- Sublime driving experience
- Gutsy and powerful engine
- So much of it is bespoke
- Six-monthly service intervals
- Not cheap to buy
It?s been a long time since we?ve seen it, but finally, Toyota has a self-built genuine performance car. First started by the 86 and continued by the Supra, Toyota?s newfound passion for performance motoring comes from the its CEO Akio Toyoda and because of it, even regular cars such as the Yaris drive significantly better than previous models. For the first time as part of this new company mission, Toyota has created a supercar-worrying first hot hatch. What?s the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye like? Let’s find out.
There has been a massive hype surrounding this car. Initially introduced at $39,990 drive away, Toyota Australia predicted that the first 1,000 cars would last a year – instead, they sold out in just seven days. Even though the price rose by $5,000, the next 100 sold out almost as quickly and now there?s the upgraded GR Yaris Rallye, which we’ve tested here. It’s the most hardcore GR Yaris there is and it promises to deliver the ultimate in driving thrills. Despite being priced at $54,500 plus on-road costs, it has also been selling quite well.
Price & Equipment: 8/10
Surprisingly for essentially a rally car, standard kit on the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye is plentiful and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, all-LED exterior lighting, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and start, auto-folding mirrors, a carbon fibre roof, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, a single USB port and selectable driving modes.
Safety kit is also extensive with six airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection assist, lane keep assist with lane trace assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a heads-up display, a reversing camera, road sign assist and auto high beam. Features such as parking sensors are available as dealer-fit accessories.
Rallye-specific kit includes the lightweight BBS alloy wheels (the standard GR Yaris? wheels are Enkeis), red suede upholstery, firmer suspension, front and rear limited-slip differentials, extra brake cooling, red brake callipers and Rallye badging. The Rallye is available in just one colour as well: ?Frosted White? and whilst only 200 units were slated for Australia, more are expected to follow.Â
Competitors to the GR Yaris include the Subaru WRX Premium ($52,342 drive away), Hyundai i30 N Premium ($51,820 drive away) and the Renault Megane R.S. Trophy ($58,100 drive away). In this company, the GR Yaris does look like poorer value – especially considering that it?s a smaller car, and the i30 N in particular does feature more standard kit, though the Yaris does offer items such as blind-spot monitoring, which continues to be unavailable in the Hyundai. Of course, $56,000 for a Toyota Yaris is a lot of money – but this is a Yaris in name only and offers a driving experience like no other car.
Performance & Economy: 9/10
Under the bonnet of the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye is an all-new 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that?s mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It produces a strong 200kW of power and 370Nm of torque – the latter is made at 3,000rpm, and with its short gearing, you?re almost always in the torque zone. Unlike a lot of other turbocharged engines as well, the Yaris GR?s three-cylinder turbo loves to rev all the way towards its 7,000rpm redline, and with a lot of gusto too.
The GR Yaris Rallye is quick – and not just for a three-cylinder hatchback either. The 0-100km/h sprint time is completed in just 5.2 seconds, but in reality, it feels faster than that thanks to how grippy the chassis is and how immediate the performance is. The snickety six-speed manual is – thankfully – the only transmission available and it?s got quite a short throw and a precise feeling. The clutch is notably easier to use than the clutch in the Hyundai i30 N.
If there is something that could be improved about the Yaris GR Rallye?s drivetrain, it?s the [lack of] exhaust noise. Floor the throttle and there?s a lot of noise, though it?s mostly induction and fake trickery that comes from the speakers. Fitting an i30 N-style dual-mode exhaust would do a lot in giving the GR Yaris Rallye more aural character. In terms of figures, the Yaris? 200kW and 370Nm outputs are healthy in the hot hatch segment – the i30 N offers only slightly more go at 206kW/392Nm out of 2.0-litres, though it does weigh 188kg more.
Toyota rates the GR Yaris Rallye?s fuel consumption at 7.6L/100km on a combined cycle and we achieved 10.1L/100km – this is higher than the claim, though the Yaris GR Rallye is addictive, so driving it normally would result in better economy. It features a 50-litre fuel tank and must be filled with 98RON premium unleaded fuel.
Ride & Handling: 9.5/10
Like the standard GR Yaris, the Rallye is a very quick, dynamic and fun hot hatch that, for cross-country ability, is unbeatable – especially for the price. But the GR Yaris Rallye adds tack focused kit such as front and rear limited-slip differentials, BBS forged 18-inch alloy wheels, higher performance suspension and functional open brake ducts in the front grille for greater braking performance. We think those wanting the ultimate drivers car and a proper track weapon won?t think twice about spending the extra $6,000 on top of the regular GR Yaris.
The GR Yaris Rallye?s variable torque split all-wheel drive system is largely unique in the automotive world – in normal mode the torque is split 40/60 front to rear, though in sport mode, the split is changed to 30/70 front to rear to make the rear end more lively and the turn in even sharper. Track mode changes that to 50/50 front and rear for the best track times. The Rallye adds front and rear limited-slip differentials that make its already high limits even more approachable and grippier for even faster lap times.
Around town though, the GR Yaris Rallye is firm. Quite firm. One of the additions to the GR Yaris from the Rallye is the ?circuit-tuned? suspension – it?s firmer, really, but it?s not uncomfortable. Of course, you still end up jiggling about on bumpier roads in an abrupt reminder of the weight you should?ve been losing over lockdown, but it?s still more compliant than the Subaru WRX. Compared to the i30 N and Megane R.S. as well, the GR Rallye feels lighter on its feet and thanks to its four-wheel drive system and twin LSDs, it absolutely rockets out of corners.
