JEREMY Clarkson has made the audacious claim that the new Toyota GR Yaris is as thrilling as a Porsche 911, in his five-star review of the car in today’s Sunday Times Magazine.
The hot supermini has been the darling of the motoring press ever since it hit roads in the latter stages of last year. Despite sharing a name with the rather more sedate Yaris, the two cars are very different beasts: on the body, the only shared components are the door mirrors and front and rear lights, while its 1.4-litre engine pumps out a substantial 261bhp. The limited GR Yaris, with its special sports components, takes ten times as long to construct as the standard model, in fact.
The result, says the columnist, is a car that feels a lot more expensive than its sub-£30,000 starting price. “You may think, if currently you drive a Porsche 911 or something of that ilk, that the Yaris GR, a small three-cylinder Japanese hatchback, would be quite a comedown, but it really isn’t,” he said.
Toyota had to produce 25,000 road-going versions of the GR Yaris in order to meet the homologation requirements of the World Rally Championship. However, in a sad twist of fate, the competition version of the GR Yaris won’t even make it to the rally stage: Toyota abandoned it midway through last year for unknown reasons (possibly Covid-linked), and new rules coming in 2022 only allow hybrid cars to enter.
However, Clarkson notes that being a rally homologation car puts the GR Yaris among automotive royalty including the Lancia Delta Integrale, Ford Escort Cosworth, Peugeot 205 T16 and the rear-engined MG Metro.
Its turbocharged, three-cylinder, 1.4-litre engine (the most powerful three-cylinder unit around, incidentally) doesn’t make a noise worth writing home about, reckons the Grand Tour presenter, and Toyota pumps engine noise into the cabin that reminded him of “sharing the car with a snoring dog”.
But while it’s not as powerful as the larger Honda Civic Type R, which has 59bhp more, nor as luxurious as the 350bhp Mercedes-AMG A45, the Toyota’s featherweight 1,280kg means that it has plenty of get up and go.
That, combined with a bespoke four-wheel drive system, meant that Clarkson found the car to be capable over all kinds of terrain, including the fields of his farm and the icy roads of Oxfordshire in January.
Equipped with front and rear limited-slip differentials (when equipped with the more expensive Circuit Pack), the traction of the GR Yaris makes you feel “like you could win a rally,” he wrote.
The few minor drawbacks the columnist noted included a rally-derived seating position that is too high on a road, a blind spot caused by the placement of the central touchscreen, and a lack of space in the back seats.
However, he also found it to be less Spartan than he expected, with modern advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) like lane keep assist and sufficient soundproofing, even when equipped with potentially noisy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
Toyota took a risk by building an entirely new car for rallying, because it then had to find 25,000 people to buy a road-going version, Clarkson noted in his review. However, after driving the car, he thinks that if you want one, you should get your order in quickly. “Toyota is making 25,000 of them and that’s not going to be enough. Not by a long way.”
You can read Jeremy Clarkson’s full review of the Toyota GR Yaris on the Sunday Times Website, or in today’s Sunday Times Magazine.
– After that Clarkson thinks the Toyota GR Yaris is as thrilling as a Porsche 911, you’ll want to read about why the new Jeep Renegade plug-in hybrid deserves just one star.
– He was more complimentary about the new BMW M440i, a car that he adorned with a five-star rating.
– You might also want to keep up with Clarkson’s farming endeavours — he recently wrote that owning pigs has put him off pork.