Review: Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018)
Fizzy and exciting. Probably the purist hot hatch on the market.
Expensive. Drab interior. All sold out...
Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018): At A Glance
Toyota had a number of strong candidates when it decided to launch GRMN - its Gazoo Racing tuning sub-brand in Europe. What about the GT86, a thrilling rear-wheel-drive driver’s car that’s always been desperate for more power? Or surely the new Supra, due next year, would be the perfect contender for changing the firm’s far-from-exciting image?
Instead, Toyota saw Europe’s thriving hot hatch market and decided the perfect candidate for grabbing the attention of car enthusiasts was a hatchback better associated with reliability and sensibleness - the humble Yaris.
Badged GRMN (or Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of the Nurburgring, to give it its full ridiculous name), the souped-up Yaris features a 1.8-litre supercharged petrol engine that Toyota had been building for a number of years on behalf of Lotus. Yes, the Yaris GRMN shares an engine with the Lotus Elise - producing 212PS and 249Nm of torque, taking the feisty hot hatch to 62mph in 6.3 seconds.
Doesn’t sound as rational now, does it? What certainly isn’t rational is the £26,295 list price. That makes it more than £7000 pricier than an entry-level Fiesta ST, while the Volkswagen Polo GTI starts at £21,140. This is pretty much redundant, though, as Toyota’s making just 400 GRMNs for the whole of Europe, and they’ve all sold out.
For your £26,295, you don’t just get a Yaris that’s had a powerful engine shoehorned into the engine bay. A bespoke centre exit exhaust mimics that of the WRC Yaris rally car, says Toyota, while Sachs performance suspension means it’s lower and stiffer than a standard Yaris.
Beefier brakes ensures it can lose speed as rapidly as it gains it, while forged 17-inch BBS alloys look the part as well as save weight. Further cosmetic upgrades include the (removable) red and black decals , while a hefty rear wing shouts about the GRMN’s abilities.
Inside, special seats are firm but hold you in place during the most exuberant of driving, while a small steering wheel from the GT86 is ready to communicate what’s going on when you are driving enthusiastically. And driving enthusiastically is something the Yaris GRMN excels at.
The Yaris GRMN is more than the sum of its parts. On paper, a hotted up version of Toyota’s rather average hatch is nothing to get excited about - especially when it will cost you more than any of its rivals. But the Yaris GRMN feels extraordinarily special. You’ll grin from ear to ear every time you drive it, and that’s not something that can be said about hot hatches like the latest Polo GTI.
What does a Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018) cost?
Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018): What's It Like Inside?
The interior of the standard Yaris felt dated when it first went on sale in 2011. And little of the GRMN's development budget has been spent improving the interior.
You'd be hard pushed to find any soft-touch plastics, while the technology feels old. Toyota's Touch and Go infotainment system with navigation is simple and easy to use, but it's got a budget computer vibe about it. No expense has been wasted on slick graphics or luxuries such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The standard car's seats have been ripped out and replaced by some expensive (and actually pretty good) bucket seats, but they only just fit in the car and you may struggle to find a comfortable driving position. A lack of adjustment in the steering wheel doesn't help matters, either.
Available as a three-door only, passengers might struggle to climb into the rear - and they won't particularly happy when they do get there. Legroom is limited and visibility is poor thanks to the front bucket seats blocking the view.
The boot, at 286 litres, is nothing to shout about either, with the wheel arches eating into valuable luggage space.
The Toyota Yaris GRMN features 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, Torsen limited slip differential, black radiator honeycomb lower front grille, black decoration on headlight extension, black decoration on foglight surroudn, body-coloured front and rear bumper, GRMN black rear spoiler, GRMN decals, black door mirrors, body-coloured door handles, unique rear diffuser, central exhaust pipe, black roof, projector headlights with LED daytime running lights, auto headlights, front fog lights, LED rear light guide, smart entry and push-button start system, auto wipers, auto-folding door mirrors, acoustic windshield glass, sport bucket seats, GR steering wheel with centre line, engine start button with GR logo, GRMN aluminium brake pedal, rear privacy glass, air vents with chrome finish, chrome interior door handles, black upper dashboard and centre console, black roof lining, gear shift with aluminium insert, 7-inch Toyota Touch 2 with navigation, 4.2-inch TFT information display, reversing camera, automatic air con, auto-dimming rear view mirror, tilt and telescopic steering wheel.
Child seats that fit a Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Toyota Yaris GRMN (2018) like to drive?
Modern hot hatches are becoming increasingly versatile. Selectable drive modes are now widespread, with cars like the Ford Fiesta ST happy to smooth out bumps in the road and provide torque from low down when you're not in the mood for a workout.
The Toyota Yaris GRMN is not one of those cars. While it does pull instantly when you press the accelarator at any RPM, its fizzy supercharged engine has an addictive character (and noise) that'll see you clinging onto gears until you reach the limiter at around 7000rpm. It's just so eager that it's almost a crime to change up at 3000rpm.
As a result, the GRMN is not a car we'd recommend for covering many motorway miles or pootling around town. The steering is too darty while the sports exhaust is too noisy. And that's before we get onto the suspension that transfers every minor bump into the cabin.
You need to be in the right mood for the GRMN and, when you are, it's an absolute hoot. There's nothing else in this hot hatch market that's quite as raw as the souped-up Yaris. It sounds fantastic, while the precise steering demands that you chuck it around, all the time telling you exactly what's going on between you and the road.
A limited-slip differential divides power between the front wheels and you'll have to be doing something very silly to bring on understeer. Even hitting the accelerator mid-bend encourages the car's line to tighten in a bizarre physics-defying manner.
The six-speed manual gearbox is fine, if not quite as precise and satisfying as a Fiesta ST's. There's no automatic option, but that's no surprise in a hot hatch that feels as old school as this.
Officially the GRMN returns 37.2mpg and emits 170g/km CO2, figures which are (again) reflective of the GRMN's old fashioned approach. While we expect fuel economy to be pretty poor if you thrash it constantly, Toyota's do tend to score fairly highly in our Real MPG figures.
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