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Driven: Toyota Yaris GRMN. Image by Toyota.

Driven: Toyota Yaris GRMN
Spending some time in Toyota’s hottest Yaris... that you can no longer buy. Oh.

 



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Toyota Yaris GRMN

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Good points: it's a supercharged Toyota Yaris that does 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds!

Not so good: it doesn't feel as special as the inflated price tag and its track-livery exterior might suggest...

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota Yaris GRMN
Price: Yaris starts from £13,015; GRMN was* £26,295 (* see copy)
Engine: 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive with Torsen LSD, six-speed manual
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 170g/km (VED Band 151-170: £515 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 143mph (limited)
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
Power: 212hp at 6,800rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 4,800rpm
Boot space: 286-768 litres

Our view:

This is going to look like a curmudgeon's review of what is, when all's said and done, a very, very good little car. Let's face it, the regular Toyota Yaris would probably even struggle to put a smile on the face of the Joker. While he was high as a kite on ecstasy. So one with a supercharged 1.8-litre engine - developing a giddy 212hp - plus a set of advanced Sachs dampers, a torque-sensing limited-slip differential and the sort of exterior graphics scheme that looks like the little Toyota has leapt straight off the gravel stages at the Acropolis Rally and landed in your average British high street, must surely be a car to be reverentially fêted.

Thus, when we first drove the Yaris GRMN on the occasion of its international launch, Dave gave it a glowing review. And so impressed with the Toyota's skills was another UK motoring journalist that he felt moved to do the unheard-of, the absolutely unthinkable - he actually sunk his own money into a brand-new car that he'd driven, bagging one of the 80-100 GRMNs confirmed for the UK. And very happy he is with it, too. Oh, by the way, we say '80-100', because no one seems to know exactly how many were sold here... other than that it is a tiny number, and they're all accounted for now.

Furthermore, the Yaris GRMN should be highly commended for continuing Toyota's resurgence from manufacturer of worthy but dull hybrids and humdrum everyday conveyances previously, to a company which now turns out such excellent machinery as the GT86 coupe and the 1.2-litre C-HR crossover, and a marque which is also readying itself for the impending revival of the Supra, after a needlessly lengthy lay-off for its sports flagship.

And yet... having spent a few days in the GRMN's company in the UK, we can't quite bring ourselves to the point of adulation for it. This, despite the fact there's plenty to like. The supercharged engine, for instance, is a delight. It's light and crisp and linear and rorty, and it absolutely thrives on being revved to high heaven. Do so, and you get a great soundtrack from the motor, which - unusually, in this day and age - is dominated more by induction than exhaust. This, believe us, is a Very Good Thing Indeed.

It's also undeniably quick, with a quite rabid turn of pace. It's no drama whatsoever to get the GRMN operating in its lofty power and torque sweet spot, because the accuracy of throw and feeling of precision of its six-speed manual gearbox is something to positively revel in, so you happily chuck the lever about the gate more than you might in some competitors. The brakes are epic, with lovely pedal modulation and immense bite, and the suspension is sufficiently meaty and composed to make the fast Yaris feel properly sorted and keyed-in to the road surface - even if the low-speed ride is brittle to the point of Elijah Price's bones in Unbreakable. And the Torsen diff gives the GRMN fabulous traction and drive out of corners.

Yes, get it boiling away and this Yaris is a proper hoot. But, below 4,500rpm, it doesn't actually feel that special at all. Not in the way, say, that some of its more readily available, more inexpensive turbocharged rivals do. The decision to supercharge the 1.8-litre engine, by the way, looks fantastically different and perverse, on the face of it, but it does leave the GRMN some way off the competition when it comes to eco-stats - where most hot superminis churn out 135g/km of CO2 or thereabouts, the Yaris is a lot dirtier at 170g/km, leading to a high first year of VED, and it'll do no more than 30mpg, at best, in reality. Odd, for a hybrid-obsessed, planet-saving company like Toyota.

Not that the year-one VED will bother you, of course, because the entire UK allocation of the Yaris GRMN has all gone. And at a cost of £26,295 apiece, no less. Wow. That is... bold pricing. Given that GRMN is, as yet, an unknown performance-brand quantity here in the UK and, as we said earlier, the Yaris is something of a 'bowl of porridge' car in regular format, asking a good four grand (at least) more than rivals charge for their products seems brassy in the extreme on the part of the Japanese.

Also, while there are lovely Boshuko sports seats (which are, nevertheless, mounted too high in an already-tall car, lending the Toyota a less-than-sporty driving position) and that sweet three-spoke GR-badged steering wheel and GRMN aluminium pedals and something called Ultrasuede upholstery clothing various surfaces (Ultrasuede sounding like a supergroup that Midge Ure and Brett Anderson might have fronted in the 2000s) the interior is a little, well... plain. And not that different from the cabin of a normal Yaris, truth be told. About our favourite aesthetic thing with the GRMN when sitting behind the wheel was that the single windscreen wiper, which is used throughout the whole of the Japanese supermini's range anyway, took on an extra air of cool in something with strong motorsport ties.

Which is why we feel bad. We really like the Yaris GRMN. It's obviously tremendous to drive when approaching the upper reaches of its dynamic limits, and it should be guaranteed collector's status for the future, given the small numbers of it produced. But we can't help feeling that Toyota would have been better off launching the GRMN performance badge on a souped-up version of the Yaris that wasn't quite so expensively engineered, making it more widely available to the motoring public and therefore less of a hyper-niche curiosity.

The Yaris Gazoo Racing Meister of Nürburgring is undoubtedly a desirable car. It's also undoubtedly a car that will gain much in the way of petrolhead-cred and, possibly, residual value in the years to come, given its limited build numbers. And it's also undoubtedly huge fun when you're thrapping it along at ludicrous speed. But, beyond the lurid exterior appearance, the GRMN doesn't convincingly convey the air of a £26,000 limited-run special and thus there are rapid B-segment cars which are more engaging, easier to live with, less money and more accessible than this. Yes, that's right - we're bloody curmudgeons, aren't we?

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta ST: This is the main problem for the Yaris GRMN. The new 1.5-litre Fiesta ST is more scintillating to drive, comfier when you're not 'on it', isn't built in limited numbers and costs far less than the Toyota, even in full ST-3, Performance Pack, five-door specification.

Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport: We thought the 208 GTi by PS was expensive for a B-segment hot hatch... until the GRMN came along. Another one where, while we admire the Toyota's engineering ethos, the Peugeot is the better car to drive.

Volkswagen Polo GTI: Look, it's a Volkswagen Polo GTI. Therefore, it feels impeccably built, looks really classy and understated, has a strong, smooth powertrain and it's probably the sensible choice for most people buying a small hot hatch. But, really, who craves sensible, in this particular class?


Matt Robinson - 4 Oct 2018









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

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








 

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