Toyota GR Yaris 2021 rallye
launch-review

2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye launch review

Rating: 8.7
$44,500 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    7.6L
  • Engine Power
    200kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    172g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
The Toyota GR Yaris is the hot hatch of the moment, but there are two models – and we reckon this is the real one. Here’s why.
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No-one expected the hype surrounding the Toyota GR Yaris – including Toyota.

But we nearly got knocked over in the stampede when Toyota Australia announced the RRP was close to $50,000, and then in the same breath revealed an introductory offer of $39,990 drive-away. All of a sudden, a $40,000 Toyota Yaris seemed cheap – rather than being almost as expensive as a Subaru WRX or Volkswagen Golf GTI.

I didn’t think many buyers would take the bait. I figured it needed to land closer to its class rivals at about $35,000. Even at $39,990 drive-away, Toyota forecast those first 1000 cars would last a year. They sold out in seven days.

Clearly I’m out of touch and have underestimated the pent-up demand for a reborn rally car for the road.

Toyota Australia can’t tell us how many GR Yaris customers are new to the brand, but it has at least made the GR badge more familiar among car enthusiasts. Memories of Toyota’s TRD performance logo are fading gradually. The brand GR (which stands for the oddly named Gazoo Racing) is starting to sound a little less awkward.

Then there is the vehicle itself; a carefully designed road car built to win rally championships.

When the Toyota GR Yaris finally hit the roads in Europe, the gushing reviews appeared almost immediately. However, there was one element conveniently overlooked in all of this. The GR Yaris foreign media were raving about was the Performance Pack. A car we would come to know as the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye, and the model we have tested here.

We now know Toyota introduced two versions of the GR Yaris so it could broaden appeal and create two pricepoints: one model with the works and another missing some of the grippy go-fast bits.

Toyota Australia wasn’t originally planning to bring the top-spec edition here until some time down the track. But journalists who sampled both versions of the GR Yaris on a racetrack in Europe in late 2019 – including yours truly – immediately started pestering Toyota Australia executives to bring in what we deemed was “the real one” or none at all.

Toyota Australia executives got the message, and then went on bended knee to Japan to see if the factory could squeeze an extra 200 Rallye editions into the initial Australian allocation.

The Rallye edition is finally here, with the first deliveries underway as you read this. However, it arrived in Australia about six months later than the regular GR Yaris – and six months after going on sale in Europe and New Zealand – because this version was never in the original plan.

The good news is Toyota Australia now says the GR Yaris Rallye is part of the regular showroom line-up, alongside the regular GR Yaris, rather than a limited edition (although the Rallye editions are numbered).

That said, supply is restricted because the GR Yaris factory makes cars in batches, and Australia’s next turn on the merry-go-round is later this year. Translated: order a car today and you can expect to take delivery next year, in 2022.

For now, those in the queue need to rest easy, but their patience will be rewarded. This is a car worth waiting for.

It has been almost a year-and-a-half since we first sampled Toyota GR Yaris prototypes in their final stages of development in Europe. Although it was only a preview drive, it was immediately apparent there was a stark contrast between the two GR Yaris models.

Apologies in advance if you own a regular GR Yaris or are waiting for one. I’m sure you love it – or will love it – and that’s awesome. It’s a cracker of a car in its own right. But it’s not the full enchilada.

I’m a fan of pint-sized pocket rockets. I’ve owned two Ford Fiesta STs and am about to get a Hyundai i20N, which was faster than a regular GR Yaris around a racetrack when tested by another media outlet in expert hands. The 2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye, however, would likely ace both. We’ll be sure to find out for ourselves as soon as we’re able.

This may be uncomfortable reading for some (again, apologies) – and I also sit opposite a colleague who used to own a Toyota GR Yaris – and I know this may not be a particularly popular observation, but here goes.

Having been lucky enough to drive both the regular GR Yaris and the Performance Pack (or Rallye as we know it) on a racetrack, it’s an unfortunate reality that the base version on Dunlop tyres is an inferior proposition compared to the Performance Pack with Michelin rubber, lighter wheels, and front and rear limited-slip differentials.

The good news is the regular GR Yaris is only a set of tyres away from solving most of its issues. It’s also fair to say most drivers won’t notice the difference on the road. Nevertheless, I’m probably going to get slayed in the comments. Apologies again. I’m just the messenger.

I love the GR Yaris, it’s just that, to me at least, it feels like Toyota deliberately stymied the regular version to give the Performance Pack (Rallye edition) some clear air.

