All new 2020 Toyota GR Yaris revealed

Nick Lette van Oostvoorne
January 10, 2020

The new Toyota GR Yaris has been revealed in Tokyo as a 261hp all-wheel-drive rally car for the road. Keep reading for all the latest on this unique hot hatch alternative to the Ford Fiesta ST.

  • Revealed

    all new Toyota GR Yaris

  • Specs include

    261hp engine, four-wheel drive and manual gearbox

  • Release date

    on sale in late 2020

2020 Toyota GR Yaris revealed

The all-new Toyota Yaris GR has been revealed at the 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon. This compact hot hatch is based on the latest version of the dinky – but a bit dull – Yaris and packs a serious performance punch thanks to plenty of mechanical upgrades borrowed from Toyota’s upcoming WRC rally car. 

Just get a load of how it looks – that’s not the face of a car that’ll spend its life pottering to the Post Office, is it? The standard car’s grumpy, downturned grille has been ditched in favour of a huge, barn-door-like opening in the front bumper with enough mesh to keep all the colonel’s chickens safely cooped-up. Add to this some gaping air intakes, contrasting black trims and a set of wheel arches so swollen they could do with a giant icepack, and you’ve got yourself a seriously menacing little hot hatch.

Low-flying birds had better watch out…

Toyota’s tweaking doesn’t stop there – from the side, the GR Yaris’ roof is noticeably lower than the standard car’s and you get a unique three-door layout instead of the standard Yaris’ boxier five-door shape. 

The changes at the GR Yaris’ back end are more subtle, but you still get a pair of real exhaust pipes and a slim rear diffuser – although this probably does little to improve the Yaris’ aerodynamics. 

2020 Toyota GR Yaris interior

If you were hoping for some kind of raw, stripped out interior befitting of a rally car, you might be a touch disappointed by the new Toyota GR Yaris’ cabin. There’s no roll cage, no low-slung bucket seats and you get conventional seatbelts instead of any fiddly five-point racing harnesses. You get the same simple, smart dashboard layout as the latest Yaris with a similar free-standing infotainment touchscreen and clear, easy-to-read analogue instrument dials.

The steering wheel does get some contrasting red stitching, however, you’re treated to some snazzy metal pedal trims and there’s a set of more supportive sports seats. There’s also a healthy smattering of GR badges dotted about the place to remind you that you’re not sitting in a hum-drum hatchback. 

Expect the back seats to be less spacious than in the standard Yaris – thanks to the GR model’s sloping roofline and remodelled three-door body – and bootspace will likely be less generous as a result of the GR’s revised rear suspension and new four-wheel-drive system occupying space under the rear floor.

2020 Toyota GR Yaris engines and four-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive, yes – not something you expect to find in a staid and sensible Yaris. However, very little about this GR car’s engine and drive system is sensible. Under the bonnet – but tucked as far back as possible for better weight distribution – sits a 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine pumping out a whopping 261hp. For comparison, the Ford Fiest ST with its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine makes do with just 200hp. 

Like the Fiesta ST, the GR Yaris comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, but that’s where the similarities end. As you’ve probably gathered by now, this little hot hatch sends all its power to all four wheels – not just those at the front. Add to this some clever optional differentials (more on these later) and you’ve got yourself a tiny hot hatch like no other.

There’s a reason for all this, though. Toyota plans to race a version of the Yaris in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2021, but first, it has to sell a certain number of road cars fitted with the some of the upcoming racing car’s mechanical components. This is known as homologation – a common practice in the motor-racing world. 

2020 Toyota GR Yaris performance 

Despite packing a complex four-wheel-drive system, the Toyota GR Yaris tips the scales at just 1,280kg – only 18kg more than the Ford Fiesta ST. As a result, it’ll blast from 0-60mph a second faster than the Ford in less than 5.5 seconds and even manages to head-off the 320hp Honda Civic Type R by 0.3 seconds. 

The Toyota GR Yaris’ top speed might not be on par with the Civic Type R – it’s electronically limited to ‘just’ 143mph – but the way it handles corners should give the Honda something to think about. Unlike the standard Yaris, the GR comes with fully independent rear suspension to help maximise grip in corners. Pay extra for the optional Circuit Pack and you get a set of upgraded differentials that can split the engine’s power to whichever wheel has the most grip for neck-snapping corner-exiting acceleration. 

In Normal mode, this system sends just over half of the power to the front wheels, while Sport mode ups the ante and sends 70% of the power rearward to make the GR Yaris feel more agile when accelerating through corners. Track mode splits the power 50:50 but it can send as much as 100% of the engine’s power to either the front or rear wheels to maximise traction at any given moment. This is something you might expect to see in a Mercedes-AMG A45 or Audi RS3, not a tiny tuned Yaris. 

2020 Toyota GR Yaris price and release date

As a result of all this racing-car technology, you can expect the Toyota GR Yaris to cost significantly more than most small hot hatches. Toyota hasn’t confirmed how much it’ll cost, but don’t be too surprised to see a figure close to £50,000. The Toyota GR Yaris will be officially launched in mid-2020 and should go on sale soon after. 

Until then, see how much you can save on the standard car by visiting our Toyota Yaris deals page or head over to our list of the best sports cars of 2020 to see what the plucky GR Yaris will be going up against.