JOHANNESBURG - The move to level 4 lockdown put a damper on the Toyota GR Yaris launch that was scheduled to take place in Gauteng this week. Toyota South Africa says it’s putting the GR Yaris on ice for a few weeks until we can drive it to tell you what it really feels like from the cockpit. Nevertheless, the manufacturer shared pricing of the car, which was leaked earlier this week by questionable social media operators, and it’s confirmed that the base Toyota GR Yaris will set you back R606 600. The more performance-honed Rally version comes in at R715 600.
The new GR Yaris is a pure performance car, born from Toyota’s title-winning experience in the World Rally Championship (WRC). It brings motorsport technology and design directly to the road.
The car has been developed through a collaborative effort between Toyota Gazoo Racing and Tommi Mäkinen Racing, Toyota’s partner in the WRC. As well as serving as the official homologation model for development of the next Yaris WRC car (which sadly won’t happen due to FIA rule changes, this car will never turn a wheel in anger in the WRC), it also has all the attributes required for enthusiasts looking to compete in local rally competitions or track-day activities.
Every aspect of this Yaris has a performance focus: an all-new platform and engine, new suspension, lightweight construction, aerodynamic styling and a new GR-Four permanent all-wheel drive system. While we eagerly await the car’s arrival on test, let’s take a deep dive into the 2021 GR Yaris that you can now buy in South Africa:
1) Its heritage rooted in gravel
The new GR Yaris is Toyota’s first genuine all-wheel drive sports car and its first homologation model for World Rally Championship competition since the end of production of the Celica GT-Four in 1999. Across two generations and three models, the Celica GT-Four featured in Toyota’s most successful WRC campaigns, arguably the golden age of rallying that brought the company 30 rally victories, four drivers’ and two manufacturers’ championship titles. In a reference to its illustrious predecessor and its all-wheel drive technology, the GR Yaris features a GR-Four logo on its tailgate.
Designers and engineers at Tommi Mäkinen Racing focused on perfecting the aerodynamics, weight distribution and light weight nature of the new car – the three qualities essential to achieving the best performance and driveability. A lower roofline improved the car’s ability to cut through the air, while positioning the new 1.6 turbo engine further back towards the centre of the car and locating the battery in the boot helped produce a better chassis balance for improved handling, stability and responsiveness.
The three-door body shell is made from lightweight materials including carbon fibre and aluminium to deliver an impressive power-to-weight ratio, while the new platform allows for a wider rear track and new double-wishbone rear suspension system. Although the GR Yaris is based on the new European Yaris model, it has a unique design with a three-door body and a roof lowered by 91mm - creating a coupé silhouette. Frame-less doors add to the coupé look, while improving aerodynamic performance and reducing weight.
At the front, the grille design and spoiler express the car’s sporty nature featuring the signature GR “functional matrix” design. Cooling air is fed to the radiator, intercooler and engine compartment through a large, rectangular lower grille with a wide honeycomb mesh inset. The grille is flanked by large vertical inlets for the brake duct and intercooler, with circular LED fog lights positioned at the far edges of the bumper. The prominent lower spoiler actually has a downforce-generating shape, with a raised centre section that controls the flow of air beneath the vehicle.
At the rear, the tapering of the roof and rear pillars and the addition of the deep, high-mounted spoiler, enhance downforce and aerodynamic performance. The wide track and flaring of the rear wings emphasise the car’s wide and low silhouette. GR badging is also featured on the lower grille, the front fenders and back door and four paint finishes that match TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s competition colours are available to choose from: Glacier White, Platinum White Pearl, Emotional Red and Lunar Black.
2) Unique interior treatment and features
The interior reflects a driver-oriented design. A twin-hooded binnacle frames easy-to-read analogue instrumentation which features a 10cm TFT colour multi-information display in the centre. The MID features an all-wheel drive indicator showing the torque distribution, mode selected for the GR-FOUR system and a turbo pressure monitor.
The gear shift lever has a high position on the centre console, raised by 50mm and set close to the steering wheel, helping the driver make quick shifts. The GR-FOUR selector control is placed just forward of the gear shift, for easy changes between Normal, Sport and Track modes. A 'racy' GR-branded, 3-spoke steering wheel with red stitching, circular hub and conveniently-placed steering switches are said to maximise driving pleasure.
The interior is finished in black with Smoke Silver trim details around the door handles, centre console, steering wheel and side air vents. The GR Yaris features either premium textured fabric upholstery or a synthetic leather/Alcantara combination (depending on model grade) paired with Alcantara door inserts. Red stitching and GR-branding is applied throughout for a sporty touch. A special WRC commemorative plaque is fitted to the centre console of each GR Yaris.
3) One of a kind three-pot engine
The GR Yaris’s engine is an all-new, three-cylinder turbocharged unit that benefits from motorsport technologies to maximise performance, including multi-oil jet piston cooling, large-diameter exhaust valves and a part-machined intake port. Displacing 1,618cc, it produces a maximum output of 198kW at 6500rpm and 360Nm of torque between 3000rpm and 4600rpm.
Compact and lightweight, the DOHC 12-valve engine features a single-scroll ball-bearing turbo and large intercooler to maximise performance. Emphasis was placed on the response of the engine package, while delivering excellent cooling performance. An integrated oil-cooler and high-volume cooling system is said to help maintain engine operating temperatures during enthusiastic driving. Toyota's D-4S; direct and port-injection system, is utilised for maximum efficiency. Fuel consumption is listed as 7.6l/100km (good luck with that) with carbon dioxide emissions registering 172g/km.
