Toyota’s GR arm branches into models with less bark, but more back seat.
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It seems only fair that as Toyota expands the reach of its Gazoo Racing performance arm globally, more market-specific models will appear.

This kind of thinking could see rally-inspired, overlanding versions of the HiLux and LandCruiser reach Australian showrooms. In Malaysia, however, it sees the GR treatment applied in a very different way.

Meet the Toyota Vios GR-S, based on the third-generation Vios – Toyota’s Yaris-sized sedan pitched at sedan-loving markets like Thailand, Vietnam, India, and various other Asia Pacific countries.

You may even be familiar with the previous Vios, a version of which sold in Australia as the Yaris sedan. This current generation has been available since 2013, with an update in 2016 and now a second revision in December 2020.

In the case of the Vios GR-S, the Malaysian market tweaks line the compact four door up with the one make Vios Challenge race series, which is about to enter its fourth season in 2021. Like Australia’s Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series, the Vios Challenge works as a development series, with professional drivers and rookies taking to the track in parity-spec vehicles.

For anyone who wasn’t able to secure a seat in the series, the Vios GR-S lets you take the fun home. Modifications include revised sports suspension, a more aggressive styling kit, and a CVT auto retuned from the standard Vios’s seven-step manual mode, to now feature 10 programmed ratios.

United Motor Works Toyota (UMWT), Toyota’s Malaysian arm, claims the transmission changes improve response higher in the rev range.

The Vios GR-S rolls on blacked-out 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 205/45 R17 tyres – the largest ever fitted to a Vios. Sports seats in leather and suede-look trim, and a leather steering wheel with shift paddles also add some visual flair.

There’s a few other small detail changes too, like optitron instruments with red facings, red contrast stitching used throughout the interior, a GR animation for the trip computer display on startup, plus GR logos for the head rests, starter button and floor mats.

While the Vios might be channeling the GR Yaris with its new look and mesh grille inserts, unlike the much hotter Yaris, the Vios retains four doors, and a fully functioning back seat and boot, making it a better fit for active young families.

As is the case for GR Sport models (like the C-HR GR Sport sold in Australia), the Vios GR-S focuses largely on handling and styling upgrades and leaves engine performance untouched, with a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre rated at 79kW and 140Nm.

While the performance side of things isn’t too ambitious, the Vios is no cut-price special, priced from 95,284 Malaysian ringgit (around AU$31,150) although that price includes a decent equipment list with 7.0-inch smartphone compatible infotainment, climate control, seven airbags, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, a 360-degree camera system with virtual flyover function, and autonomous emergency braking.

The Vios sells alongside other GR models in Malaysia including the GR Supra and GR Yaris, which is the same global Yaris sold in Australia, and not based on the Malaysian local market Yaris, which is a hatchback version of the Vios – itself based on a slightly older platform compared to the all-new Yaris sold here.

Oh, and in case you were wondering how those models stack up in Malaysia against what you can get here, the GR Yaris is priced from RM299,000 while the GR Supra kicks off from RM589,987. That’s around AU$97,750 and AU$192,900, making the Vios GR-S look like a performance bargain.