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2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye review (video)

Introduced with the mutant wide-body of a 1980s Group B rally car and a promise of blistering performance that could obliterate any of its nearest rivals, the 2023 Toyota GR Yaris is turning out to be one of the most appealing factory vehicles for track-day-goers and club motorsport drivers.

This adrenaline-infused micro machine sets out to redefine the boundaries of what a compact car can achieve. In this review we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty details, assessing the GR Yaris in terms of its interior, powertrain, and overall performance.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Specifications

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo three-cylinder
Output: 200kW@6500rpm / 370Nm@3000-4600rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×8.0, 225/40
ANCAP: Not tested (regular Yaris 5 stars)
Tare weight: 1290kg
Power-to-weight: 6.45:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 7.6L/100km
Our consumption: 8.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 26.31kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.28 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.38 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.01 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.45 seconds at 170.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.063g*
100-0km/h braking: 37.30m in 2.98 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.192g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 51*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 88*
Starting price: $56,390

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: How much does it cost?

Prices start from $51,390 for the regular GR Yaris, but what we have here is the hardcore Rallye version which starts from $56,390 (both excluding on-road costs). Is it worth stretching to the Rallye or is the regular model mental enough as is?

In short, the normal model is just as bonkers in terms of acceleration and performance; the Rallye is more prepared for motorsport activities thanks to exclusive items like front and rear limited-slip differentials and lighter-weight wheels. More on that below.

Although those prices might seem high – are high – for a compact car, you’ll notice many competitors and even distant competitors are creeping up in price as well. The Hyundai i20 N originally started from $32,490 and now kicks off from $34,990. The VW Polo GTI started from $30,990 in 2018 and now starts from $40,390. And then other hot hatch favourites like the Golf GTI and i30 N have jumped up from around $40k to the $55k and $46k mark, respectively.

Neither of which feature all-wheel drive or hardcore measures such as a carbon fibre roof like on the GR Yaris. The Rallye is obviously a bigger stretch but if you’re serious about getting into motorsport you might end up wanting/needing twin LSDs and other gear, which would otherwise push the cost up by a few thousand dollars in aftermarket mods.

We’re not trying to justify the high price, we’re simply saying there could be some value in having this stuff fitted as standard and covered by the factory warranty if you require these parts. On that note, if you’re going to modify the hell out of it then you might be better off starting with the regular non-Rallye version as you’ll be replacing/modifying the parts anyway.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Interior & packaging

Slide into the driver’s seat and you’ll experience an atmosphere that exudes space efficiency and a slice of awkwardness. There is no doubt about it, the Yaris cabin is ergonomically flawed; you sit quite high and the steering wheel is angled more than you’d expect in a sporty car or hot hatch.

This isn’t a sports car, we know. But it will probably be driven like one on more than the odd occasion. Part of the blame can be directed at the Yaris’s TNGA-B/GA-C underpinnings, which have been designed to absolutely optimise space. And it has worked.

It is fairly roomy in here for this specific category of vehicle; a compact, city hatch. So while the driving position isn’t quite perfect and the dash looks a bit unusual and chunky, at least you and your mates can actually fit in here and go for a nice drive in reasonable comfort.

Despite the racy intentions, Toyota has managed to infuse a touch of everyday practicality into the GR Yaris as well. The rear seats, though not overly spacious, are usable for short journeys or as extra cargo space when folded down. There’s also cup holders, and bottle holders in the doors.

Boot space is rated at a puny 141L and expandable to 737L. In other words, it is very tight and can only just accommodate some weekend luggage or sports equipment.

Material quality is decent but somewhat ‘Toyota’, with a mix of durable surfaces and some soft-touch elements. However, some might find the lack of certain creature comforts, like advanced infotainment features or extensive connectivity options, a drawback. But for the hardcore driving enthusiast, such measures might be seen as unnecessary distractions in a hardcore model like this.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Powertrain & handling

Now, let’s talk about what makes the GR Yaris truly special. The heart that beats beneath its compact bonnet is a record-breaking 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Yes, you read that right, a three-cylinder engine. Don’t let the number of cylinders fool you as this tiny unit is a technological marvel, delivering an impressive 200kW and 370Nm – in the 221kW GR Corolla it is the most powerful three-cylinder in the world (for a mass-produced showroom vehicle).

Paired to an advanced ‘GR-Four’ all-wheel-drive system results in a car that feels incredibly planted and relentless, regardless of the road conditions. It’s a precision instrument on wheels, carving through corners like a rally car on a mission. The steering is sharp and it provides the driver with immediate feedback, and the chassis balance is spot-on, instilling confidence even when pushing to and over its limits.

The GR Yaris is actually based on two platforms to accommodate all-wheel drive, but also to boost rear-end stability and overall dynamic breadth. At the front is the TNGA-B platform, like the regular Yaris. It incorporates a MacPherson strut suspension system with a stabiliser bar. At the back, however, it’s cradled by the larger TNGA-C platform as seen under the Corolla. It brings over multi-link suspension and provisions for a rear axle drive system.

Specific to the Rallye version are a set of stiffer springs at the front and higher-tension stabiliser bars. There’s also a Torsen limited-slip diff at the front and back for added grip, and a set of bespoke 10-spoke 18-inch BBS lightweight wheels wrapped in 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres.

