The high-performance Yaris you’ve been waiting for is finally here!

Introduced for the 2015 model year, the current-generation Toyota Yaris is one of the most popular hatchbacks in its class and is already considered one of the most reliable and cost-friendly options on the market. However, Toyota has received a lot of heat for not offering a higher-performance version to go against the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTi. Well, it seems that the Japanese automaker listened and the 2017 facelift brought the first performance-oriented version of the Yaris. It’s called the Yaris GRMN and broke cover at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.

Inspired and influenced by Toyota’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 with the Yaris WRC, the GRMN gets its juice (surprisingly enough) from a supercharged engine and it’s the company’s first foray into a niche dominated by Volkswagen and Ford. Developed with Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport division, and tested on the Nurburgring, the Yaris might have what it takes to give the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST a run for the money. Having a new performance, subcompact hatchback in dealerships is as exciting as it gets, but the Yaris GRMN needs to check a few important boxes in order to make a difference. Find out more about that in my review below.

Updated 05/15/2017: Although Toyota said the GRMN will be available in three-door form only at the official launch, our paparazzi spotted a five-door version testing on public roads. There’s no official word as to when it will become available, but it appears Toyota wants a performance Yaris with a more family-friendly appeal.

Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Yaris GRMN.

Exterior

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As seen in the preview renderings, the GRMN is a slightly beefed-up Yaris. The first thing that catches the eye is the more aggressive front fascia, the reworked nose, and the revised headlamps. Starting below, the already large trapezoidal grille has grown even bigger. The opening is wider at the bottom, while the grille has a sporty honeycomb mesh. The cutouts that house the foglamps have been redesigned too, with thinner black trim toward the headlamps. The foglamps are new too. However, it should be noted that these features are identical to the regular, facelifted Yaris, so the GRMN isn’t necessarily more aggressive up front. The truth is that the GRMN doesn’t offer much beyond the red stripe below the grille and the black and red accents on the engine hood.

The same is available when the Yaris GRMN is viewed from the side, but there are a few exceptions to talk about. For starters, the GRMN rides on unique wheels. Sporting a multi-spoke design inspired from racing, the rims are finished in black and provide a great contrast with the white body. Speaking of the body, the same black and red decals seen in the engine hood adorns the lower section, just above the side skirts. One final touch is the "GRMN" badge on the front fenders, with the "G" and "R" over black and red backgrounds, respectively. The black mirror caps add to the looks too, but this is yet another feature that’s also available on the standard Yaris, along with a black roof.

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The first thing that catches the eye is the more aggressive front fascia, the reworked nose, and the revised headlamps.

Around back is where the facelifted Yaris gained the most changes, so the GRMN benefits from an identical update. While the outgoing model had small taillights on each side of the tailgate, the units are now larger and extend well into the trunk lid. The bumper was also redesigned, now including smaller black inserts at the bottom and triangular detailing at the corners. On top of that, the GRMN sports an aggressive, diffuser-like element with a center-mounted exhaust and a large, black-painted roof spoiler.

Overall, the Yaris GRMN isn’t as sporty looking as I wanted it to be, especially up front, but the overall package is decent given that neither the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST aren’t exactly menacing to look at.

Interior

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A quick comparo to the outgoing Yaris reveals a mildly updated dashboard with a revised control layout under the infotainment screen. Toyota also introduced new materials for the upholstery, new color schemes, new trim, and a refined infotainment interface. There’s also a 4.2-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster for the more expensive models, including the GRMN. On top of these standard-spec features, the GRMN gained a pair of sports seats specifically designed for this car by Toyota Boshoku, a leather-wrapped steering wheel taken from the GT86 sports car, and aluminum sport pedals. Granted, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually a big deal to have sporty seats and steering wheel in the tiny Yaris.

