Some cars have a well-deserved reputation while others suffer from exaggerated hype. Until we finally got a turn behind the wheel of this crazy Toyota Yaris, I wasn’t sure which camp it would fall into. The answer became crystal-clear with a minute of driving it…
A senior motoring journalist once spent a considerable amount of time at lunch, gesticulating wildly that the best Nissan 370Z combination is the drop-top variant with an automatic gearbox. When I finally got my turn, despite several attempts to find any of its virtues, it turned out to be my least favourite.
Ditto for the Toyota 86 (especially with an auto-box), BMW X1 and a couple of other contenders who simply didn’t live up to the gushing hype we had to endure from their new fan-boys. On the flipside, the doting fans were absolutely right about vehicles like the Fiesta ST/200, Mercedes GLB and Ineos Grenadier.
And without stringing you along any further, I can now reveal that everything you’ve read about the new Toyota Yaris GR / GR-Four / Gazoo R Gee Rally We-can’t-make-up-our-minds-about-the-name Yaris, is absolutely true. It’s manic. It’s brilliant. Hard sprung, crazy grippy and stupidly fast, yes, but utterly brilliant.
We at NamWheels are also a little surprised that Toyota S.A. lent us this little black number because – based purely on past experience – they are rather stingy with their fun stuff and always, always leave us off their A-list. And although we had a bit of a disagreement with the press fleet people, this Yaris still arrived as promised.
First visual impressions are quite overwhelming as this little Japanese has extremely wide shoulders, chunky hips, bulging muscles and a mean grimace in front of enormous wheels. Then there’s a rather large set of exhaust tips, plenty of spoiler and splitter work, plus a couple of racy interior trim items.
These include the obligatory GR badges which are so plentiful that you may still find new ones deep into your ownership of a Yaris GR. A couple of sober observations we made were that this tiny R792,000 monster has analogue instruments, a manual gearbox and handbrake, climate control and small infotainment screen but no reverse camera.
As the ultimate hooligan special, we approve of all these simplicities with one or two frowns directed at the last two items mentioned above. Naturally, being a modern super-mega-hot-hatchback, this Toyota comes with a whole raft of active and passive driver aids, plus a generous amount of luxury and convenience items.
These also include a surprisingly soft amount of sponge on the otherwise sporty bucket seats, easy cruise and climate controls, commendable headlights and the ability to carry for press fleet drivers in relative comfort.
On the downside, its hooter sound like something Noddy would use, the boot only takes 141L and the fuel tank will hold about 50L.
Toyota alleges an average of 7.6L/100km but that would mean having to drive this car sensibly. In other words, a complete invasion of character.
Powering all four of its insane 225/45R18 tyres is a 1,618cc in-line 3-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which – when judged against its contemporaries – has no business claiming anything more than 180 horsepower. This one, though… oh boy. It was fed steroids, adrenaline, Red Bull, Monster AND morphine to extract a simply unbelievable 198kW at 6,500rpm.
And before you think that it behaves like an old Porsche 911 Turbo, suddenly unleashing all of its pent-up rage on unsuspecting operators, the Toyota engineers have actually managed to instil it with a fairly gradual power curve. I typed “fairly” because it can still be a huge surprise factor; often dampened by the amazing all-wheel drive traction.
At this point I would also like to point out that I/we never went beyond the levels of grip offered by an intelligent rally-inspired 4WD system and lawn roller tyres. Around a track that might be possible but around the streets of Otavi or Lüderitz? You must be bloody joking. This thing grips and grips and grips!
Which means that, once you start to get accustomed to its traction potential, most drivers will fully open the taps in (hopefully) suitable situations. This will produce states of complete disbelief, bursts of utter joy and quite often… gawping passengers. We can’t caution you enough that the grip limits of this car are extremely high and thus, extremely dangerous once they’re breached!
A small negative we noted was that there’s an artificial noise emanating from the car’s sound system. It’s a deep rumble or growl which is probably aimed at giving the rather tinny or metallic-sounding motor a bit more baritone. A deeper bass-line for extra menace because – trust me – it’s meaner than it sounds.
We strapped our trusty old PerformanceBox to this black critter and got a best 0-100km/h time of about 5.4 seconds. It has to be noted that we stopped after just three attempts as we didn’t want to inflict repeated torture on the clutch and there’s plenty of proof that a full-rev launch (instead of our 5000-odd effort) will get you below the claimed sprint time of 5.5 seconds.
Even more brutal evidence that you’re dealing with a watered-down rally monster is the once-off brake test we performed from 100km/h: just 2.71 seconds and 35.5m, which puts it in the top percentage of our list.
So let’s re-cap, shall we? The Toyota Yaris GR Yaris Four Yaris Rally GR Four looks completely mental, sticks to the road like you-know-what to a blanket, has a fair amount of kit and goes like everyone said it would. It’s rather expensive at around 800k but comes with a decent warranty, semi-decent service plan and strict servicing T’s & C’s.
All of us at NamWheels agree that it’s too expensive but we absolutely approve of the car and its potential owners because where, how, and when will you find anything like it?