The GR-Four all-wheel drive system features an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch positioned in front of the rear differential, so it is capable of adjusting front-rear torque distribution. In normal circumstances and in Normal mode torque is distributed 60:40 front-to-rear. Select Sport mode and that changes to 50:50, and then Track modes provides a 30:70 ratio to allow for rear-steering characteristics.

You need to be pushing hard to notice the difference between these settings, but it will kick the tail out in Track mode with stability control off if you use some weight-shifting and jump on the power at the right time. It’s not like a rear-wheel drive but you can definitely feel a rear bias going on. Either way, it rips ferociously around corners with massive grip and subsequent g-force. Really, there are not many vehicles on the market quite like this. The corner-exit grip and catapulting performance is insane, if you’re really on it and in the right gear.

Straight-line acceleration is a perplexing experience, too. On one hand you’re hearing this off-beat little thrum from under the bonnet. But then on the other, the scenery is blurring past at a rapid rate. Looking out the side, it’s like seeing tins of various paint colours spilling across the window.

Getting it off the line can be a bit of a nightmare, though. For three main reasons in our view; it’s turbo and you need to build boost otherwise it bogs down; it’s all-wheel drive so there is very little wheelspin to get the engine revving; and you have to manage the clutch and gearshifts yourself, because obviously this uses a manual transmission.

If you get it right, or at least pretty good, you’ll see 0-100km/h done in around 5.2 seconds, as Toyota claims. Interestingly, I’ve timed it in 4.80 seconds on the old PDriveTV channel in the regular model, and 4.94 seconds in the Rallye version. I tried to repeat these results with this example but the best I could do was 5.38 seconds. Perhaps higher kilometres on this test car caused the slower time. In saying that, I didn’t test it as many times as I did a few years ago.

The six-speed manual transmission offers short and precise throws and the engagement action is pretty light. Mis-shifting between second and third can occur if you’re way too aggressive, but a flat-shift is possible if you’re quick yet smooth. Toyota also presents its iMT (intelligent manual) technology with automatic rev-matching during downshifts. It can be switched on and off.

Toyota’s commitment to offering a manual transmission in an era dominated by automatics is a nod to enthusiasts who relish the tactile engagement of rowing through the gears. However, this commitment to the manual gearbox might alienate some potential buyers who prefer the ease of an automatic, especially in urban traffic.

It’s a trade-off that Toyota seems willing to make, emphasising the GR Yaris as a driver’s car through and through. There have been rumours that Toyota is working on an eight-speed dual-clutch which might see the light of day in the GR Corolla, if not the Yaris as well in the future.

Braking performance is equally impressive, with robust 356mm front and 297mm rear discs (both ventilated) clamped by four-piston front and twin-piston rear calipers providing reassuring stopping power. The Rallye version uses the same setup as the regular model but the calipers are painted red for that racy look. However, Toyota has made some revisions to front ducting to improve cooling for the brakes on the Rallye, no doubt to assist with longevity during track and motorsport activities.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Key attractions/reasons to buy

Record-breaking engine: The GR Yaris delivers a jaw-dropping 200kW from a 1.6L turbo. And that’s with no hybrid assistance. It’s an amazing little unit.
GR-Four AWD system: The advanced AWD gear offers exceptional traction and stability, making the GR Yaris an extremely competent and confident performer in all kinds of driving conditions.
Manual transmission: How good is it to see a six-speed manual transmission in this day and age? It is a delight for enthusiasts, offering precise shifts and a heightened connection between car and driver.
Rally-inspired design: The aggressive exterior styling pays homage to Toyota’s rally heritage, giving the GR Yaris a distinctive and very muscular look.
Rallye edition add-ons: A front and rear LSD, retuned suspension and lighter wheels are a treat for hardcore driving fans and could save some money in aftermarket parts that would otherwise not be covered by Toyota’s warranty.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Key considerations before you buy

Limited practicality: The focus on performance means sacrifices in terms of everyday practicality, with limited boot space and a minimalistic approach to features.
Manual-only transmission: While a joy for enthusiasts, the lack of an automatic option might deter potential buyers seeking a more relaxed/modern driving experience.
Sparse infotainment: The infotainment system is basic, lacking some of the advanced features and connectivity options found in most competitors.
Premium price: Although some of the kit and performance exclusively fitted to the Rallye version is justified, it is still a high price for what is fundamentally a compact city car. At least that’s how it might be seen in the eyes of some potential buyers.

2023 Toyota GR Yaris Rallye: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X factor (does it stand out in its class?)
4.2

Final word

It’s a car that unapologetically prioritises performance and driving engagement, infusing proper hardcore components and methodologies. From the thrilling turbo engine to the engaging manual AWD driveline, and its rally-inspired design, the GR Yaris is a delight for enthusiasts. And in a world where many carmakers are shifting towards electrification and autonomous tech, Toyota’s commitment to delivering an unadulterated experience gets full respect from us.

Brett Davis

Brett started out as a motor mechanic, but eventually became frustrated working on cars that weren't his. He then earned a degree in journalism and scored a job at Top Gear Australia back in 2008, and then worked at Zoom/Extreme Performance magazines, CarAdvice, and started PerformanceDrive/PDriveTV in 2011 with Josh Bennis, and ran it for 12 years. He's now the owner and managing editor here at Driving Enthusiast.

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