First Drive: Toyota Yaris GRMN

The Yaris GRNM is Toyota's new limited-edition hot hatch, making a welcome return for the brand back to the small performance car market. AOL Cars gets behind the wheel to see what all the fuss is about.

The Yaris GRNM is Toyota's new limited-edition hot hatch, making a welcome return for the brand back to the small performance car market. AOL Cars gets behind the wheel to see what all the fuss is about.

What is it?

Gazoo Racing is Toyota's motorsport arm created in 2015 to direct its global racing activities. These include the Le Mans 24 Hours, the World Rally Championship and the VLN Endurance series.

Now, though, it's also responsible for some high-performance road cars and the first of these coming to Europe is the Yaris GRNM – standing for 'Gazoo Racing Meister of the Nurburgring', a hark to the brand's success in VLN.

Based on the standard Yaris, it has been heavily fettled with inspiration from the WRC car. Just 600 are being made, with just 100 of these making their way to the UK.

What's new?

Just a quick glance at the Yaris GRNM and you know immediately that you're not dealing with a mundane hatchback. The most eye-catching changes include aggressive-looking bodywork, 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a set of 'look at me' decals and a central exhaust.

Underneath things are even more radical. The star of the show is a 1.8-litre supercharged engine – the same that sits in the Lotus Elise. It also comes with a Torsen differential, modified suspension and larger brakes.

What's under the bonnet?

As we've already mentioned, under the bonnet lies a 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine that has been tuned by Lotus. It's paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It produces 209bhp and 250Nm of torque, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 143mph. As for running costs, it manages a claimed 37.7mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 170g/km.

The supercharger allows for consistent performance across the power band, allowing for a smooth drive and rare gear changes to get back up to speed. While the short gearing has been purposefully done for performance driving, it does mean that it does rev high when you are on the motorway – even in sixth gear.

What's it like to drive?

Despite the GRNM's crazy looks and fruity exhaust note, it's a rather tame beast to drive, which means fun can be had with minimal difficulty.

Thanks to the Torsen differential and Sachs performance suspension, it is balanced and relatively easy to drive fast in. Light steering does dampen the overall package when you're cornering hard, but in normal driving it has just about the correct weight to it.

While the Yaris is notoriously aimed for city driving, the GRNM is an entirely different beast that is better suited away from the urban jungle. It's by no means refined, thanks to a harsh ride and loud exhaust, but it was never designed to be used as a motorway cruiser.

First drive: Toyota Yaris GRMN

First drive: Toyota Yaris GRMN

See also: Details released on upcoming Toyota Yaris GRMN hot hatch

See also: First drive: Ford Fiesta ST-Line

How does it look?

We personally think it's a little monster to look at.

With its redesigned front bumper, side skirts, rear diffuser and spoiler, it instantly looks aggressive. This is added to with its central exhaust and set of decals, both of which are a nod to the WRC car.

It's not what you'd call pretty, but it instantly grabs attention and will be a rare sight on UK roads. The only bad thing is that you can get it in white with the optional decals. We would have personally have liked to have seen it offered with further choice, or at least in black and red to match the Gazoo racing theme.

What's it like inside?

The interior is somewhat a contrast to the wild exterior looks. It is largely similar to that of a top-spec Yaris, with some added ultrasuede-finished bucket seats with Gazoo racing logos and a steering wheel derived from the GT86.

It's not exactly a negative thing, as it is nicely put together, it's just a bit dull and plastic heavy, and doesn't really match the impressions gauged from the outside of it.

The driving position is also a bit awkward for taller drivers, which is a problem inherited from the standard Yaris hatch.

What's the spec like?

Standard equipment includes bucket seats, an all-black interior with leather trim, aluminium sports pedals, a GR-branded starter button, dual-zone climate control and an infotainment display borrowed from the standard Yaris.

It's expensive, though, as £26,295 is a lot of money for Yaris, even one as good as this. Compared to rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI, it begins to look overpriced.


No matter which way you look at it, the Yaris GRNM is a hugely capable and enjoyable hot hatch to drive.

However, the price is what is the problem with it. While it might beat rivals from Ford and Volkswagen on the performance front, the fact a Yaris is approaching 'hyper-hatch' price territory just makes it hard to justify.

Regardless, if you love the drive of it that much, and can't put a price on the joy it gives you behind the wheel, you'll end up owning one of the best Toyotas in a long time.

The knowledge

Model: Toyota Yaris GRNM
Price: £26,295
Engine: 1.8-litre supercharged petrol
Power: 209bhp
Torque: 250Nm
Max speed: 143mph
0-60mph: 6.2 seconds
MPG: 37.7mpg
Emissions 170g/km