Toyota GR Yaris is the ultimate cult performance car

This little machine delivers the zest and agility of a classic rally car

Toyota GR Yaris
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Toyota GR Yaris has garnered a cult following straight out of the box. Usually, such cars are almost impossible to create. By their very nature, cult objects are freak collisions of ambition, innovation and scarcity, hitting an invisible mark that might not be apparent for many years after their debut.

This particular machine was created first and foremost for competition. Harking back to the days when manufacturers had to make road-going versions of their most outlandish competition cars in order to meet eligibility rules, the GR Yaris was developed by Toyota’s Finland-based Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, the outfit responsible for successfully bringing the brand back to the World Rally Championship.

To the layperson, the connection between a compact city car and a rally-winning performance machine might not be apparent, but the GR team have taken the stock Yaris – the European Car of the Year 2021, no less – and transformed it into something almost unrecognisable. For a start, there are the physical changes. The GR is lower, wider and has two less doors than the conventional Yaris. It also has four-wheel-drive and a new 1.6-litre 3 Cylinder turbo-charged engine. Body panels are aluminium and carbon composite, while inside there are supportive sports seats. In fact, practically the only bits this car has in common with the award-winning Yaris hatchback are the lights and wing mirrors. It’s functional, rather than beautiful, although its diminutive scale is surely one of its most attractive qualities. 

Toyota GR Yaris interior

Inside, the Toyota GR Yaris is functional and compact, with grippy Alcantara fabric on the sports seats and plenty of tech

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If you like driving, the GR Yaris ticks every box. Thanks to its ultra-compact size, finely tuned steering and responsive engine, this little machine delivers zest and agility that evokes a classic race or rally car. In terms of enjoment, it can runs rings around hypercars costing many times its price, whether on the road or on the track and while this is by means a limited edition (about 25,000 will be made in total), it’s sufficiently different to impress the aficionados.

In fact, owning a GR implies a certain amount of insider knowledge, as well as tapping into the complex inverse snobbery of the niche performance brand. With all forms of electric racing and rallying gathering pace, we’ll probably not see the likes of the GR Yaris again, making this both a cult car and an instant collectable. Long after the last supercar is extinct, this robust little Yaris might still have a chance to roam free.

Toyota GR Yaris rear view

The Toyota GR Yaris is lower, wider and lighter than the original car

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Toyota GR Yaris, from £29,995

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.