2021 Toyota GR Yaris (car review)

WHEN is a Yaris not a Yaris? The answer to that is simple; when it’s the 2021 GR Yaris. You see, it’s a Yaris in name only. Instead it’s a mash up of two separate platforms, the first being the one we’ve named 50 times already, and the second being the Corolla.

The result, at the hands of Gazoo Racing (that’s where the GR bit comes from), Toyota’s all things motor sport and high performance arm, is a homologation special, developed for world rally. There is, in fact, very little actual Yaris in the car.

And that’s what makes it so exciting. Nothing about this little beast is run-of-the-mill. Not the outstanding suspension, or superb drivetrain, or the way it eats up twisty roads. Let’s start with the 1.6-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder engine under the hood.

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It produces a staggering 200kW of power and 370Nm of torque. That’s paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and GR-Four all-wheel drive. It runs 98 RON premium unleaded and delivers claimed fuel economy of 7.6-litres/100km (9.0-litres in testing).

The 2021 Toyota GR Yaris also offers three drive modes, with each impacting the front-to-rear power split. Normal sees a traditional 60:40 split, with Sport keeping 30 per cent at the front and throwing 70 to the rear. Track mode brings the perfect balance at 50:50.

There are dual exhaust pipes, and the sound of the motor is pumped into the cabin using an advanced noise management system (it’s not fake, for the record). Weight is saved via an aluminium bonnet, doors and rear hatch, and pretty much every single light is LED.

As you read this, you’ve probably started drooling a little. Throw in the fact it tips the scales at just 1,280kg, has Enkei 18-inch alloy wheels, and a carbon-fibre reinforced polymer roof and you’re now positively salivating. If you’re not, you damn well should be.

It’s a two-door four-seater that’s just dying to be driven hard. The brake discs are ventilated front and rear, with fixed calliper 4-pots on the front, and two pots on the rear. The combination is paired with ABS, stability control and brake assist.

It has MacPherson front and wishbone rear suspension, that’s simply dialled in. The GR Yaris will literally choke down whatever you can throw at it; it’s quick on the straights, nimble in the bends, and downright perfect at full noise, leaning into a hairpin.

The interior features aluminium pedals, leather wrapped shifter and heated steering wheel, a soft touch instrument panel, split fold rear seats and GR sports seats up front. Those are heated too, trimmed in suede and leather, and are quite comfy.

There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system (a bit small) that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition Siri Eyes Free and an 8-speaker JBL sound system.

You’ll also find smart entry and push button start, a head-up display, and automatic climate control air conditioning. Safety hasn’t been forgotten either. Lane trace assist, intersection turn assistance, speed sign recognition are all standard.

Toyota’s pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking offers pedestrian and daylight cyclist detection, with high speed active cruise control, blind spot monitoring, traction control and hill start assist also included.

Nothing is perfect though, and this wouldn’t be a car review without pointing out some of the disappointing things about the GR Yaris. Among them is the pricing structure from launch to now. You see, when this car first hit showrooms, it was $39,990 drive away.

That was if you were quick enough to buy one of the first 1,000 examples. When those sold out in no time flat, Toyota Australia offered another 100 examples at $44,990 drive away. Those went quick too. Now you’ll need to pay $49,500 plus on-roads for one.

We should also mention that the GR Yaris is in fact the base model, and there’s also a Rallye edition, which gets the seriously cool bits that this variant misses out on, including 18-inch BBS forged alloy wheels shod with 225/40/R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.

That version also grabs high-performance suspension and front and rear Torsen limited slip differentials. That rubber is a fairly decent jump too from the 225/40/R18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 offered on the standard GR Yaris.

Right now, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, damn, that sounds even better. You might be right, but good luck getting your hands on one. They’re even harder to find than this thing is.

Inside, there’s a lot of hard plastic, and the almost parcel shelf like rear seat and severely limited boot space (141-litres) will have you questioning its daily driver capabilities if you have a small family.

It’s a pretty basic interior actually, and there’s not a lot of electronic wizardry either. That’s something we struggled with, along with the quite glitchy safety technology, which seemed to have a mind of its own, more often than not.

Issues aside, the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris is a truly exceptional bit of hot hatch kit. On the basis of its performance alone, you may need to own one.

Should you decide that it, rather than say the larger Honda Civic Type R or dearer Golf R, is for you, then you can choose it in three colours, including Glacier White, Feverish Red and Tarmac Black (as tested).

It comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and capped price servicing. There’s a slight problem though, should you want this pint sized pocket rocket right now. Toyota Australia has run out of cars.

To ensure they can deliver all of the 2021 GR Yaris vehicles already sold, they’ve temporarily paused availability. Don’t panic though, as soon as they secure more, you’ll be able to buy one.

Our test vehicle was supplied by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Toyota GR Yaris, contact your local Toyota dealer. Images courtesy of Mitch Zeinert Photography.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - exceptional drivetrain; ride and handling; unique styling; driving dynamics.
Cons - Rallye edition gets the good bits; boot and rear seat room; overly sensitive safety technology; price point.
Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> exceptional drivetrain; ride and handling; unique styling; driving dynamics.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> Rallye edition gets the good bits; boot and rear seat room; overly sensitive safety technology; price point.2021 Toyota GR Yaris (car review)