Nearly a year on from its reveal at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the most hyped hot hatch of the past decade is finally arriving in Malaysia. The Toyota GR Yaris is open for booking, making it the second Toyota Gazoo Racing product to make its debut here after the GR Supra.
Less than 200 units will be made available locally, priced at RM299,000 on-the-road without insurance. For that, you get the top-of-the-line Performance Pack which, as the name suggests, adds a whole host of performance-enhancing goodies, which we’ll come to in a second.
For a limited time, buyers will also receive an Early Bird Package that includes a helmet bag, a GR Yaris scale model and a GR Yaris Driving Experience next year. The pack is said to be worth RM5,000, which presumably makes up the saving you get from a 50% reduction in the sales and services tax (SST). The three available colours are Platinum White Pearl, Emotional Red II and Precious Black.
The GR Yaris is a homologation special of sorts, enabling Toyota’s World Rally Championship (WRC) team to bake in some crucial hardpoints for the what was supposed to be next year’s rally car. That car was unfortunately cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the GR Yaris is still no less fascinating.
The pocket rocket is the only variant of the European and Japanese Yaris to come with three doors, and its bespoke body is 45 mm lower than the regular five-door. More importantly, the trailing edge of the roof is a whopping 95 mm lower, allowing for the fitment of a larger and more efficient rear wing on the WRC car.
Pronounced fender flares give the car a thuggish stance and add 60 mm in width. The massive rectangular lower grille feeds air into the engine, radiator and intercooler, while the vertical air intakes on either side cool the brakes. At the rear, you’ll find a large lower diffuser and twin round exhaust pipes. The front splitter, bumper corner lips, mostly flat underfloor and rear spoiler help increase downforce and reduce drag.
The dashboard has been largely carried over but with a few detail changes. The 4.2-inch multi-info display gets a screen that shows the workings of the all-wheel-drive system, the setup of which can be manipulated using the rotary controller ahead of the gearlever. Speaking of which, the shifter has been raised by 50 mm, putting it closer to the driver’s reach and allowing for faster shifts.
Also fitted are sports seats with increased cushion padding and thinner backs, a three-spoke GR steering wheel and specially-positioned sports pedals. As for practicality, the GR has a much smaller boot at just 174 litres, though you can still fold the 60:40 split-folding rear seats for more luggage space if you so wish.
The bespoke componentry extends to the engine, a G16E-GTS 1.6 litre turbocharged three-cylinder. Touted as both the largest and most powerful three-cylinder in production as well as the smallest and lightest 1.6 litre turbo around, it comes with D-4S port and direct injection, as well as a single-scroll turbo integrated with the exhaust manifold.
We get the European-spec engine that produces 261 PS at 6,500 rpm and 360 Nm of torque from 3,000 to 4,600 rpm – 11 PS and 10 Nm down on the Japanese one. Even so, it gets from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 230 km/h.
In what will be music to the ears of purists, the GR Yaris is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, complete with a rev-matching function. The GR-Four all-wheel-drive system has been developed specifically for the car – Toyota’s first such system in 20 years – and ditches the heavy centre differential in favour of a multi-plate clutch in the rear differential to distribute torque to the front and rear wheels.
Drivers have three different settings for the torque split to choose from. In Normal mode, the car sends around 60% to the front wheels and 40% to the rear, whereas Sport mode has a 30:70 split to add some rear-drive handling characteristics. Track mode dials it back to a 50:50 split for maximum performance. The system also comes with a rear-axle disconnect function that allows drivers to yank the manual handbrake (instead of the electronic parking brake in the standard Yaris) to slide into a corner.
This all-wheel-drive system is the reason why Toyota has spliced up two of its platforms for the GR Yaris. The front end retains the same GA-B underpinnings as the standard car, but the rear end uses the C variant from the Corolla and C-HR instead. This allows the fitment of double wishbones at the rear, making space for the differential and half shafts.
At the front, the MacPherson strut suspension has been retained but sports reinforced hub bearings, lower arms and their associated bushings, plus revised anti-roll bars and redesigned knuckles that increase negative camber and optimise the car’s roll steer characteristics. The bespoke dampers have increased response, while the steering has been retuned for greater alacrity and feedback.
Going hand-in-hand with the uprated chassis, the body shell has been stiffened and lightened for this application, with increased spot welds and structural adhesive and a reinforced rear end. A forged carbon roof and aluminium doors, tailgate and bonnet shave around 27.5 kg and enable the body to weigh around 38 kg less than the previous Yaris. All-in-all, the GR Yaris tips the scales at 1,280 kg.
Remember what we said about the Performance Pack goodies? Get some tissues to wipe up your drool, because our GR Yaris gets Torsen limited-slip differentials at the front and rear to shuffle torque from side to side. Also fitted are lightweight 18-inch BBS ten-spoke forged alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, along with stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, retuned dampers and tweaked power steering settings.
There are also GR-badged, red-painted brake callipers – the four-piston front stoppers clamp on 356 mm discs (even larger than the Supra’s), while the two-piston rear callipers are matched to 297 mm discs.
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights and taillights, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a head-up display, a front dashcam, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a display audio system with a seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a reverse camera and six speakers.
Despite the performance bent, the GR Yaris doesn’t compromise on safety, as it’s fitted with the full Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assists. These include autonomous emergency braking with oncoming vehicle detection, daytime cyclist detection and nighttime pedestrian detection, lane centring assist, lane keeping assist and automatic high beam. Six airbags and stability control also come standard.
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