Toyota GR Yaris

Most modern cars feel much the same, and its been a long time since I drove something that was not what I expected. I recently had a short test drive in the Toyota GR Yaris, and it most certainly was not what I was expecting. It is one of the most characterful cars I have driven in years, worth every penny of the asking price. Even driving it out of the car park it felt different, the steering feel alone was like a track car and the gearchange was as precise as a rifle bolt. I let it warm up for a few miles along a camera controlled dual carriageway, where the steering felt fidgety and prone to tramlining, the suspension was stiff though not crashy, probably because the bodyshell is extremely rigid.

I turned off onto a quiet country road and gave it a touch of throttle holy smoke, it instantly transformed into a wee monster. Despite being box fresh, power was everywhere, it picked up speed alarmingly quickly and after I had braked for corners I could almost feel the car tut tutting at me for being such a pussy, as clearly it would have taken them at twice the speed I had used. Meanwhile I was trying to come to terms with the unusual feel of the steering, which had an almost digital feel, slightly heavy, and fond of tramlining. Most modern cars are easy peasy to drive, but the GR Yaris certainly is not. It demands that you drive it properly, with skill, and I suspect it will not suffer fools gladly either. I should add that the car had the Circuit Pack, and I would be very keen to try the more basic version, which I suspect might make a better daily driver.

I only had 30 minutes and about 20 miles, way too little to come to terms with it, but even that was enough to let me get a glimpse of quite what this astonishing car would be capable of. Sadly I was just starting to get to grips with it when my time was up. 

And therein lies both the promise and the problem. With some miles under your belt this is a car which could cover ground at an astonishing pace, as one might expect from a car designed essentially as a WRC contender. But to do so you would have to be operating at speeds well outwith our miserable speed limits, and potentially taking risks more suited to competition driving. Driving back down the camera infested main road the Yaris was competent, comfortable and quiet, but it felt like a big cat on a leash that really wanted to roar and run.

I handed it back with very mixed feelings indeed. On the one hand I was hugely impressed with the engineering that gave it such vigour and speed, and my gut instinct was to order one on the spot. Sadly though I have been here before, and I know how frustrating it is to own a fast car on todays roads, so I walked away. Id love one as a very occasional toy, but it is simply too hardcore to replace any of my current fleet. A memorable half hour for sure!


Sequel, 24 hours later

Having just read the 5 star review of the GR Yaris published in Autocar, which I quite agree with, it makes me wonder if I did the right thing by not placing an order for one.

I took my VW Up GTI out to buy the magazine and it cheerfully reminded me what a great little car it is too. It has a sweetness about the drive that the hardcore Yaris lacks, and while it cannot come close to the blistering pace of the Yaris, it feels adequately poky for real world use. And it does 50 mpg and was half the price, and has barely depreciated since I bought it.

Methinks I made the right decision after all.

All words and photos copyright to John R Hunter