We may only be a few days into 2020, but it doesn’t seem too soon to call this the most important fast car reveal of the year. We’re talking about the new Toyota GR Yaris, and despite extraordinarily high expectations, it looks to have met them. And then some.
The WRC homologation special has a completely unique body - the new, boggo Yaris is available only as a five-door vehicle, but the GR is in a three-door configuration. Plus, the roof is 91mm lower, and the doors are frameless, to give a coupe-like aesthetic. The icing on the cake is a set of widened arches for the fatter tyres and wider rear track.
Under that unique body you’ll find more unique stuff - the GR’s dedicated platform was created by joining the front part of the standard Yaris’ GA-B architecture with the rear of the GA-C platform used for the likes of the Prius and Corolla. To help weight distribution, the battery has been mounted in the boot, and the engine positioned as far back as possible.
Speaking of which, the GR Yaris’ method of propulsion is - intriguingly - an inline-three, rather than a four. But don’t go thinking it’s going to underwhelm - packing a single-scroll ball-bearing turbocharger, the 1618cc engine is good for a mighty 257bhp and 266lb ft of torque. It’s by far the most powerful production inline-three available right now, giving the GR Yaris a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 143mph. Ford Fiesta ST - you ought to be watching your back.
That mighty thrust is channelled to all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (no automatic option here). In theory, it can send up to 100 per cent of torque to the front or rear ends, but how the system behaves will mostly depend on what mode you’re in.
In ‘Normal’, you’re looking at a 60:40 split. The car is at its fastest in the mostly 50:50 ‘Track’ setting, but if you want to introduce a little drifty fun into the mix, ‘Sport’ will give a 30:70 balance.
Toyota hasn’t gone into specifics about the GR Yaris’ bespoke suspension system, although we do at least know it has an unusual MacPherson strut front/double-wishbone rear combination. Taking care of braking is a set of 356mm discs with four-pot calipers at the front, working with 297mm rotors at the rear squeezed by two-piston calipers.
225/40/18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres are fitted as standard, switched for Michelin Pilot Sport 4s if you option the Circuit Pack, which also includes front and rear limited-slip differentials.
The best part of all of this is that the GR Yaris - built with input from both Toyota Gazoo Racing and Tommi Mäkinen Racing - isn’t going to be a very limited-run special like the Yaris GRMN. Toyota will need to make a decent number of them to ensure the three-door body complies with WRC homologation rules, as it’ll be forming the basis of the firm’s next rally machine. Plus, the Japanese company will no doubt be wanting a return on the considerable investment necessary to make something like this.
All of this means it’ll have to be priced competitively. We still don’t know how much it’ll cost in the UK, but the RZ First Edition weighs in at 3.96 million Yen in Japan, which is just under £28,000. It’s looking like this will be a homologation special for the masses.