General

An emerald green ride in the Toyota GR Yaris . from 2022

An emerald green ride in the Toyota GR Yaris .  from 2022
enlarge What better way to enjoy a holiday in Ireland than by spending some time driving a true enthusiast’s car not available in the US?

Dan Carney

A thumbs up from the middle-aged mountain bike racer confirmed that the Pearl Ice White Toyota GR Yaris I was testing had met its goal of appealing to adventure riders and traditional manual transmissions. His quick judgment was correct: this car lives up to its promise of becoming the kind of fueled fun that lasts well into the twilight.

American car enthusiasts like to complain that we never get the good stuff in the American market. Last year’s announcement of the Toyota GR Yaris, a World Rally Championship-inspired tidbit of a car, seemed to confirm this glass-is-half-empty stance. But since then, Toyota has revealed plans for a GR Corolla in the US market with much of the same hardware.

Will putting the Yaris’ 257 hp (192 kW) turbocharged 1.6 L three-cylinder G16E-GTS engine in the larger, heavier Corolla spoil the intended experience? We’ve yet to drive the GR Corolla for comparison, but a spin behind the wheel of the GR Yaris in Ireland suggests Toyota’s product planners know what they’re doing. The Corolla will benefit from increased power to offset its weight as Toyota has announced that it will produce a 300 hp (224 kW) version of this engine, restoring the milestone of the world’s strongest three-cylinder engine.

The GR Yaris was intended to comply with rallying homologation rules, but then those rules changed.  Toyota built the GR Yaris road car anyway.
enlarge The GR Yaris was intended to comply with rallying homologation rules, but then those rules changed. Toyota built the GR Yaris road car anyway.

Dan Carney

The GR Yaris offers exactly the kind of fun you’d expect from its specs, with acceleration from 0-60mph in under 5.5 seconds and flyweight agility through mountainous hairpin bends. Just look at the car! It has a sheet molding compound, carbon fiber reinforced plastic roof panel for maximum rigidity and minimum weight, just like a BMW M4. The hood, hatch and door panels are all aluminum for an even lower weight.

The car is a stubby two-door hatchback, which ensures maximum maneuverability and body rigidity, which is also good news for enthusiasts. The rear seat is small and the hatch loading space is even smaller. A few suitcases don’t fit in the hatch.

Folding the rear seats back to make the Yaris a two-seater with a useful amount of luggage space is sensible, as nobody would be very happy in that rear seat anyway. I appreciated the neat dimensions of the Yaris on the edge of the Irish roads where I experienced the GR. But in wider American conditions, the lack of passenger and storage space would be a significant deterrent to drivers accustomed to SUVs.

The GR Yaris has the practicality of a mid-engine sports car.  That's a tough sell for most people when it looks like a four-seat hatchback.
enlarge The GR Yaris has the practicality of a mid-engine sports car. That’s a tough sell for most people when it looks like a four-seat hatchback.

Dan Carney

That stiff body contributes to the Yaris’s steering precision and suspension control, but isn’t obviously sound deadening. The car is drumming with road noise on the highway.

The two-door layout gives the car a sporty, sleek profile, but by trying to provide some sort of access to the nearly nonexistent rear seats, those two doors extend long enough to remind me of the challenges of getting in and out. a Camaro or Mustang in a cozy parking lot without banging the door of the adjacent car. The market’s general move to four shorter doors and their easier entry and exit has probably kept most American drivers permanently off coupes.

A push of the dash-mounted start button ignites the three-pot engine to a muffled roar. The large round analog instruments are another nod to the era represented by the car’s manual transmission. They’re exactly what the intended buyer expects to see in a sports car, even if younger drivers might be baffled by the Yaris’ “old-fashioned” gauges. Digital readouts on the available head-up display should calm them down. The electronically limited top speed of 230 km/h was not tested.