Since the announcement of the GR Corolla, the hype for the Toyota GR Yaris has somewhat died down a bit – of course, in no small part, because the GR Corolla will be sold in America where the Yaris is not. But while the Corolla is bigger and more powerful, the GR Yaris is the one that’s the more interesting of the pair to me, being so utterly different to the standard Yaris and the homologated embodiment of Tommi Mäkinen’s WRC plans.
If you’re one of the people still hankering to get one of these even with the GR Corolla just around the corner – after all, orders have been paused since July 2021 due to supply constraints – the good news is that you now can again. The GR Yaris is going back on sale in Australia a week from today on November 10, the same day the order books for the manual Supra open.
However, you’ll want to get in quick as just 160 examples of the Yaris will be available for the next 12 months, and not all of Toyota’s 300-plus dealers will be allocated cars. Compare that to a supply of 500 GR Corollas and 1100 GR86s over the same period, and the pickings are slim.
The GR Yaris going back on sale does, of course, mean I had another opportunity to get back behind the wheel of it, and this time the one you really want – the uprated Rallye model, or as it’s known in other markets, the Circuit Pack. When I first jumped behind the wheel of the Toyota GR Yaris, it was the standard model which I pitted against the tight, twisting roads of the Victorian high country which exposed a few weaknesses – ones that the Rallye model looks to correct.
For 2023, pricing is unchanged across the Toyota GR Yaris range, meaning the standard model is $49,500 while the Rallye jumps to $54,500 both before on-road costs. Specification is unchanged for the coming model year as well, with the only discernible difference being the lack of a numbered plaque on the centre console of the Rallye – something that did feature on cars in the initial batch of deliveries, including the one you see here, but a somewhat pointless addition as it’s not a limited production model.
Outside, the lightweight 18-inch forged BBS wheels are a clear differentiator between this and the standard GR Yaris, as are the red brake calipers hiding behind them. Brake cooling ducts added to the front bumper are a more subtle addition, but the matte black ‘Rallye’ badge on the boot won’t leave anyone confused as to which model this is.
From inside the cabin, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Red contrast stitching – versus white in the standard car – is the only telltale sign of this being any different. The same small infotainment screen remains, as does the admittedly solid list of features that includes heated seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, and a JBL audio system.
The reason for the minimal changes here, though, is because your extra $5000 is going to bits you want under the skin rather than interior tat you don’t need in a driver’s car. The key difference is a pair of Torsen limited-slip differentials – one for the front and one for the rear – that should solve the standard model’s understeer woes with its ability to control the power from side-to-side, as well as front-to-rear.
Its suspension has been heavily reinforced as well. Stiffer front bushings; stiffer rear ball joints, bushings, and bearings; and thicker-diameter anti-roll bars and springs are all added to increase composure in the corners and allow the diffs to do their thing.
A set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres replace the underperforming Dunlop treads on the standard model as well, although rather disappointingly they were noticeably absent from our test car – chalk that up to its 11,000km of prior abuse on the press fleet – so for this test we’re still rolling on the Dunlops. Consider that good for a like-for-like test, however, as it will show just how much of a difference the rest of the upgrades make.
The only thing that doesn’t seem to have been touched underneath is the engine and transmission, with the same 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder sitting under the hood making a proportionally colossal 200kW and 370Nm, while a six-speed manual with auto rev-matching is the only transmission available.
Aside from the limited-slip diffs, the ‘GR-FOUR’ all-wheel drive system works the same as in the standard car as well, with Normal mode offering a 60:40 power split, Sport changing it to 30:70, and Track locking it at 50:50.
As a result, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a difference in performance in a straight line. That’s no bad thing, of course, as the turbo triple under the GR Yaris’ tiny bonnet is quite the engineering marvel. Although there’s a hint of off-kilter gruffness at lower revs, it feels like an engine much larger than it is when the boost starts to hit. The power delivery feels strong and full; it’s an absolute marvel. It should also be noted that in Japan, a software update is available from Toyota to extract an extra 20Nm from it, but there are no plans to offer it in Australia.
The manual ‘box is slick as well, and the auto rev-matching works a treat on the road, even if it mightn’t be fast enough for keener track drivers. Perhaps the only real complaint you’ll have by this point from behind the seat is the seat itself – the seating position is very high, giving you the feeling of sitting on rather than in the car, but at least it’s easily gotten used to.
But of course, it’s the way it handles where the greatest differences can be felt. Where the standard GR Yaris would tend towards understeer when you tried to attack it on the exit from bends, the Torsen LSDs make a true world of difference; the mechanical grip is clearly able to be felt, almost especially so given my tester was still on the inferior Dunlop tyres. It still feels best put in the 50:50 Track mode setting, with the even power split and better lateral power distribution meaning you can attack corners the way you wish you could in the standard car.
Similarly, the tautness of the stiffer suspension can be felt when you throw it into bends, with a clear feeling of more eagerness and composure, yet the ride quality is still quite acceptable for a car with such a short wheelbase and of such a light weight at 1280kg. The Rallye is an easy car to drive hard as a result, and after all, that’s precisely what you’d want from a car like it.
It’s obvious, then, that the extra $5000 for the Rallye is well worth it. It’s a must-do, in fact, so great is the difference it makes. The hype may have died down a touch for the GR Yaris – so quelled it was by the global hype for the GR Corolla – but with just 160 up for grabs for the entire coming year, I don’t doubt those left waiting will be scrambling to get their hands on one of them.
2022 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye
- Performance - 9/109/10
- Ride & Handling - 9/109/10
- Tech & Features - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value for Money - 8/108/10
Pros: Torsen limited-slip differentials and uprated suspension make a world of difference, super punchy turbo three-pot engine, looks and drives unlike anything else out there
Cons: $54k plus on-roads is a lot for a small car that’s compromised as a daily driver, they’re still in incredibly short supply, torque-increasing software isn’t offered in Australia
Photography by Marcus Cardone.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Toyota Australia for a week with all fuel expenses covered.