In case you were wondering; shown here is not an abstract artistic vision of a Toyota Yaris, but a vehicle that has an uncanny talent for creating a performance sensation. But, contrary to what these pictures will have you believe; that’s that’s not the only strong suit of the GRMN reports DEON VAN DER WALT.
Under all the layers of sportiness, the Toyota Yaris GRNM is quite scientific. Not the Erlenmeyer flask kind of science, though, but the branch of science that is usually practised on the Nürburgring.
It’s called the Toyota Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring), and yes, it is more than just a pretty face with a befuddling name. For starters, there are only 400 in existence. Three of these found their way into South Africa, and while that is special by any measure, it is still just numbers.
What makes this Yaris GRMN truly interesting, in our opinion, is that it signifies an entirely new direction for Toyota. Like BMW has its M division, and Mercedes has the appositional AMG partition, or even Renault’s RS works, Toyota too is looking to establish a performance sub-division it calls GRMN.
It’s also not just a fantasy of bigger things to come, as the Japanese marque’s Gazoo Racing division has proved at the endurance-ultimate 24-hours of Le Mans.
Now, you might nod in agreement and state that it was the only factory-backed team to compete in the LMP1 division, what with infinitely deep pockets, but, importantly, it was also the first time that the team won the race, becoming only the second Japanese manufacturer to take the top step of the podium with both cars actually finishing the race.
Why is this important? Well, for one, with the Gazoo nameplate Toyota is on the fast track to performance greatness with cars that are both reliable, and quick.
GAZOO RACING YARIS
So, does the Yaris have this inherent Gazoo magic?
In short, yes.
Under the bonnet lives a 1.8-litre engine that, unlike other bad-tempered B-segment hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI, and Renault Clio RS, is not turbocharged. Instead, Gazoo opted to strap a Magnusson Eaton rotor-type supercharger to the engine.
The result is consistently vigorous acceleration, from the moment the clutch is released, that belies the seemingly modest 156 kW of power and 250 Nm of torque. And yes, these numbers are transferred to the road by means of a mechanical chinking six-speed manual gearbox.
Toyota’s Yaris GRMN can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in around 6.3 seconds, and while that is all good and well, this is also the point where some perspective will go a long way to explain just how impressive this machine is.
See, calling it a bad-tempered, angry or even a warm hatch doesn’t quite do it justice. This is a hot hatch, there’s no way around it, well since it can out-accelerate the original and the king of hot-hatchery namely the Golf GTI.
While this is partially thanks to the weight-saving measures employed by the performance boffins at Gazoo, it must also be said that this former city-runner is not exactly a slap-on performance car. It has been built explicitly for maximising performance in such a small package, while also maintaining some degree of daily usability and comfort.
For instance, incorporating a supercharger unit into the compact engine compartment that already houses a 1.8-litre mill proved to be somewhat of a problem. The solution? According to Toyota, the engineers combined the supercharger, cooling, and air intake in a single, space-saving stacked unit, while the fuel-system has been uprated with components from a V6 engine.
Then, on the handling front, a limited-slip differential takes care of corner grip, while the chassis is also stiffer. For stopping power, a set of 275-millimetre discs, complemented by prominent Gazoo-specific brake callipers does duty for bringing the front wheels to a halt.
It has also been endowed with shorter springs and 17″ BBS sports wheels.
DOES THE GRMN HANDLE?
Oh yes, and then some. The launch route between Durban and Port Shepstone didn’t exactly have anything more than straight stretches where we could test the in-gear acceleration (which is inspiring thanks to the undeviating power delivery courtesy of the supercharger), but it’s what waited in Port Shepstone that really put this car through its paces.
It’s called Dezzi Raceway, and while it’s incredibly technical, it also has a reputation for its blind corners and ability to throw a car off its game thanks to several camber shifts.
And here, in between all the tricky bits, is where all the components mentioned above came together into a single handling masterpiece. In essence, on a tight-handling track like this, cornering success is entirely up to the combination of driver tenacity and ability.
It shrugs off just about anything you can throw its way with finesse, a throaty exhaust note and dramatic tyre-squeal on the smooth surface.
Yaris. A name that formerly only managed to conjure up images of fuel economy and daily commutes. Now, though, we can’t help but think that if Toyota’s GRMN division can pull this off with a Yaris, what else can they do?
Well, while the Yaris GRMN won’t be on sale in South Africa (it likely won’t be much cheaper than R600,000) not all hope is lost. This was just Gazoo’s prologue in South Africa where we can expect to see more wonderful things from Toyota’s performance division.
What this means is that it’s planning to launch a model portfolio with varying levels of performance. This includes the GR-Line that will boast only a cosmetic package, GR-Sport that features uprated suspension, GR that sees Toyotas fitted with a power package and the full-monty GRMN high-performance pack.
For lack of a better metaphor; this is finally the much-needed icing for the conservative doughnut that is Toyota. And from what we tasted, it’s good. Really, good.
Report by DEON VAN DER WALT | Images © TOYOTA SOUTH AFRICA