Toyota Yaris – Simply brilliant

Ian Lamming finds a new love in Toyota’s blisteringly hot Yaris GR.

LET’S not mess about, this is the best car I’ve driven this year and up there with anything from last year, including exotica.

There, I’ve said it, and this is why. Toyota’s new Yaris GR is a rally car with number plates; it even says it on a little rubbery feeling badge just near the gear lever.

Have you driven a rally car? No? Well I have and this is better because it’s not quite as extreme yet provides all the thrills.

How can a Yaris be this good, I mean, how can a Yaris stack up against the likes of Ferrari McLaren, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, especially when it’s about 100K cheaper.

Firstly, forget it is a Yaris. Now don’t get me wrong, the normal Yaris is a brilliant car – in fact I’ve just persuaded another friend to buy one – but to compare it to the GR would be doing the latter a disservice.

While the original is a cheeky, fun, little city car, GR is a serious, high speed and beautifully sorted tool with which to carve a cross-country path around your world.

My world involves a 124 mile round-trip school run – oh yes! Now this is the car for that, transforming a commuting chore into an alacritous adventure.

For those who obsess about motorsport consider this; drivers who shave tenths of seconds off twists and turns, braking areas and corner speed win the race. The highest average speeds come from those who accelerate the quickest, brake the latest, carry as much speed as possible through the bends and get the power down rapidly as they exit. Chuck in the odd overtaking manoeuvre and the top step of the podium is assured.

The GR was undoubtedly made for this and on the school run scythes off an incredible 15 minutes in time with consummate ease and a whole lot of fun. And before you scrabble for the keyboard to send in a complaint, the Yaris does this without breaking the law.

So the normal school run in a normal car is dispensed in around 75 minutes, giving an average speed of just 49mph. The Yaris manages the same journey in 60 minutes giving an average speed of 62mph.

This is made possible by an incredible 257hp, 1.6 litre, three cylinder, turbo-charged motor that hurls its lightweight 1,300kg body to the legal limit in just 5.3 seconds and onto the motorway maximum of 70mph shortly after, with an off-beat growl to die for – though you won’t.

On the twisties, staggeringly brilliant ride, handling and the tenacious grip of all-wheel-drive and fat rubber allow the Yaris to carry so much more safe speed through each turn that the overall journey time begins to plummet. Braking also comes later thanks to fantastic anchors and safe overtakes are so effortless it’s like driving a four wheel motorbike, so other vehicles never slow you down.

The experience is just so amazing and a salutary reminder that driving is allowed to be fun not just a means of taking the kids to school. At no point does the journey feel dangerous, reckless or irresponsible, in fact, it is invigorating, rewarding and fun. It wakes you up in the morning and keeps you alert in the evening so actually adds huge benefits to overall safety.

In white, with its deep front grille and flared out rear end, the Yaris GR attracts admiring glances from those in the know. For those who aren’t, it borders on innocuous and the exhaust note will also do little to offend.

For drivers destined for the circuit GR has sports and track modes to unleash the full beast from this pocket rocket. But it is also just as happy providing the transport for the run to the school or the shops and the overall economy, which shines forth 36mpg from the trip computer, is impressive too.

The six speed box is easy for the commute but sharp and well-weighted for sportiness and the steering is simply brilliant.

My goodness, I love this car and it is hard to see how it can fail to be a classic in years to come as it rivals any of its exotic peers as an incredibly fun car to drive.

Fact file

Toyota Yaris GR

Engine: 1.6 litre three cylinder turbo petrol

Power: 257hp

0-62mph: 5.5 secs

Top speed: 143mph

Transmission: six-speed manual

Combined MPG: 34.3

CO2 g/km: 186

Price: £33,495.00