Drivetrain

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Arguably the most important feature of the Yaris GRMN is the drivetrain, because the usual small displacement engine found in the hatchback has been replaced by a supercharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit. A unique feature in this segment, the 16-valve unit is equipped with a Magnusson Eaton supercharger and Dual VVT-i intelligent variable timing for both inlet and exhaust valves.

With a 10:1 compression ratio, it delivers a maximum 212 PS (209 horsepower) and a peak torque of 250 Nm (184 pound-feet). Driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, the engine rushes the hatchback from 0 to 62 mph in 6.3 seconds, almost a half-second quicker than both the new Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. Top speed is electronically limited to 230 km/h (143 mph), which is significantly lower than the Polo GTI, but not a really big deal if you ask me.

Arguably the most important feature of the Yaris GRMN is the drivetrain, because the usual small displacement engine found in the hatchback has been replaced by a supercharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit.

The drivetrain is backed by a custom, reinforced chassis with additional bracing, a suspension system tuned through extensive testing at the Nurburgring track with input from Gazoo Racing, and a Torsen limited-slip differential. Shorter springs, dedicated shock absorbers developed with Sachs, a larger diameter front stabilizer bar, and performance brakes round off the package. The "extensive testing on the Nurburgring" bit sounds interesting to say the least and it could brings us a pretty capable Yaris. A ’Ring lap time would definitely be interesting, but either Toyota isn’t planning on releasing a video or it should go online later in 2017.

Prices

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As you’d expect from a range-topping, limited-edition car, the GRMN is the most expensive Yaris in showroom. In the U.K., pricing starts from £26,295 (around $35,600 as of September 2017), a hefty premium over the standard Yaris, priced £12,495 (about $16,900). Granted, the Yaris GRMN costs significantly more than my initial estimates, which were around the £20,000 (around $27,100) mark. This also makes it significantly more expensive than the brand-new Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI, both likely to start from around £20K.

Although the Yaris is finally available in the United States, the GRMN won’t cross the pond to North America anytime soon.

Competition

Volkswagen Polo GTI

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2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI High Resolution Exterior
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One of the most popular subcompact hot-hatches, the Polo GTI was redesigned for the 2018 model year. Sporting the more muscular and mature looks of the new Polo, which is loosely based on the latest Golf, the new GTI sports a number of exclusive design features, including red detailing on the front grille, a diffuser-like element around back, and unique wheels. The GTI’s interior is by far the most appealing in this niche thanks to its clean, high-tech looks and features worthy of the premium market. Under the hood, the old 1.8-liter four-cylinder was replaced with a 2.0-liter unit, making the Polo GTI the hot-hatch with the biggest engine in this niche. The powerplant cranks out 197 horsepower and 240 pound-feet, a small upgrade over the outgoing model. This output puts it on par with the Fiesta ST, but below the Yaris GRMN. Likewise, it’s as quick as the Fiesta ST with a 0-to-62 mph time of 6.7 seconds, but it’s four tenths slower than the Yaris. On the flipside, the GTI wins the top speed battle with a 146-mph rating. Pricing is not yet available as of this writing, but it should start from around £20,000.

Read our full review of the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

Ford Fiesta ST

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The Yaris GRMN arrives just in time for the redesigned Fiesta ST. Based on the brand-new Fiesta with sportier exterior styling, it benefits from a more upmarket interior with new features. Upgrades include a revised Ford SYNC 3 entertainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Recaro seats, and exclusive trim and upholstery. The biggest change lies under the hood, where the 1.6-liter four-cylinder was replaced by a 1.5-liter, EcoBoost three-pot. But even though it now uses a tiny three-cylinder, the Fiesta ST is plenty powerful at 197 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. The output is actually identical to the outgoing model, so performance remains the same, but Ford promises improved fuel economy. Expect pricing to start from around £20,000 in the U.K. and around $22,300 in the United States. The Fiesta ST is the only hot-hatch on this list that’s available in North America.

Read our full review of the Ford Fiesta ST.

