TOKYO - Glancing over its basic credentials it quickly becomes clear that Toyota’s new GR Yaris is not just another hot hatch - in fact it's quite possibly an icon in the making.

Developed in conjunction with Toyota’s Gazoo racing division and its World Rally partner Tommi Mäkinen Racing, the GR Yaris is a homologation model for the next Yaris WRC car. With lightweight components and all-wheel-drive, this is the closest you’re going to get to a rally car for the road, and it’s also got enough power to run with the big boys of the performance hatch world.

At the heart of the new GR Yaris is a brand new 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol engine that produces 192kW and 360Nm. Paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, the advanced engine features multi-oil jet piston cooling and a part-machined intake port.

Against the clock, the GR Yaris needs just 5.5 seconds to sprint from zero to 100km/h, according to factory claims, while the top speed is electronically limited to 230km/h.

An instrumental factor here is its relatively low kerb weight of 1280kg, achieved through the use of lightweight materials. The bonnet, doors and tailgate, for instance, are made from aluminium while the roof panel uses a new type of carbon fibre polymer that can be compression moulded.

Needless to say, this car is not going to be cheap.

All-wheel-drive advantage

As mentioned, the GR Yaris comes with a four-wheel-drive system that can be adjusted via three modes. In its normal configuration, the system sends 60 percent of the torque to the front wheels, but dial it into Sport mode and suddenly you have 70 percent going to the back axle. While the latter mode was designed with a rear-bias for maximum driver enjoyment, there’s also a track mode that splits the power equally between the axles in its base setting, in order to help achieve the best lap times.

But you’re probably going to want to tick the Circuit Pack option box which, in addition, gives you two Torsen limited-slip differentials, which manage the split between the left and right wheels at the front and back to provide even more handling precision. This system can also, theoretically, send all of the torque to either the front or back axle.

Thankfully the Gazoo boys have also gone big on the suspension, throwing out the standard Yaris’s torsion beam rear axle and replacing it with a double-wishbone setup. The braking has been beefed up too, with large 356 mm grooved front discs featuring four-pot callipers.

The Yaris GR rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and those opting for the aforementioned Circuit Pack get Michelin Pilot Sport 4s 225/40R18 tyres, in addition to an even sportier suspension tuning.

The GR doesn’t even share its bodyshell with the regular Yaris, the performance hatch receiving a 91mm-lower three-door body shell with frameless doors. And as if that wasn’t enough to set it apart on the street, the GR also comes with flared wheel arches, bolder bumpers and the appropriate skirting all round.

After revealing the car at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, Gazoo Racing boss Shigeki Tomoyama said: “One of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s commitments is to use motorsport to refine its knowhow and its personnel, with the aim of launching world-class production sports cars. 

“While the new GR Supra is a sports car developed through track racing, the GR Yaris has been devised through our participation in rallies – something that many of our fans have been waiting for.”

But will the GR Yaris come to South Africa? We've been told that Toyota SA has requested it for local introduction and as such the car is currently under consideration for our market.

IOL Motoring