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Toyota GR Yaris: Car of the Year 2021 finalist

By Byron Mathioudakis, 01 Mar 2021 COTY

Toyota GR Yaris: Car of the Year 2021 finalist

Yaris breaks away, goes gonzo, finds greatness

It’s as if the Yaris took a trip at an ’80s WRC after party with the Audi Quattro Sport, Lancia Delta HF Integrale and Austin Metro 6R4, emerging days later still jacked and with only its original lights, mirrors and some dashboard bits intact.

Everything else about this Gazoo Racing homologation project is unique – from the aero-enhanced three-door, four-seater body, significantly more coupe-like (think original Honda CRX) carbonfibre-roofed silhouette and aluminium doors, bonnet and hatch, to a Corolla/C-HR rear platform, complete with multi-link suspension.

At the other end is a fierce 200kW/370Nm 1.6-litre three-pot turbo/six-speed manual combo, providing a dazzling 156kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio and 5.2sec 0-100km/h capability.

Toyota GR Yaris COTY 2021 finalist

Permanent all-wheel-drive tech includes a 50/50 front/rear torque-split Track mode, 30/70 front/rear in Sport and 70/30 front/rear in Normal, though 100 percent either way is possible, backed up by beefy brakes.

MORE How fast is the GR Yaris in the wet?

Ultimately, splitting the GR from the regular Yaris is a no-brainer for Wheels COTY. How could we not? Insanely fun on dirt in skilled hands and yet still flattering even with an ape behind the wheel, the GR upends the (admittedly much cheaper) Fiesta ST/Polo GTI hegemony with its raw and rabid power delivery, decisive gearshift and finely spaced ratios that allow the driver to exploit the frenetic little funster’s fruity, flexible powerband.

Toyota GR Yaris COTY 2021 finalist

Precision steering, handing verve and endless traction further underline GR’s singular vision, with the multi-mode AWD providing nuanced sideways scenery once this all-weather wonder’s grip eventually releases. Supernatural fun aplenty awaits along with big smiles.

MORE Can the Toyota Yaris GR dethrone the Honda Civic Type R?

Conversely, there’s disarming docility, decent comfort, quality materials and full safety tech. And the frameless doors, ‘Shooting Brake’ glasshouse, low ceiling and cramped legroom are pure coupe tropes. A tiny boot, dreary instruments, nosebleed seating and missing return-position memory during rear-seat entry/egress annoy, in this otherwise incandescent motoring experience.

Toyota GR Yaris COTY 2021 finalist

If the $50K ask irks, consider that Subaru’s Impreza WRX in 1994 cost $80K in today’s dollars, putting the sub-supercar GR Yaris into sharp focus.

It’s the affordable, sensational, unhinged WRC weapon we thought we’d never see in this millennium.

Toyota GR Yaris COTY 2021 finalist