Here is a new challenger for hatchback rocket championship : the Toyota Yaris GRMN.
If you have been 20 between the 80’s and now, I guess you know what a hot hatch is. I even hope that like me, at this point of your life, you dreamt of owning one : 205 GTI, Golf GTI, Focus RS, whichever era, there was always a fast small city car to make the youngsters dream. Lucky me, I owned a Golf GTI MK 5 for several years, until it was crashed by a good friend (he’s still my good friend). Anyway, today more than ever, every brand seems to be building a hot hatch, or sometimes two, and most of them are small turbo 4 cylinders that lack soul. Enters the Yaris GRMN.
The Yaris GRMN looks the part
When you see the little Toyota for the first time, you just tend to think it’s stupid at best, ugly at worst. But, what you tend to forget is that you don’t look at it like when you were 20, and at 20, I am pretty sure I would have been happier driving an obvious stickered hot hatch than a stealth one.
Ugly or not, I really like the idea Toyota has of building a Gazoo Racing department that will probably end up being a brand in a few years. It creates an identity around the car and its rally heritage.
Interior wise, I have to say it’s silly too, maybe even more than the body. You find two very well designed bucket seats covered in ultra-suede (alcantara similar), a sporty steering wheel, alloy clutch and brake pedals, and… that’s it. How funny is it that you have two racing seats in a normal Yaris interior? I love it. Even the rear seats are standard boring fabric seats that you would find in the normal Yaris.
Anyway, I don’t really care about the looks in this kind of car, I want to know how it drives.
Sounds as fun as the GRMN looks
If you don’t know yet, the Yaris GRMN is limited to 400 examples worldwide, and that’s probably why you likely never heard of that car. So let me give you some specs, even if I hate to.
Developped around the Nurburgring as its name indicates “Gazoo Racing Meisters of Nurburgring” (and as all sports car nowadays), the GR team decided to revise the chassis, put new Sachs coilovers 30 mm shorter, bigger brakes, and a big engine. Indeed, the engine is what makes the car. It is actually a 1.8 I4 with a Magnusson Eaton supercharger mated to it, which is original by itself, but guess where else you can find a very very similar engine! The Lotus Elise S! How crazy is that?
You put your foot down, and the engine delivers the 212 HP in a very linear way up to 7000 RPM, where you hit the rev limiter (pretty much every time, because it is so much fun, hear it for yourself in the video). It really reminds me of a NA engine, even the noise is excellent: if there was no slight blow noise from the supercharger, I would not be able to tell.
Which makes me think, maybe superchargers are the solution to our 2019 down-sizing problems?
Is the Toyota Yaris GRMN dangerous?
Yes it is.
For two reasons, and the first one is that it will get your driving license retired someday for sure. You just can not resist the way it goes, you always want to hear that Tatatata noise from the rev limiter, which gets you up to 180 km/h in fourth very quickly, which usually gets you in jail. Great.
The second danger is physical. While the front end is very grippy and puts the power down very well, thanks to its Torsen limited slip diff, it tends to be inaccurate, and even worse, it torque steers a lot. Hold the wheel tight.
On another note, the braking is something you want to look at closely, the rear end always tries to get in front during hard braking. But at least that’s fun.
A city car? Really?
Well. Even though it is based on the “boring” version of the Yaris, which is the ultimate city car, this one I have to say does not fully make sense in a city. First because it is not a horrible electrical bike, although the Yaris tends to electrocute you when you touch it. But seriously, its suspensions are stiff, to give you a figure, the 30 km/h bumps need to be taken at 15.
The clutch pedal is very hard too, I even caught myself pushing with my hand on my leg in traffic. It is only available in manual gearbox, which does not really make sense in a city. And, its steering angle is ridiculous to make a U-turn.
So should you buy the Toyota Yaris GRMN?
You can’t. All examples are sold, but still there are some on the second hand market going for around 25k€ best price.
A part from that, yes you should buy it over a Golf GTI or another tubrocharged hot hatch. It is just so much more fun! The engine is crazy and sounds so good, the car also feels a lot more mechanical than the competition, and it is very rare, very low chance you see it in a car meet or something like that.
FunToDrive score: 85
Plus, my intuition tells me that it is the first of a long Gazoo Racing history, and that has to count for something.
Toyota, I know exaclty what you did there. You just decided to give full freedom to a team of frustrated engineers, who put all their efforts in making the funniest car possible on a Yaris base. And, you probably lost money in the process. No one does that today, and thank you for that.