The Toyota Yaris GRMN is a fast small car that’ll handle track days and – because just 600 will be sold globally – is also rare, but you’d have to be a real enthusiast to pay the high price
The Toyota Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring… we’ll stick to the abbreviation!) is a small hatchback with a powerful, supercharged engine and a driving experience that can’t fail to put a smile on your face.
You get a large hint towards the latter the moment you set eyes on the GRMN’s rally car styling. It has colourful decals, lowered suspension and lightweight 17-inch BBS alloy wheels. There’s an aero pack to go with it including revised front and back bumpers, a rear diffuser (with a sports exhaust sprouting out the middle of it), new wing mirrors and a roof-mounted spoiler.
The interior is a more subtle affair. You get a pair of body-hugging front sports seats finished in a suede-like material (called Ultrasuede), a three-spoke steering wheel borrowed from the Toyota GT86 sports car and a few choice aluminium-look trim pieces.
First and foremost however, this is a sensible Yaris, so the cabin feels well put together for a small, relatively cheap car.
Unfortunately, that also means the 6.1-inch touchscreen sat-nav system hasn’t changed from the regular Yaris, and its route guidance can be hard to follow at times. That said, it’s easy enough to punch in a postcode and two rows of conventional buttons on either side of the screen make it simple to jump between menus.
The Yaris GRMN drives so well, I had to get out and check I was actually driving a Yaris
Accessing the back seat isn’t so easy – the Yaris’ three-door design means you have to squeeze your body behind the front seats, although six-feet-tall adults can get comfortable behind someone of a similar height. The boot is also big enough for a massive suitcase and the lack of a load lip makes it easy to slide one into place.
The only major downside is the high positioning of the front seats. They make you feel you’re sitting on rather than in the car – losing a vital line of communication between your bottom and the road.
That matters because the GRMN corners in a way that makes a normal Yaris feel like it has been on the receiving end of a zookeeper’s tranquilizer gun. Grip is plentiful, the steering’s sharp and – thanks to suspension from specialists Sachs Performance – there’s barely any body roll in fast corners. Even the uprated brakes are some of the best ever fitted to a car this size.
But as impressive as the stopping power is, it’s the ‘go’ that really catches your attention. The 212hp supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine builds speed relentlessly from low speeds, emitting a supercharger scream that gradually subsides to a Darth-Vaderesque rush of air as the car nears its peak power at 6,800rpm.
On paper, it flings itself from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds, aided by the fact that it’s lighter than any other family car this size and also has a limited-slip differential (a rare addition at this price) that helps the front tyres bite into the tarmac without spinning. Top speed is limited to 143mph.
All of which feels positively nutty in the otherwise sensible Yaris. But therein lies its appeal – it’s a reliable, practical and reasonably cheap-to-run small car that also happens to be an absolute riot to drive and – had they not all already been sold – could even prove to be a savvy long-term investment.