New Toyota Yaris GRMN review

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Toyota Yaris GRMN prototype

The Toyota Yaris GRMN hot hatch offers a lot of power for quite a bit of cash but its it any good?

Verdict

4

The Yaris GRMN is a hot hatch in the old style, and mostly all the better for it. This first taster proves that Toyota has taken the task very seriously, and while the GRMN is neither perfect nor cheap, it’s still a car of undoubted character and a lot of fun to drive.

Toyota hasn’t made a hot hatchback for more than a generation, but now it’s back with a pretty specialised offering, and Auto Express has had an early taster of the high-performance Yaris GRMN at the Nürburgring in Germany.

The new model’s suffix stands for  ‘Gazoo Racing tuned by Meisters of the Nürburgring’. Only 400 examples will ever be built, and between 90 and 100 are projected to come to the UK.

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The Yaris GRMN features a supercharged 1.8-litre engine, and although the car is still going through the homologation process, the final outputs should be around 210bhp and 250Nm of torque. These easily overcome a kerbweight of just 1,135kg to deliver an impressive 0-60mph time that’s expected to be as low as 6.3 seconds. That power is deployed via a reinforced six-speed manual gearbox to a Torsen-type limited-slip differential, while exhaust gases exit through a bespoke centre-exit tailpipe.

Toyota Yaris GRMN prototype

The suspension is both stiffer and lower, with special Sachs-made dampers, while wheels are BBS 17-inch items that save 1.6kg per corner over a standard 17-inch wheel. The brakes are much more effective, with four-pot calipers on the front axle that promise not only vastly improved stopping power, but also much better pedal feel.

Visually, the Yaris GRMN is surprisingly mild, although the large Gazoo Racing stickers of the production car, in red and black, betray its intent. They can be deleted at the time of purchase, if so desired.

From the moment this pre-production prototype fires up it’s obvious this is a Yaris unlike any other. The exhaust has a real bark, which intensifies with revs, so that you’ll need to shout to a passenger to be heard under hard acceleration.

It’s a quick car, too, although without the sudden burst of torque typical of a modern turbocharged hot hatch, so you’ll need to work the engine hard through the gears to really enjoy the full extent of the car’s performance. That is not a chore, however; in fact, the slick gearchange and sharp throttle response make flitting between ratios all the more satisfying.

Initially, the GRMN’s suspension feels very firm, but once above 20mph it smooths out and then offers a lot of body control over even awkward road surfaces. The steering is a little artificial around the straight ahead and in the manner in which it self centres, but there’s very little torque steer, despite the differential.

Toyota Yaris GRMN prototype

The GRMN is a car that begs to be driven everywhere as hard as possible, free of gimmicky driving modes. It’s loud and manic, although the standard Bridgestones relinquish their grip relatively easy and soon start to squeal. Perhaps the car’s biggest failing is its ergonomics; a high-set seat and a driving position that lacks much in the way of adjustment mean taller drivers will struggle to get comfortable.

At £26,295, the GRMN is a lot of money for a Yaris, but then this is a vastly more exclusive car than something like a Ford Fiesta ST. It’s well specified, too, with DAB, climate control and sat-nav all standard.

Key specs

  • Model: Toyota Yaris GRMN
  • Price: £26,295
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl supercharged petrol
  • Power: 210bhp/250Nm (est)
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, FWD
  • 0-60mph/Top speed: 6.3s (est) /143mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 37.7/170g/km
  • On sale : July 27 2017