Car reviews - Toyota - Yaris - GR Rallye
Punchy three-cylinder engine, exhaust note, playful chassis, nimble handling, LSD grip
Room for improvement
Stiff day-to-day ride quality, poor rearward visibility, pitiful rear seats, slightly tinny NVH, 6th gear should be longer
Toyota turns up the wick on potent GR Yaris hot hatch with more focused Rallye
16 Apr 2021
TOYOTA sent hot hatch fans into a frenzy in January last year when it finally revealed its long-awaited GR Yaris performance model, and later that year announced an even more focused Rallye grade to go with the ‘standard’ GR Yaris.
The GR has now been launched to strong acclaim, while the Rallye has just touched down locally ahead of a steady rollout to customers that will take the rest of the year for the initial Australian allocation.
Featuring a number of more enthusiast-oriented parts such as front and rear limited-slip differentials, firmer sports suspension and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, the Rallye is designed to be as potent as possible on the track.
We took the Rallye out onto the circuit to see where the extra enhancements place it in the echelon of modern hot hatch favourites.
First drive impressions
Like the GR, the Rallye features the curious mixed-chassis underpinnings consisting of the Yaris’ TNGA-B front end and the Corolla’s wider TNGA-C rear, giving the little three-door a wide, squat stance that looks ready for hard driving.
Its overall shape is certainly unique and from some angles looks a little strange with its tall roof and hugely flared rear wheelarches, however you can’t say it doesn’t stand out.
Add in the black BBS alloy wheels, red brake callipers, wide, open front bumper, rear spoiler and dual-exit exhaust pipes, and the GR Yaris Rallye makes an imposing presence on the road that belies its diminutive stature.
Moving inside the cabin, the Rallye matches the GR Yaris almost entirely, with the sole difference being the fitment of the comfortable, heated and well-bolstered GR sports front seats, made of a combination of Alcantara and leather.
The contrast red stitching on the seats can also be found on the leather steering wheel, manual brake lever and gear shifter, which along with the aluminium pedals and unique build plaque bring an extra sense of flair to a cabin whose budget underpinnings are evident.
Black plastic is used on most non-touchpoint surfaces, and are paired with a simple but functional air-conditioning cluster and a 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, similar to that on the regular Yaris.
Infotainment duties are covered by a 7.0-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation and an eight-speaker JBL sound system, which provides all the features one should need for everyday operation.
A colour head-up display makes for a useful addition, particularly in spirited driving conditions.
Given its funky three-door body style, the pair of rear seats can only be accessed by folding the front seats forward, and like many performance-oriented cars with only one row of doors, rear seating is extremely cramped, with adults sure to have a difficult time finding any level of comfort.
Driving position is generally good and comfortable, however the thick C-pillars and narrow rear window mean rearward visibility is poor, which can make parking and lane changes more difficult.
However interior fit-out is not what punters are buying the GR Yaris Rallye for – its appeal lies in its driveability, and that starts with its punchy turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder petrol engine.
Developing a potent 200kW at 6500rpm and 370Nm from 3000-4600rpm, the turbo-triple drives all four wheels exclusively via a six-speed manual transmission.
With a kerb weight of 1280kg, that level of power affords the GR Yaris a fierce amount of performance and acceleration, accompanied by a fantastically rorty engine note from the blown three-pot.
While the 200kW provides a forceful level of acceleration when the engine is being wrung out, it is the 370Nm of grunt that really gets the Rallye up and moving in the mid-band and allows for easy driving in day-to-day conditions.
The rorty exhaust note is accompanied by a noisy turbo whistle, which adds to the mechanical-sounding engine and provides an extra level of hot-hatch appeal.
The six-speed manual is a fairly easy and intuitive gearbox with a forgiving clutch and relatively slick lever feel, while the iMT rev-matching technology ensures the smell of burning clutch is kept to a minimum.
Our only gripe with the manual gearbox is the relatively short sixth gear, with the tachometer sitting well above 2000rpm when cruising at 100km/h.
Given the Rallye’s extra track focus, it can be expected that the little performance hatch should be pretty capable in the corners, and surprise surprise – it’s a dynamic pocket rocket.
Handling for the little hatch very sharp and nimble – its light kerb weight and wide rear track allows it to dart around corners, with a strong amount of grip coming from its all-wheel-drive system and Michelin rubber.
The GR Yaris’ all-paw system features three levels of torque distribution – Normal model provides a 60:40 front/rear split, Sport mode changes to a 30:70 rear bias and Track mode gives an even 50:50 split.
Being able to change between drive modes is a handy feature, allowing the driver to best tailor the driveline to suit driving conditions.
The front and rear differentials fitted to the Rallye allow it to power out of corners with greater precision and focus than its regular GR cousin, which is prone to sliding slightly when at its dynamic edge.
High-speed cornering is done with ease, with the Rallye displaying a level of on-road poise that one would not expect from such a small car, and especially one with such a boxy body shape.
Steering feels direct and focused, providing the driver with plenty of feedback through the steering wheel and offering sharp responses to inputs. Its tiny size also makes navigating tight spaces easy.
The firmer Rallye suspension helps keep the hatch flat through corners and is a beneficial feature on the track, however on the road it can best be described as uncomfortable, with its firm ride a big reason why TMCA expects the regular version to easily be the most popular.
As a light hatch with firm suspension, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are slightly tinny, with stone chips flying up off the road pinging through the undercarriage and allowing a fair level of noise through the cabin.
The upside of the average NVH however is the fantastic engine note can be better heard.
Overall the GR Yaris adds a great dose of excitement not only to Toyota’s GR portfolio but to the wider hot hatch market, offering a serious whiff of performance from such a small package.
The Rallye only turns the wick up further, and while the asking price of nearly $55,000 is a lot to ask of a three-door light hatch, there are few better offerings in its segment for pure driving thrills.
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Model release date: 1 April 2021
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