As red devils go, Toyota’s rally-inspired and derived GR Yaris can certainly burn tarmac with fiery intensity.
Fitting therefore that I should take it on an energetic spin through some heavenly country lanes on a route that included a pit-stop at an aptly named area of outstanding natural beauty – with breath-taking views near Brighton in Sussex – called the Devil’s Dyke.
Let’s be clear. In a devilishly fetching shade of Scarlet Flare, this is not a standard Yaris with a few sporty bits added on.
It’s a road-legal hot hatch that’s been honed on the toughest terrains in World Rally Championship stages across the globe – and will be priced from under £30,000 in the UK.
Rally car for the road: Ray Massey tests the new red-hot Toyota GR Yaris to discover if it’s a devil to drive or an angel on the roads
This compact, fire-breathing road-going sports car was developed specifically by Toyota from a vehicle designed to win it more championships.
It’s also hellishly fun to drive with more excitement packed into its small frame than you would find in a go-cart on steroids.
Toyota says the GR Yaris is ‘built from scratch’ by the firm’s racing arm Gazoo Racing – hence the ‘GR’ badge – and is a ‘performance halo model’ for the new fourth generation model range (which I recently reviewed).
‘Gazoo’ is Japanese slang for ‘garage’. It has been engineered to be capable of winning rallies, but also to be useable as an everyday – if energetic – car on the road.
The GR squad has been competing with the Yaris in WRC since 2017, taking the manufacturer’s title in 2018 and driver’s championship in 2019 in the hands of Ott Tänak.
Indeed, to even qualify as a competition car for the World Rally series in which the Japanese car firm has excelled, the rules mean it has to build a set number of properly road-going and homologated versions which ordinary punters like you and I can go out and buy in a showroom.
Thar GR Yaris is derived from Toyota’s WRC competition car, seen here in the hands of French driver Sebastien Ogier in Sardinia in October
British driver Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin getting airborne in their Toyota Yaris WRC
While Ray Massey didn’t get any air under the tyres of his road-going GR Yaris, he did put it though a spirited test drive
Driving it on is the world’s most powerful three-cylinder engine developing a mighty 257bhp. The turbocharged 1.6-litre motor is also the lightest and smallest available. And unlike the rest of the Yaris range, it’s not a hybrid.
Linked to a slick six-speed manual sports gearbox, the GR Yaris accelerates briskly to 62mph in just 5.5 seconds with top speed electronically restricted to 143mph.
It runs on 18 inch wheels whose spokes mirror the blade of a samurai sword. Fittingly the UK team showed this – from our base at the firm’s car depot in Crawley – with a pair of stunt swords used in the Sean Connery 007 movie ‘You Only Live Twice.’
There are three driving modes: Normal, Sport and, for the skilled enthusiasts, Track.
Normal, as it suggests on the tin, is the default mode best suited for everyday driving though with a bit of added performance pizzazz, with a 60:40 pulling-power split favouring the front.
Sport adds a further sprinkling of pepper but prioritises rear-wheel driving with a 30:70 split to the back
Will it fit in my garage?
Toyota GR Yaris GR with Circuit Pack
Test car price: £33,495
Price range: from £29,995
On sale: November
Colour: Scarlet Flare (an £880 pearlescent paint option)
Length: 3,995mm (55mm longer than standard Yaris)
Kerb weight: 1,280kg to 1,310kg
Gross weight: 1,645kg
Engine: Turbo-charged 1.6-litre 3-cylinder in-line
Gears: 6-speed manual
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Average mpg: 34.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 186g/km
Fuel tank: 50 litres
Wheel size: 18 inches
Track mode offers a finely balanced 50:50 split between the front and rear axles and is designed for fast driving on any road conditions from dry but slippery gravel to snow and ice .
But handle with care if your rally-driving skills still need honing. This is not for amateur hour.
The Toyota development team behind the GR Yaris worked closely with Tommi Makinen Racing.
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally team drivers Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala were involved in testing the prototypes, including on the frozen lakes of Finland.
And it even has the personal stamp of approval of Toyota’s anglophile chairman Akio Toyoda who road-tested the development cars in his expert role as a Toyota master driver.
There are other unique twists. It is built on a specially developed platform combining the front of the standard Yaris with the rear of a Corolla and CH-R chassis – making it 55mm longer than the standard version.
