Toyota has turned back the clock, unleashing a radically different Yaris GR hot hatch that it will use to homologate its next-generation World Rally Car.
Unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon the new pint-sized pocket rocket features a new body, bespoke engine and fresh aerodynamics compared to the regular Yaris city car. While its rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI are largely upgraded versions of the mainstream models, Toyota has opted for wholesale change in order to make its WRC Yaris as fast as possible.
The Yaris GR is so different from its namesake siblings Toyota has had to create a dedicated production line for it as its Japanese plant.
Instead of the typical five-door Yaris body the GR is a three-door and features carbon fibre and aluminium components for lower weight and added strength. The Toyota Gazoo Racing engineers also widened the rear track and added double-wishbone suspension at the rear for improved handling and a better foundation for the WRC team to build its machine.
In fact, Toyota’s WRC squad Tommi Makinen Racing was drafted in to help hone the aerodynamics and weight distribution of the road car to ensure the WRC entry will be optimised for competition. That meant lowering the roofline by 91mm compared to the five-door Yaris to help it cut through the air more easily.
Under the bonnet is an all-new 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that punches out an impressive 200kW of power and 370Nm of torque, despite its small size. It’s paired to six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive system to ensure maximum driving engagement and better traction.
Toyota claims the little Yaris can launch from 0-100km/h in just 5.5 seconds and has its top speed limited to 230km/h.
Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales and marketing, confirmed the Yaris GR will be on sale in Australia by the end of 2020. He also made no secret about the lengths Toyota has gone to to blur the line between its WRC entry and its road cars.
“It is a rally car for the road that pushes vehicle performance to the limit and will enhance the image of the Toyota and Yaris brands,” Hanley said.
No local pricing has been announced but with more power, torque, all-wheel drive and custom three-door body it’s expected the Yaris GR will be the most expensive hot hatch in its class, likely starting at more than $40,000, while its rivals sit between $30-35,000.
Still, kudos to Toyota and Gazoo Racing for bringing back the glory days of homologation specials that give members of the public the chance to feel like they’re a rally star.