carried out by Lotus prior to it being shipped to the factory, and its output is rated at 212hp. For its suspension setup, Toyota gleaned knowledge from its motorsport department in Japan, where the Vitz is used extensively in rallying and partnered with spring and damper specialist Sachs for the final solution.

How does it drive?

Ease yourself into the heavily bolstered sports seats, covered in a fine 'Ultrasuede' upholstery, and you begin to feel that this car is a little bit special. Apart from the seats, the cabin is as-per a regular Yaris, save for some GR logos on the black starter button. Thumb it and the engine fires into life with a degree of purpose. Toyota settled on a single, centre-exit exhaust for the GRMN, and while it isn't all that loud, it does have a good note to it.

The manual transmission is the first thing you notice. It slots into gear with a slight stiffness. It feels properly mechanical, with next to no play in any direction - something that the engineering team admits it spent a considerable amount of time getting right. Ergonomically it all works too, with Toyota swapping out the regular steering wheel for the smaller one found in the GT86.

Interestingly the GRMN retains the standard Yaris steering setup, with only minor tweaks. But this arrangement results in one of the sweetest handling cars in the segment. The steering is direct, and there is just the right amount of weight to the wheel. Toyota claims the use of forged alloy wheels helps to reduce rotating mass and contributes to the positive steering feel. Just as impressive are the brakes, which consist of 275mm ventilated and grooved discs up front and 278mm rear discs. The four-piston calipers that wrap around the front discs can haul the GRMN up in an impressively short distance, while the brake pedal retains a consistent feel that makes it easy to modulate.

Toyota's choice of a supercharger for the engine will undoubtedly go down well with many. It adds to the engine's character, and it loves to rev. With peak power arriving at 6,800rpm, it gives you an indication as to how to use this four-pot. Power delivery feels more linear than a turbocharged engine and this combined with the use of a Torsen differential results in very impressive rates of power delivery. Even pushing the engine hard in lower gears out of slower corners the Yaris rarely seems to struggle for grip or feel like it's overpowering the factory-fit Bridgestone Potenzas it's wearing. You can run the engine right up to the redline in every gear without the power ever seeming to wane. Addictive stuff.

The fitment of additional bracing - across the front suspension towers, behind the engine bay and two more on the rear - add to the stiffness. Combining these with the Sachs Performance suspension components results in a positive ride quality. Even though the GRMN retains a torsion beam on the rear, the back end feels reassuringly planted at all times. You can induce some lift-off oversteer when carrying greater speed, but as a point-to-point car, the Yaris enables you to push as hard as you dare.


There's as much loyalty as there is competition in the junior hot hatch segment, and with Toyota having been absent for so long, it would be easy to dismiss it. But the Yaris GRMN is no also-ran. Its small but talented team spent time behind the wheel of some of its biggest rivals in a bid to better understand what works, and it shows.

Even though its supercharged engine is among the highest power outputs in the segment, it's far from being a blunt instrument. The setup of the chassis, steering and suspension all come together beautifully to deliver an exhilarating and, crucially, an involving driving experience. Being limited to just 400 units in Europe makes it that bit more special, but above all else, it proves that Toyota can still deliver a cracking car.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 23 Jan 2018    - Toyota road tests
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- Yaris images

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN drive. Image by Toyota.


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