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In-depth reviews

Toyota GR Yaris (2020 - 2024) review – the modern homologation special at its very best

Toyota’s road-going rally special is a great driver’s car of the type we worried we’d never see again. It’s a little gem

Evo rating
Price
from £30,020
  • Huge cross-country pace belies figures on paper; sense of purpose; gutsy engine
  • Steering and chassis balance could be sharper still; seating position high

We can’t think of a modern performance car that has generated more hype surrounding its arrival – and has lived up to it. The original Toyota GR Yaris defied critics and shook this weight off its shoulders with a truly unique driving experience that’s as exciting as we all hoped it would be when we saw its stout little body for the first time in 2019.

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This instant success was compounded by many of its talents, but few resonate more than the fact it’s a – relatively – affordable performance car not created solely on the basis of a marketing plan, or to lower a meaningless lap record around a given circuit, but to serve as the ideal base from which to mount a top-flight motorsport campaign. The Toyota GR Yaris is a homologation special in the most literal sense.

> Toyota GR Yaris Gen 2 2024 review – first drive of the production ready hot hatch

This approach has given us some of the most revered evo cars of all time, from the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth to the Porsche 993 GT2, and so many more. And it’s one that (thankfully) resonates with buyers, with demand far outstripping supply across Japan and Europe at its launch, creating lengthy waiting lists and values that rose over and above its £30,020 base price, a figure almost £15,000 less than its Gen 2 replacement in 2024.

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Despite having been on the market for four years, this excellent recipe helped the original GR Yaris achieve a remarkable second place finish in issue 318's 18-car hot hatch mega test. While some of the contenders were undoubtedly more warm than hot, it went head-to-head with much more powerful (and expensive) machinery from the likes of Mercedes-AMG and BMW, but only the Honda Civic Type R came out ahead.

Toyota GR Yaris: in detail

Prices, specs and rivals

When it was on sale, the original Toyota GR Yaris was available in three flavours: base (£30,020), Convenience Pack (£32,200) and Circuit Pack (£33,520). Mechanically, the first two are identical, with the Convenience Pack car building on the interior specification with integrated satnav, a larger JBL stereo, head-up display and parking sensors. Circuit Pack cars don’t share these interior upgrades, instead bringing those key changes under the skin that make best use of the GR’s sweet little chassis. These include larger brakes, forged Enkei wheels with Michelin PS 4 rubber (Dunlops are standard), a stiffer suspension tune and a locking differential on both axles.

Direct rivals are varied, with no hot hatchback matching the GR in size, performance and price point. The king of the supermini hot hatchback was the Ford Fiesta ST, which in its sole ST-3 guise was still cheaper (£27,320) but down on power and front-wheel drive only. The £25,250 Hyundai i20 N was also a key rival from below before it too received the axe. It’s brilliantly involving and feels more substantial on account of its extra kit and N’s typical driver-mode mellay.

At the other end of the size spectrum is the Honda Civic Type R, which is now far more expensive at £46.995, but still comparable to the Toyota on the basis of its stunning capability.

> Hot hatchback battle: the final

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