The Rallyes 356mm front/297mm rear brakes have also been upgraded for track driving with extra cooling and to summarise, they?re excellent. The pedal offers good modulation and thanks to its relatively light 1,320kg kerb weight, it stops very quickly. Strangely, our test car was fitted with Dunlop tyres and not the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres it?s meant to come with, but even with these tyres, the improvement in dynamics from GR to GR Rallye was obvious from behind the wheel – we?re hoping the dynamic improvement is even larger with the original tyres. The Pilot Sport 4S is the best sports tyre around, after all.
It?s not the best hot hatch to drive on highways thanks to the high road noise levels and the largely awful visibility that’s not helped by a lack of a rear wiper, but its standard safety systems are very well tuned. We particularly love that Toyota has managed to engineer safety tech such as auto emergency braking and adaptive cruise control for use with a manual transmission – something that corporate partner Subaru has not bothered with and as such, the GR 86 coupe (which Subaru developed) remains disappointingly unavailable with such features as a manual.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
The cabin of the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye is a lot like the regular Yaris – save for the handsome and very cool three-door body. The dashboard is largely identical with its layout and materials – soft touch plastics cover the dashboard and suede on the doors but that?s it – everything else is hard and scratchy, which dampens the ambience somewhat. But the leather steering wheel is lovely to hold, and the gearknob is nice and close to the driver as well, as it’s been mounted closer to the driver’s hand. Importantly for keen drivers, the handbrake is manual and not electric like the regular Yaris.
The gorgeous sports seats are very heavily bolstered – so much so that a centre armrest wouldn?t fit and wouldn?t be needed either. Other GR touches in the cabin are limited to badging and even a numbered plaque on the centre console. The seats are mounted quite high though, and it makes you feel somewhat claustrophobic because your head almost hits the roof, and the seemingly huge auto-dimming rear view mirror is right in your face and impedes front vision.
Centrepiece of the GR Yaris Rallye?s cabin is a 7.0-inch touchscreen – not the larger 8.0-inch unit offered overseas, strangely – with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio and a reasonable eight-speaker JBL sound system. The system is fine to use, though nothing special. Unusually, the reversing camera quality is much better than the regular Yaris – though rear parking sensors would be a nice addition, as would more than one USB port or a wireless charging pad.
In terms of practicality, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye isn?t anything special. There are bottle holders in the doors and small cup holders in the centre console, a few trays on the dashboard to put your phone and wallet, a reasonable glovebox and that?s it.
The rear seat of the GR Yaris Rallye is not amazing either, it must be said. Two six-footers will just fit with their heads tilted – and only two as well, because there are only two seatbelts in the back seat – and there?s nothing in the way of storage there. No cupholders, arm rests, map pockets, etc – just a small tray where the middle seat would be. We get that it?s a car all about the driving experience, but a moulded bottle holder in each arm rest wouldn?t go astray.
Bootspace in the GR Yaris Rallye is pretty tiny as well at just 141-litres – this opens up to 737L with the rear seats folded flat, but the floor is still shallow and the boot lip is high. There?s a bit of under floor storage but that?s mostly where the car?s battery is located. There?s no spare wheel, either. Price point rivals do offer larger boots – the i30 N features a 395L boot, for example. If this storage isn?t enough for you, a Corolla GR is reportedly due within the next few years – we can?t wait for that, either.
Service & Warranty: 7.5/10
Like other new Toyota products, the Yaris GR Rallye is equipped with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with no roadside assistance. Service intervals are an annoying six-monthly/every 10,000km, whichever comes first and three years or 60,000km of servicing costs $260 each for a $1,560 total.
All rivals to the GR Yaris match its five-year/unlimited km warranty, though they do feature 12 months of roadside assistance – the Renault uniquely includes five years, while the i30 N?s roadside assistance is extended by 12 months at each scheduled dealer service. Service pricing for the Subaru WRX is $2,332 over three years/75,000km (its intervals are 12,500km), while the i30 N costs $897 over three years/30,000km and the Renault Megane R.S. costs $529 each year for the first five years, bringing its three year/60,000km total to $1,587.
The 2021 Toyota Yaris GR Rallye DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.5/10
Without wishing to mince words, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris is a masterpiece. It?s quick, fun and communicative, yet also relatively comfortable, well equipped, reasonably cost effective to run and bespoke. Bespoke in its three-door body, bespoke in its platform – it?s a Yaris at the front but a Corolla at the rearm and bespoke in offering all-wheel drive in the sub-$60k hot hatch segment. There?s also been an upmost focus on the driving experience above all else, and for that we love it.
Sure, there are cheaper hot hatches. There are roomier hot hatches. There are faster hot hatches. There are more luxurious hot hatches. But we love the GR Yaris Rallye because it doesn?t pretend to be something else – it?s a rally-inspired four-wheel drive stunner. If you were one of the lucky 1,000 buyers that got one for under $40,000, well done, but aside from the $40k special, the best GR Yaris is the full banana Rallye. It?s a great driver?s car but perhaps even more importantly, it shows the depth and talent of Toyota?s engineering. The company has finally given us an in-house full-blooded performance car and we can?t wait for what?s in store for the future.