Yaris wins PCOTY. What an outcome that would have been.
It would have shifted more mags, it would have given a big fillip to a real-world performance car and it would have been the feel-good story of the year.
The thing with PCOTY is that no matter what your preconceived ideas, the process always wins. And the process found the GR Yaris wanting.
A couple of caveats first. Despite the manual ’box requiring a shift at 98km/h, this is still one of the quickest accelerating things (to 100km/h at least) that $50,000 will buy you. It’s also a car that, in this guise at least, is hamstrung by its so-so Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres and the lack of Tprsen differential tech, two fitments that will do much to rectify on-limit handling when the more focused Rallye version arrives later in the year.
On track, turn-in was disappointingly vague, and efforts to rotate the GR’s nose towards the apex were thwarted by relentless, scrubby understeer. So much attention is given to managing the reluctant front end into the initial phase of a bend, that an early throttle pick-up to power out is near impossible.
The modest limits of the front rubber’s friction circle becomes clearly apparent, and only after winding off lock is it possible to start deploying the car’s prodigious grunt.
All of which is a shame, as the Yaris gets so much right. It sounds dramatic inside, it has brilliant brakes and well-geared steering. The three-pot engine is otherworldly in its appetite for revs and we admire Toyota’s commitment to fundamental rectitude in building a lightweight, all-wheel drive, manual sports hatch.
The back story to this car is just achingly compelling. We can overlook the cheap cabin, cramped rear accommodation and dinky boot because of this, but harder to overlook is a compromised driving position courtesy of a seat that’s set way too high. As a road car to be driven at eight-tenths, the Yaris GR has much to commend it, but in this company, the bar is set a good deal higher than that.
The dynamic subtleties that keen drivers seek, such as adjustability, tactility and flow – those final few percenters that differentiate the good from the great – are clumsily resolved here.
That will change with the introduction of the Rallye, but right here, right now, a disappointing eighth is as far as the GR Yaris can ascend. – AE
0-100km/h: 5.16 sec
0-400m: 13.20 sec @ 169.74km/h
Lap Time: 1:41.3
A Toyota hot hatch with charisma, it just needs a touch more dynamic polish
If you’re going to spend this much, then why not wait for the Rallye pack?
Such an impressive car in certain situations. Falling somewhat short on track suggests Gazoo Racing has held back too much in key areas
Expected brilliance, but came away deeply frustrated. Great powertrain, and the Rallye version ought to remedy this one’s shortcomings
The recipe and ingredients are right, but the meal tastes funny. And it’s way too expensive