Conclusion

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A performance-oriented Toyota Yaris is the best news that comes from this niche in a very long time. With only the Polo GTi and the Fiesta ST around for quite a few years, you don’t have too many options, unless you’re willing to spend more for the slightly bigger Mini Cooper JCW. Hyundai may too launch a beefed-up i20 soon, but with no official announcement yet, it’s pretty clear that this segment will remain limited as far as options go for a few more years. The Yaris GRMN will definitely add a bit of excitement to the race, as well as give Volkswagen and Ford something to worry about. On the other hand, the GRMN’s sticker is a bit too steep relative to the competition, and that’s a problem given that the new Polo GTI is much fancier and better equipped on the sure. Sure, it’s significantly slower, but many custom will rather have the extra features over the extra power.

  • Leave it
    • * Could’ve used beefed-up fenders for a race-inspired look
    • * Tough competition
    • * A bit expensive

Press Release

The new Yaris GRMN is more than a simple hot hatch, it is a thoroughbred performance model that directly benefits from the engineering and tuning skills Toyota is developing in its motorsport programme. Powered by a new, 1.8-litre supercharged engine producing more than 210 DIN hp, it promises speed, poise and rich driver rewards.

The new Yaris GRMN is an authentic, full-blooded and highly tuned hot hatch, inspired and influenced by Toyota’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2017 with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and the Yaris WRC after a 17-year break from the competition. The WRC is the pinnacle of the sport and is sure to provide Toyota with new challenges and opportunities to further develop its people, explore new technologies, and experience various road conditions around the world, helping it in its pursuit of making ever-better cars.

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The motorsport influence is displayed in dedicated performance features that broadcast the car’s special qualities, both in its exterior styling and its driver-focused interior. It also sports unique paint finish – white with red and black flash detailing on the bonnet and sills, echoing the livery of the thoroughbred rally car.

Toyota called on its European teams to design the Yaris GRMN and develop its engine and interior, while responsibility for the chassis and braking system fell to colleagues in Japan. Production will be handled by Toyota Motor Manufacturing France’s plant in Valenciennes.

Although successful GRMN performance models have previously been sold in Japan, the Yaris GRMN is the first to be marketed in Europe, on sale from early 2018.

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Supercharged engine

The Yaris GRMN is unique in the European hot hatch market in being powered by a supercharged engine. This highly responsive 1.8-litre unit will produce more than 210 DIN hp, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and enabling best-in-class times both for the sprint from nought to 100 km/h and acceleration from 80 to 120 km/h in fourth gear.

Chassis and suspension

To ensure the engine’s prodigious power is translated into a genuinely rewarding drive, the Yaris GRMN has a reinforced chassis with additional bracing, including an extra bar between the front suspension towers.

It benefits from suspension tuned through extensive testing on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife with significant input from Toyota GAZOO Racing’s motorsport activities, plus a Torsen limited-slip differential for better traction and handling. Shorter springs allow the car to hug the ground more closely and these are teamed with dedicated shock absorbers developed with Sachs and a larger diameter front stabiliser bar.

The car is also equipped with highly efficient performance brakes, with large ventilated discs and four-pot front callipers.

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Sports styling

The Yaris GRMN’s performance credentials are clearly broadcast in its styling. Offered exclusively in three-door form, it rides on BBS 17-inch multi-spoke alloys and is fitted with a bespoke, black wing-type rear spoiler.

The features included dedicated front and rear bumper designs, a rear diffuser and a distinctive centre exhaust tailpipe.

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The cabin is an equal expression of the Yaris GRMN’s performance focus, with front sports seats designed specifically for the car by Toyota Boshoku, providing the best-in-class body holding and support.

The authentic performance details include a small-diameter, leather-wrapped steering wheel – shared with the GT86 – that incorporates a centre line mark to help the driver with accurate car positioning. There is also an aluminium sports pedal set and a redesigned combi meter that reflect the car’s special sporting character.

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