And so here we are with the car the Toyota GR Yaris was meant to be all along.

Both examples of the GR Yaris are powered by the same turbocharged three-cylinder engine – which happens to be the most powerful three-cylinder in the world – have identical power outputs (200kW/370Nm), the same lightweight, rally-inspired bodywork, and carbon-fibre roof.

However, the Rallye edition gains even lighter 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin tyres, functional air ducts in the front bumper to cool the brakes – rather than closed-off panels in the regular model – and red four-piston brake callipers, although the discs themselves are the same size.

And, hidden from view, the aforementioned mechanical limited-slip differentials front and rear, plus tweaks to the suspension.

There’s a hefty price difference, too. The regular GR Yaris is now $49,500 plus on-road costs, and the Rallye tested here is now $54,500 plus on-road costs.

Add about $4500 in on-road charges, and that pegs the prices at about $54,000 and $59,000 drive-away respectively. Which is a power of money for a Yaris, even one as good as this.

The warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres (as with the rest of the Toyota range), and service intervals are six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.

2021 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye
Engine1.6-litre (1618cc) turbocharged three-cylinder
Power200kW @ 6500rpm
Torque370Nm @ 3000–4600rpm
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Kerb weight1280kg
Fuel claim, combined (ADR)7.6L/100km
Fuel use on test9.2L/100km
Boot volume (rear seats up/down)141L/737L
Turning circle10.8m
ANCAP safety ratingNot tested
WarrantyFive years/unlimited km
Main competitorsHonda Civic Type-R | Ford Fiesta ST | Mini Cooper JCW
Price (excluding on-road costs)$54,500

ON THE ROAD

So, is the Rallye worth the price premium and can you really feel the difference?

As we said earlier, it’s fair to say you won’t notice the difference in the daily grind, but once you find the right bit of road, it comes alive.

The engine is a deadset screamer, and has plenty of urge right across the rev range. The thrum of the turbo three-cylinder is addictive, although the exhaust could be a touch louder, and perhaps snap, crackle and pop a bit more between gear changes.

The six-speed manual gearshifts are smooth and decisive, and the clutch take-up is light and easy.

The biggest differences, though, are the lateral grip from the high-performance Michelin tyres, and the way the mechanical limited-slip differentials just climb the GR Yaris out of corners with seemingly no effort at all. These ingredients serve to take the grip – and driving enjoyment – to the next level.

Ride comfort over bumps is surprisingly good given it’s sitting on low-profile tyres and track suspension; it doesn’t pogo like a light car. It feels secure and planted.

The brakes have a strong and reassuring feel. After half-a-dozen laps of a racetrack, there is next to zero fade. If you cook these brakes on the road, you’re doing it wrong.

We didn’t do 0–100km/h testing this time around, but our previous tests of the regular model have shown the GR Yaris stops the clocks in a repeatable 5.2 seconds. This is the same as Toyota's acceleration claim.

However, you need to drop the clutch at 5000rpm or a touch higher and spin up all four tyres for a relatively clean start without bogging down the engine on take-off to hit this number (otherwise you end up around the mid to high fives). It’s a brutal process, and I wouldn’t do it to my own car, but that’s the best we (and others) could get on two separate test days.

The 5.2-second figure is a respectable result for any hot hatch (this is close to a Volkswagen Golf R that stops the clocks in 5.0 seconds). But the GR Yaris is likely the world’s fastest production car in the city hatch class.

Once you consider the genuine performance credentials – and the extensive engineering modifications required to transform a Yaris into a road-going rally car – you can start to understand how the price added up.

Downsides? The tyre noise is quite horrendous, even by performance car standards. Then again, that is the price you pay for grip. Presumably, the absence of sound deadening to save weight is also a contributing factor to road roar.

As has been mentioned before, the driver’s seat is a bit high, and my 178cm frame felt a bit cramped in this car. By the end of the test-drive session, however, the GR Yaris started to feel like I was wearing it, not driving it, such is its agility and responsiveness.

I can really see why the GR Yaris is so intoxicating. For me, though, the Rallye edition is the real GR Yaris. This is the car the GR Yaris was always meant to be.

It’s an engineering marvel and Toyota should be proud of building it.

But at close to $60,000, I reckon it’s a hard sell. And I’m not sure I’d wait a year to get one. Only hardcore enthusiasts can gauge whether this is a good deal.