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Toyota unleashes Yaris GRMN: A fiery little 156kW hot hatch, part of Toyota's sporty revival

2018-08-28 13:20

The words "performance" and Toyota are not often used in the same sentence.

While the brand has etched an enviable reputation for reliability - Toyota's focus of late has been "mainstream motoring", catering to the more rational and sensible customer and not hot-blooded performance junkies.

Jeremy Clarkson rather infamously had the following to say about the Toyota Camry: "Whenever I'm suffering from insomnia, I just look at a picture of a Toyota Camry and I'm straight off."

An appealing prospect

Though post-2000 Toyotas have taken a more utilitarian approach, it is important to note that Japan's biggest vehicle manufacturer has an illustrious history filled with "sporty" models that appealed to multiple spheres of car enthusiasts.

GALLERY: 2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN

Names such as AE86 aka "Hachi Roku", Celica, MR2, RSi, Sprinter, Supra and TRD conjure up feelings of admiration and passion.

In the tuner world, engine codes such as 4AGE, 3SGTE and 2JZ are still revered to this day and utilised in many forms of motorsport.

Toyota's noteworthy WRC campaign with the all-conquering Celica GT4 and Corolla hatchback cannot be forgotten either.

                                                                     Image: Motorpress

Toyota Motor Corporation President, Akio Toyoda has spearheaded a refocus on fun-to-drive vehicles and established a platform for Toyota to participate in motorsport.

The introduction of the 86 sports coupe was the first showcase of this new philosophy.  In August 2018, the automaker has unleashed its latest sporty creation - the Yaris GRMN, part of the GR line-up.

The GR model range comprises:

  • GR-Line: Cosmetic Package
  • GR-Sport: Suspension Package
  • GR: Power Package
  • GRMN: High Power Package

The first fully-fledged GRMN model outside of Japan is the Yaris GRMN - which has been reworked and infused with WRC-sourced DNA.

This exciting model signals the start of the GR journey and provides a thrilling glimpse into what the future may bring (the much anticipated Supra).

Inspired by motorsport

The Yaris GRMN is inspired and influenced by the Yaris WRC, the car with which Toyota has returned to the FIA World Rally Championship, with event-winning success.

Its performance focus is broadcast by its lightweight 17" BBS alloy wheels, larger brakes, central oval tailpipe and a bespoke exterior finish that displays Toyota Gazoo Racing's white, black and red competition colours.

Under the bonnet is a 1.8-litre engine, tuned to produce 156kW and benefiting from a supercharger, a feature unique among B-segment performance hatchbacks.

Development at the Nurburgring

Right from the completion of the first Yaris GRMN concept in 2015, a prototype was sent to a Toyota facility close to the legendary Nürburgring race circuit in Germany.

A select group of Toyota tuning specialists from Europe and Japan have honed the car's handling and performance, working both on track on the famous Nordschleife and on the wide variety of roads found in the immediate neighbourhood – from ultra-fast Autobahns to tightly winding mountain passes.

What about local availability?

As the Yaris GRMN is a limited production model of only 400 units, distribution has been restricted to Europe only which means this model will unfortunately not be on sale in South Africa.                                                             

Engine and performance

The heart of the Yaris GRMN is its 1798cc four-cylinder engine, a 16-valve unit equipped with a Magnusson Eaton supercharger and Dual VVT-i intelligent variable timing for both inlet and exhaust valves. The 2ZR-FE unit is built by Toyota Manufacturing UK and has been specially adapted for use with the smaller Yaris platform.

The engine delivers a 156kW/250Nm, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, the engine enables a 0-100km/h sprint in about 6.3 seconds while top speed is electronically limited to 230km/h.

                                                                           Image: Motorpress

Installing the supercharger presented a particular challenge, as only very limited space was available in the Yaris GRMN's engine compartment. The packaging solution combines the supercharger, cooling and air intake together in a single, space-saving stacked unit.

It's fitted with an intercooler for the supercharger and an oil cooler, both located in front of the radiator, and an enlarged air intake to support the engine. The fuel system has also been upgraded, using components from a V6 engine.

Chassis and handling

To ensure Yaris GRMN's power is transferred smoothly to the road, the car is equipped with a Torsen limited-slip differential.

Chassis stiffness is enhanced with a lateral bar across the engine bay, between the front suspension towers, with further front and rear chassis underbody bracing.

Shorter springs allow the car to hug the ground more closely (24mm lower than the standard Yaris) and these are teamed with dedicated performance shock absorbers, developed with Sachs, and a larger diameter (26mm) front anti-roll bar. The suspension is a development of Yaris' front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam design.

                                                                       Image: Motorpress

The 275mm-diameter grooved front disc brakes are fitted with four-piston callipers; 278mm discs are featured at the rear. The callipers are a stand-out feature, painted in signature Toyota Gazoo Racing white and visible through the slim spokes of the alloy wheels.

The wheels are 17" BBS lightweight multi-spoke alloys which not only save weight but also provide sufficient space for larger brakes to be used. Fitted with Bridgestone Potenza RE050 205/45R17 tyres, they also contribute to the car's very precise steering feel.

Performance exhaust system

The exhaust has been fully reworked, a task that had to be achieved within very tight space limitations, and with careful attention to underbody heat management.

The goals were to reduce exhaust backpressure and to control emissions and noise levels. Success in this task has enhanced engine power and produced a rousing exhaust note. The design has also helped reduce the car's overall weight.

Body and styling

Like its world rally counterpart, Yaris GRMN uses a three-door version of the Yaris bodyshell. It introduces a number of dedicated features including a black, wing-type rear spoiler, bespoke rear bumper design, rear diffuser, honeycomb front grille and – again echoing the rally car's styling – a central oval exhaust tailpipe.

                                                                            Image: Motorpress

It also sports a special paint finish – white with red and black flash detailing on the bonnet and sills, echoing the livery of the Toyota Yaris WRC, and a black roof with a unique-in-segment black shark fin antenna. The front lip is decked out in red and the LED headlights are given extra visual impact with the addition of black upper ornamentation.


Inside it boasts front sports seats designed by Toyota Boshoku. Performance details include an engine start button and a small-diameter, leather-wrapped steering wheel, sourced from the Toyota GT86 coupe and further adapted to suit the special requirements of the Yaris GRMN.

There is also an aluminium sports pedal set, aluminium trim detailing and a bespoke, high-grade combi-meter with TFT display, designed to reflect the car's special performance character.

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