Toyota Yaris GR Four 2021 Review

We Drive the Toyota GR Yaris 4 for a Road Test Review

Toyota Yaris GR Four – A carmaker the size of Toyota has access to an untold variety of parts, some of which are pretty hard core high performance components. Think Lexus RC-F for instance.

Toyota GR YarisIt therefore comes as no surprise that the Yaris GR Four came into being especially as Toyota’s boss is a motorsport tragic and especially as he engaged former World Rally Champion, Tommi Makinen, to guide development of the tiddler size hot rod.

Funny thing is Makinen had more input into the GR Yaris than he did in the now legendary Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 Makinen bearing his name.

A runaway sales success within the motorsport community, the three door Yaris GR offers giant killing performance in a tiny package that was designed as a World Rally Championship “homologation” (permission) special.

As such it has all-wheel drive, a powerful turbo petrol engine, huge brakes lifted from the Lexus RC-F, a carbon fibre roof and aluminium doors, bonnet and tailgate. There’s precious little in common between the GR and a garden variety Yaris, possibly only the headlights and exterior mirrors.

And it’s made on a dedicated line, largely hand built.

That’s why it costs just shy of $50,000… for the lower spec’ model. There’s a Rallye version that ups the performance ante with a limited slip differential and adjustable suspension for even more money.

Subject of this test is the “basic” Yaris GR, a hot, hot hatch if ever there was one.

No other hatchback comes close to the Yaris GR for performance and that includes VW’s Golf R, any Renault, Honda’s Civic Type R and the Ford Fiesta ST.

It’s not without fault, particularly the front passenger seat height and rear seat room but wow, it’s a fire cracker to drive on all kinds of roads.

A “nasty” exhaust mode would have made it even better and adjustable suspension would have been handy.

Can’t have everything…

Toyota GR Yaris


Not good looking at all really being more along the lines of chunky and built for purpose.

Yaris GR has a wide stance accentuated by hugely pumped out guards, big 18-inch tyres and sharp angles to the bodywork.

It’s upright and tallish for something with this level of performance.

The headlights are slanted and aggressive looking while the rear has neatly notched-in tail lights with an applique spanning the width of the car. Those rear guards are completely over the top but look really cool shrouding the GR’s fat rubber.

The rear screen is tiny, compromising visibility a touch while two wide spaced exhaust tips and a roof spoiler enhance the GR’s sporty looks. The grille opening is huge dominated by a front mount intercooler peeking out from the lower half and two more apertures above that feed air into the engine compartment.

The 18-inch alloys look pretty good in a generic way. I would have gone for something sportier and more aggressive with a lip on the outer edge… just sayin’.

Though you wouldn’t think so, the GR has a wheelbase roughly the same as an Evo 6, not surprising given Makinen’s input.  Toyota GR Yaris.


It’s a neat, tidy and functional interior with no superfluous features. Dominating the dash is a large central control screen with a two dial instrument pod in front of the driver. The chunky two spoke wheel has multiple functions and alloy faces pedals add a touch of style inside the light grey interior. Though reasonable side bolsters are fitted to the front seats they aren’t enough for really fast driving or track work.

It’s a small interior with good seat adjustment for the driver but not enough for the front passenger. Rear seat access is tight and there isn’t much room in there either… not that there’d be many rear seat passengers in a car like this.

I found it uncomfortable in the front passenger’s seat as it sits too high and is fixed at that high perch consequently making access somewhat difficult.

The driver on the other hand is well catered for…

There’s an interesting array of luxury kit inside the GR lifting it to the “premium” hatch level.

Toyota GR Yaris


Offsetting the fifty grand purchase price are a selection of goodies to make you smile…

  • JBL 8-speaker audio
  • Dual zone climate control,
  • Three drive modes – Normal, Sport and Track.
  • Hard wired satnav
  • 7-inch touch screen controller
  • Multi info display in front of driver.
  • Sports wheel
  • Rev matching function
  • LED headlights

Toyota GR Yaris.

Drive and Engine

The three cylinder, 1.6-litre turbo engine is technically sophisticated with dual port and direct fuel injection, variable cam timing and lift, a ball bearing turbo and stuff like port matched intake, large exhaust valves and a large capacity water pump to control operating temperature.

The compact engine is good for 200kW and 370Nm, sufficient to propel the GR from 0-100kmh in a claimed 5.2 seconds, a figure we bettered during the test drive.

It weighs in at 1280kg which is not bad for a car with a full range of advanced driver assist technology, safety equipment and luxury/comfort kit.

All-wheel drive too capable of delivering up to 100 per cent of drive to the rear axle if required.  GR is only available with a 6-speed manual (thank goodness) that has a rev matching function to prevent compression lock-up on the down change.

Top speed is 230kmh while fuel economy using 98 is a combined 7.6 litres/100km.

Toyota uses elements from the current Yaris and Corolla to build the GR’s chassis, with additional strengthening and dynamic enhancements.

The brakes are huge, the ride is firm and the steering is sharp.

On a feisty drive, the GR Yaris proved to be one of the quickest point to point cars I have ever driven as it has finely honed responses and superb drive and grip into, around and out of corners. The brakes have to be felt to be believed, even with standard pads and brake fluid.

It sounds pretty good inside too thanks to a noise enhancer utilising the sound system.


As part of the Yaris family, GR Yaris gets 5-stars.

It has an extensive range of advanced driver assist technology, some might say too much especially in a race car homologation special like this.

All the usual stuff is included like autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, pre-collision preparation, lane trace assist, road sign recognition, emergency steering, adaptive cruise control and so on.

Dunno, but I reckon plenty of GR Yaris buyers would prefer their car without this equipment especially the steering related features.

It’s a strong car, rigid and with responses like it has, inherently safe.

Toyota GR Yaris

Good Bits

  • Superlative performance and handling
  • Well featured
  • It’s a Toyota

Not So Good Bits

  • Expensive for what it is
  • Intrusive advanced driver assist features
  • Minimal car set up options

Toyota GR Yaris


Wow, what a car. My son has one and I love pinching it for a fang on a Sunday morning. GR Yaris’s cornering capabilities are profound let down on the track by average tyres.

It looks mean and goes like a rocket and only three cylinders.. an instant classic.

Facts and Figures: 2021 Yaris GR Four

  • Engine: 1.6L, three-cylinder, turbo petrol producing 200kW/370Nm
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual
  • Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: Japan
  • Price: from $49,500 MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.

  • 9/10
    Overall Rating - 9/10


Wow, what a car. My son has one and I love pinching it for a fang on a Sunday morning. GR Yaris’s cornering capabilities are profound let down on the track by average tyres.

It looks mean and goes like a rocket and only three cylinders.. an instant classic.