CAR magazine • 11 January 2018
The Yaris GRMN reminds us what hot hatches used to be about – unfussy, uncomplicated machines with the biggest engine possible crammed under the bonnet and suitable chassis reinforcements to ensure the handling matched the performance. Sadly this first release from GRMN is an expensive, limited edition car, which means it’ll be out of the reach of many and will never reach the achievable mass appeal of the Ford Fiesta ST. What remains to be seen is whether this Yaris, and the GRMN badge as a whole, can instead take on the same cult status as Toyota’s previous madcap tuner cars. We think there’s an exciting future ahead. Last year, we got an early drive of a prototype at the Nürburgring. Here's what we thought. Very funny. Tangible links between road and rally cars disappeared years ago, but the ingredients do sound pretty promising: a Toyota 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine is supercharged to achieve around 205bhp and 184lb ft. It puts all that lot through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip differential, and Toyota claims best-in-class times for the 0-62mph time (around 6.3-6.5sec) and 50-75mph time in fourth gear. It weighs just 1135kg. The chassis features springs uprated by ‘over’ 61% and lowered by 24mm, uprated Sachs dampers, a larger diameter front anti-roll bar, 17-inch BBS alloys and – very promising, this – four-piston front brakes; something rarely featured on one-size-up hot hatches, let alone a car this small. The chassis has additional bracing, including a strut brace between the front suspension towers, and under-body bracing front and rear. As ever, there’s a torsion beam at the rear The GRMN comes only with a three-door body, gets some flashes of red, white and black to reference Latvala’s WRC car, a rear spoiler, central exhaust outlet and rear diffuser. Inside, there’s a leather steering wheel pinched from the GT86 sports car, a pair of bucket seats and aluminium pedals. Toyota Europe has been responsible for the exterior and interior design, with Japan taking care of the chassis and brakes. The GRMN will be manufactured at the Valenciennes plant in France. Interesting story. It’s made at Toyota’s Deeside plant (neatly also used as the WRC service park for Rally GB), then gets injectors from a Toyota V6 (but four, obvs), 40% larger throttle body and a modified calibration. If this all sounds like a lot of expensive messing, it’s clear that insiders doubt the GRMN will make any money, though they don’t explicitly say as much. There’s something pretty refreshing about that. It’s a feisty little thing. The ride is stiff, the exhaust note pretty brash (its hollow bwwwaaarrrr sound is reminiscent of a WRC car, but sounds more the result of sticking a big-bore pipe on rather than any specific tuning), and the handling quite edgy. But there’s an exciting rawness and charm too. At speed, the ride settles, so while it’s still firm, there’s enough compliance to ensure you won’t get bounced off the road, even on some badly rutted bits of road in the Eifel region. The GRMN was also tested on UK B roads to ensure the diff didn’t tug about on the crown of the road, Mk1 Focus RS-style. The limited-slip diff wasn’t in the plan from the beginning due to the steering corruption that can be caused by such a component, but it works well. The front end isn’t as keen to bite as, say, the Peugeot Sport 208 GTi, but it does allow you to power on early through a bend, and while there is some understeer if you push hard, it’s progressive and helps telegraph the limits. It also helps contain wheelspin without tugging all over the road surface – apparently adding the front strut brace calmed this tendency considerably, as did a spec that allows for some slip at one wheel on low-grip surfaces and when high amounts of steering lock are applied. With such a short-wheelbase and stiff suspension, the Yaris feels very keen to jig its torsion-beam rear end around; it helps agility and adds quite a dramatic edge to the drive, but your grandma would be off at the first roundabout. The GRMN is not a particularly quick car, and there’s no real kick to the power delivery, it just builds progressively, but even removing a passenger makes it feel considerably fleeter – testament to the bigger impact removing weight from an already light car has. Either way, you have to work it hard to access its peak torque of 184lb ft at a high 5000rpm – none of the low-down juice of turbo power here. The four-piston brakes are pretty fantastic, with keen feel and stopping power so strong there’s no way you’d mistake them for carryovers from a lesser model –they really define the drive. There is one driving mode, accessed by starting the engine. Hurrah for that. Yep. The steering is nice and light and quick enough too, but it is unnecessarily aggressive in its self-centring motions. The driving position isn’t great – the seats hold you well and are comfortable, but they perch you up high, and the steering wheel adjustment is limited; that there’s been no attempt to match the front and rear seat trim also betrays a certain hastiness/lack of room to push the price up even further. The pedals could be better aligned for heel-and-toe, and the gearshift shorter and tighter. Considering there’s a proper mechanical limited-slip diff up front, the traction control is a little too eager to electronically snuff out wheelspin. In tighter corners, I also wanted a little more roll support from the front end – perhaps ambitious given the already very firm springs, but there you go. So, quite a few niggles, but ultimately this is a fun, raw kind of hot hatch. I enjoyed driving it, and the lap of the Nordscheife was fun too. Again that raw energy defines the Yaris GRMN, and it feels much more serious than, say, the last – and very excellent – Fiesta ST. Like on the road, you can lean right on the edge of understeer to feel your way through the corner while still clawing traction out of the surface without frustrating wheelspin, the brakes again give you confidence, and the performance doesn’t actually feel out of its depth at a place as fast as the Nürburgring. The GRMN’s lightness, short wheelbase and highly adjustable balance – where lifting the throttle and/or braking hard readily makes the rear end slide – keeps you on your toes as the consequences really rack up with speed, but the stability control does a good job of keeping it all in check without getting over zealous. It makes it feel like an enjoyable, rewarding challenge at a place like this, not a slow car to be thrashed around joylessly.
Löften med förbehåll • 17 September 2017
Vad nytt? Uppdaterad modell. För vem? Den som mest kör i stan och söker en driftsäker bil.
Auto Express • 14 July 2017
Does the pricey Toyota Yaris GRMN hatch deliver the performance goods?
CAR magazine • 26 May 2017
With a current model range clearly more biased towards sense and sensibility than smear and smile, we'll have to wait for the arrival of the Gazoo Racing-inspired GRMN armed with a 205bhp supercharged 1.8-litre engine to see how the Yaris fares as genuine hot hatch material. In the meantime, this revised Yaris does enough to hold its position in the B-segment's highly-competitive pecking order without shining in any particular department. But it is starting to feel somewhat pricey in anything other than entry level guise, and whether enough has been done to move it up the order remains to be seen.
Auto Express • 11 April 2017
The Toyota Yaris has been updated for 2017, but are the changes enough for it to stand out in the supermini class?