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Driven: Toyota GR Yaris. Image by Toyota.

Driven: Toyota GR Yaris
Deletion of the Circuit Pack does not mean deletion of the massive grins you will have on your face driving the extraordinary Toyota GR Yaris.

   



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Toyota GR Yaris

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: it feels every bit as magnificent to drive as the Circuit Pack and yet it's cheaper to buy...

Not so good: ...but we'd still have the Circuit Pack

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota GR Yaris
Price: GR Yaris from 30,020 for car as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual with Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) technology, GR-Four all-wheel drive with open differentials
Body style: three-door homologation hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 186g/km (VED Band 171-190: 895 in year one, then 155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.3mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Power: 261hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 3,000-4,600rpm
Boot space: 174 litres

Our view:

We are going to keep this one nice and brief for you. When we drove the Toyota GR Yaris Circuit Pack late last year, we - like so many other automotive critics - were blown away by what the Japanese outfit had served up. So much so that, in our capacity as part of the judging panel for the UK Car of the Year Awards 2021, we voted the GR homologation marvel as our choice. And so did most of the rest of the judges too.

This test, then, was booked in purely to see if the Circuit Pack was transformative to the way the Yaris could delight and entertain. To recap, it adds red-painted brake callipers, 18-inch forged alloys with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Tyres (otherwise, the Toyota gets a different design of black alloy with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber), 'GR Circuit-Tune'-specification suspension, and it also adds two Torsen limited-slip diffs to the axles, instead of the standard car's open items. The price for all of this is 3,500, which means a 'bog-basic' (and we use that term in a very wide sense when talking about a car engineered to this exacting level of genius) GR Yaris can now be yours for a mere 20 notes in excess of 30,000.

So, to tick (the CP box) or not to tick (when ordering)? That is the question. And we're here to tell you to go for the CP. Which might sound like we're saying the GR Yaris loses something in the dynamic stakes if you drive one without it. But it doesn't. The thing's still a cast-iron masterpiece. You can fling it around with wild abandon and it will still tweak into oversteer if you have the dial in Sport mode (where the GR-Four AWD system throws most of the available torque rearwards). You can revel in that glorious 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine. You can marvel in the sensational steering and the wonderfully solid manual transmission. You can enact perfect heel-and-toe downshifts. You can basically drive what is one of the finest performance cars on sale today. Or, indeed, any other day, come to think of it. A GR Yaris non-CP is by no means the weak link in this small, extremely strong chain of rapid Toyotas; we covered 251 miles in GY70 GPV and they were comprehensively a thrill-a-minute, every single one of 'em.

In which case, why do you need to Circuit Pack? Well, if you can see a black car in the pictures, that's a GR CP which belongs to a friend and neighbour. He reckons the ride on it is way too punishing on some of the bumpier lanes around here and he wanted to know if the non-CP was any more civilised to travel in. And the answer is... no, it isn't. This is still a short-wheelbase, lightweight (1,280kg in this specification, 30kg trimmer than the heavier, more spec-laden alternatives), highly focused car, so while the dampers start to come into their own at the sort of speeds the GR Yaris loves (and it most loves ones that flirt with illegality, quite frankly, although we adore it for that), the ride is still somewhat frenetic at times. We could live with it for the enormous handling reward you get as compensation, but we were hoping that the non-CP might actually feel a bit more luxurious to travel in.

That it doesn't ride with any notable additional grace or fluency means we still think the CP is a no-brainer at a mere 3,500. And, apart from the one foible of the entire GR Yaris clan - the too-high-mounted driver's seat; this is said to be because rally drivers, and let's not forget the Toyota was homologated for WRC purposes at the outset of its development, prefer to sit high for good visibility but it still feels completely odd to be perched way up near the rooflining in a car as seriously talented as this one - if anything our opinion of the GR Yaris hasn't been denuded by this second test-drive. In fact, it has only grown even more deeply appreciative. Standard GR, Convenience Pack or Circuit Pack, the outcome's all the same: this is a bona fide future classic right here, and a car sure to go down in history as one of the finest examples of its super-rare, glitteringly talented kind. What a phenomenal, phenomenal car this little Toyota truly is.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta ST Edition: even though they're roughly of the same size, and obviously the regular Fiesta and regular Yaris models are direct rivals, the GR's unusual DNA means you can't rightly compare these two. Having said that, while it's not 4WD and not as powerful as the Toyota, the Fiesta ST Edition remains a scintillating road performance car.

Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition: if you could get hold of one of these, it's about the only way to get the GR Yaris' road-based driving thrills and speed from a car which you could use daily, as long as you don't mind driving without any in-car entertainment ever again. However, as the ridiculously rare CTR LE has all sold out (there were only 20 available in the UK), the potential dilemma of choosing between them has been resolved and you can safely stick with the GR Yaris.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport: while we fully accept that living with a Golf GTI Clubsport year in, year out is going to be a more pleasurable experience than bounding around frenziedly in the GR Yaris, we have to say that given this Toyota is about seven grand cheaper than the VW and possibly four times as much fun to drive (that's an officially quantified metric, by the way) means the 'decision' is a total no-brainer. Buy the Japanese car.


Matt Robinson - 16 May 2021



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2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.

2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota GR Yaris UK test. Image by Toyota.








 

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