The 1.6-litre 12-valve engine meets the World Rally Championship’s Rally 2 (formerly R5) regulations, following Toyota’s negotiations with the sport’s governing body to allow a three-cylinder format. Atsunori Kumagaya, who led the development project, explained: “We preferred this engine due to its light weight and compact size making it simple to install, while the lack of exhaust gas interference made it easier to obtain power.” The engine is matched to a six-speed manual transmission, engineered to accommodate high torque levels. It features a short and light shift throw, while a motorsport-style clutch provides smooth yet solid engagement, they say.
4) Hyper hatch levels of performance
Achieving a strong power-to-weight ratio was a key objective to help meet the GR Yaris’s performance targets. The body shell is constructed predominantly from lightweight materials, including a new carbon fibre polymer for the roof that can be compression moulded (a first for Toyota). Aluminium is used for the bonnet, doors and tailgate. As a result, the GR Yaris has the power of a C-segment performance hatch but the weight of a B-segment machine (kerb weight of just 1280kg). Its power-to-weight ratio of 0,154 kW per kg helps deliver a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 5.5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 230km/h.
5) Rally developed all-wheel drive system
The GR Yaris’s performance is supported by a new GR-Four all-wheel drive system designed to optimise drive power to each wheel, while also being simple and lightweight. The distribution of torque between the front and rear axles is governed by a high-response coupling. The system uses slightly different gear ratios for the front and rear axles and allows for a theoretical range of front/rear torque balance from 100:0 (full front-wheel drive) to 0:100 (full rear-wheel drive). This flexibility gives a performance advantage over AWD on-demand systems that use twin-coupling or permanent AWD systems with a centre differential.
The GR-Four system is also considerably lighter in weight. The driver can adjust four-wheel drive performance to suit their preference or the driving situation using a 4WD mode dial switch. In normal mode the base front/rear torque distribution is 60:40; in Sport mode the balance shifts to the rear, with a 30:70 split to achieve a fun-to-drive quality on winding roads and circuits; and in Track mode the base setting is 50:50 for fast, competitive driving on circuits or special stages. In each mode, the torque balance will automatically adjust in response to the driver’s inputs, vehicle behaviour and road or track conditions.
6) It rides on a dedicated platform and suspension
The GR Yaris boasts a new, dedicated platform that uniquely combines the front end of Toyota’s GA-B platform – debuting in the all-new Yaris model– with the rear of the GA-C (Corolla & C-HR) platform. This allows for a new suspension design and accommodation of the GR-Four all-wheel drive system, while also contributing to the car’s excellent stability and handling. Where the standard new Yaris uses a torsion beam rear suspension, the GR Yaris has a double wishbone set-up, with every element optimised for performance. A MacPherson strut system is used at the front. All models ride on 18-inch alloy wheels, with a design that’s allegedly inspired by a Japanese sword. A 'square' tyre arrangement is used with 225-40-R18 rubber at all four corners. Depending on model, the GR Yaris is fitted with either Dunlop SP Sport MAXX 050 or Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
7) Its stopping power should be guaranteed
The car’s performance braking system features large, 356mm grooved front discs with four-pot callipers, engineered to cope with rigorous demands of high-speed track and special-stage driving with high-level heat capacity. Notably, the front brake discs are larger than those fitted to the GR Supra - a further highlight of the GR Yaris's high-performance credentials.
THERE ARE TWO MODELS AVAILABLE IN SOUTH AFRICA...
Two derivatives of the GR Yaris are on offer; the GR Yaris and GR Yaris Rally.
The GR Yaris features all the core performance items, and is aimed at the regular user with an 'on-road' bias.
The Rally suffix indicates the addition of the Circuit Pack (as referenced in some overseas markets). This equips the car with a Torsen limited-slip differential on both the front and rear axle, performance-tuned suspension, revised power-steering assistance and an upgrade to 18-inch BBS forged alloy wheels - shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s tyres.
In addition to the mechanical upgrades, the Rally model also boasts combination leather/Alcantara sports seats in the front with enhanced bolstering, leather rear seats, Heads-up Display (HUD), the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) active safety suite and Active Noise Control. Active Noise Control amplifies the engine sound by cancelling out opposing frequencies - adding a vocal soundtrack.
ALL TOYOTA GR YARIS MODELS COME WITH
Both versions of the GR Yaris in South Africa boast keyless entry with push start, LED-headlamps with Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and auto function, LED foglamps, heated and power-retractable exterior mirrors, plus rain-sensing wipers. On the inside, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate control, Multi-Information Display (MID), 12-volt power outlet and a tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering column deliver on convenience.
A 6-speaker touchscreen audio system is standard on all models, and features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality for smartphones as well as Bluetooth and USB inputs. A full suite of active and passive safety features includes ABS, EBD, Brake Assist (BA), VSC and Hill Assist Control (HAC). A four-wheel tyre pressure monitor system acts as both safety and performance feature. On the Rally model, the aforementioned TSS-package adds Pre-Collision System (PCS), Automatic High Beam (AHB), Lane Trace Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
DEDICATED PRODUCTION FACILITY FOR GR YARIS
To help meet its performance goals for the GR Yaris, Toyota established a new production facility at its Motomachi factory in Japan, with a production line dedicated to manufacturing GR sports cars. Instead of the traditional conveyor system, the body and assembly lines comprise a number of different cells connected by automatic guided vehicles. Production of each vehicle calls for a large number of manual processes, for which Toyota uses a specialist team. The factory design and the talents of the workforce allow for high-precision assembly of highly rigid vehicle bodies to levels that are hard to achieve on standard production lines. With its new manufacturing methods, the GR facility is capable of handling multi-type, small-volume production, without compromising productivity. The GR Supra is still built in Austria by Magna Steyr.
All Toyota GR Yaris models are sold with a 9-services/90 000 km service plan (intervals set at 10 000 km) and 3-year/100 000km warranty. Customers can also purchase a variety of service and/or warranty add-ons at their local dealership.