The GR Yaris is a sporty three door (rather than the standard five-door) and, for racing-rules reasons, these doors can’t be changed or replaced for competition versions.
The aluminium doors also have a hard-top design and frameless windows which removes the need for door re-enforcement and allows the glass to sit tighter to the body, helping to help seal it aerodynamically.
The GR Yaris’s lower tapering roofline necessitated a redesign of the tailgate – another element which cannot be changed in competition cars. This directs air-flow onto the large rear spoiler to generates extra down-force and keep it sticking to the road.
To remain lean and mean it is very light and rigid, with aluminium body panels and a super-strong yet weight-saving forged (rather than woven) black carbon composite roof which saves 3.5kg compared to the steel equivalent while also helping lower the centre of gravity.
Aluminium is used for the bonnet, tail-gate and front doors reducing weight by further 24kg, as well as about 10 per cent of the body-shell.
To enhance its stiffness it has 4,175 welding points – 259 more than the standard Yaris hybrid- thanks t strengthened joint. For better weight distribution, the battery sits below the luggage compartment floor.
Under the bonnet is the world’s most powerful 3-cylinder engine making 257bhp. The turbocharged 1.6-litre motor is also the lightest and smallest available
Linked to a slick six-speed manual sports gearbox, the GR Yaris accelerates briskly to 62mph in just 5.5 seconds. The top speed is electronically restricted to 143mph
Prices for the GR Yaris start from £29,995 for the standard GR Yaris, £32,175 with the Convenience pack, and £33,495 for the Circuit Pack version
I drove it along some wonderfully muddy, slippery, wooded and largely empty single-track country lanes that reminded me very much of rally routes.
But I am not a rally driver and certainly do not drive like one, especially on public roads. Nevertheless, even I was able to get a real sense of this pocket rocket’s fabulously fun potential.
Cocooned into supportive ultrasuede sports-seats, I found it exceptionally light on its feet – and wheels.
Thanks to its nifty four-wheel drive it stuck to the road like glue but was nimble and responsive. It’s got a great punch of acceleration both from a standing start and when already well in motion as you flick through the gears.
There was a good throaty roar from the twin exhausts, though this is acoustically ‘enhanced.’ It also got admiring glances from fans in the know.
The on-board computer analyses speed, acceleration, braking, steering, and road conditions to distribute torque to where it is needed most to maintain grip and stability.
Chock full of safety and stability systems too.
My car was fitted with the ‘Circuit Pack’, which includes extra engineering support that enhances cornering ability and grip.
Daily Mail Motoring Editor Ray Massey was very impressed with the Toyota GR Yaris, especially the incredible road-holding from the four-wheel-drive system
The cabin is looks very similar to a conventional Yaris, though with a very snappy short-shifting trasmission
While it might be a high-performance hot-hatch, there’s a decent size boot for when you need to go to the shops
The 18-inch wheels have a sharp 10-spoke design, with enormous red brake callipers within them
This includes lighter forged alloy 18-inch wheels with a 10-spoke design, plus Michelin Pilot 4S high performance tyres for extra grip and control at high speed, retuned suspension, stiffer springs and anti-roll-bars, and tweaks to the shock absorbers and electric power steering.
The powerful brakes are similar in size to those used by the much bigger GR Supra. On the ‘Circuit Pack’ the front callipers are painted red and decorated with the GR logo.
Beyond the standard spec, customers can also choose a ‘Convenience Pack’ – but it’s one or the other. You can’t have both.
Prices for the GR Yaris start from £29,995 for the standard GR Yaris, £32,175 with the Convenience pack, and £33,495 for the Circuit Pack version which I drove. PCP finance deals range from monthly payments of £269 to £299 after down-payments and terms.
That’s at least around £6,000 more than the standard Yaris hybrid priced from £19,910 to £24,005.
The GR Yaris is built at Toyota’s new Gazoo racing facility within its Motamachi plant in Japan. Staff work in individual high-precision ‘cells’ connected by automated computer-guided vehicles, not on a traditional production line.
Gazzo racing driver Latvala said: ‘The GR Yaris is pretty close to the World Rally Car, with its throttle response and handling,’ adding ‘and the GR Yaris Circuit Pack is as close to the Yaris WRC as you can get without joining the rally team.’
I’d better get into training.