Toyota GR Yaris - 25 Minute Test Drive Review
Here is my quick review of the GR Yaris, based on a 25minute test drive. Which was conducted on the outskirts of Birmingham, so mostly consisted of city roads and dual carriageway, with lots of pot holes. Because of this I was unable to push the car handling and cornering ability. For reference the weather was dry but the roads were wet from lots of rain the night before.
The car is good and well rounded.
It has excellent power delivery from the 3 cylinder engine.
Lacking exhaust sound but you can make turbo noises, exhaust would be first mod.
Stiff but compliant suspension, not crashy.
Comfortable but seat is too high and letter box effect in the center of the windscreen.
Fairly priced considering the technology.
My initial thoughts on seeing the Yaris in the showroom are, it's small, looks well built, the front end is very aggressive with the large grill and cooling vent, the side has massive wide arches which really add to the character of the car. The most disappointing part of the car is definitely the rear end as it's lacking any kind of style. The wheels are made by BBS Japan and forged, they actually have the specification markings on the inner bead, as in it literally says 18x8.5 +45 (might not be exactly this), BBS Japan, Made in Japan, etc. A nice touch for those who like this kind of detail or looking for the info on the wheel specs. The Brakes are massive and fill the 18" wheels nicely, they are a two piece design with a bolted hat and rotor, so should make getting replacements relatively in-expensive. The showroom car was in solid white, this is a nice and clean colour and showed the cars details very well. I compared it to a Pearl White regular Yaris that was next to it, the Pearl was nice but I don't think it'd work on the GR.
The test car was a Scarlet Flare red GR Yaris with Circuit Pack. I didn't find the colour that exciting when initally looking at it, however I passed the car on the way home whilst it was on another test drive and it did looks good on the road. I'm not sure what my preferred colour choice would be based on the options available. Owning a WR Blue BRZ my ideal colour would be blue again if it was available.
The interior has a modern feel and is well put together and looks very nice, there are some cheap plastics and the dash cluster is very plain, think of it like a 90's STi cluster. It really looks odd compared to the rest of the dash, as that has a nice modern look. I definitely think a digital dash would have been better, if a regular Yaris can have this why can't the GR? At-least it should be an option. However upon driving the main central digital display was nice and clear, easy to read and understand. It's display output can be adjusted by using the controls on the left side of the steering wheel, you can see the current speed, mpg, turbo pressure, tyre pressure, power output to each wheel and adjust the various systems of the car, i.e. the lane assist or emergency braking. For the test drive I left the display on current speed. The steering wheel also had controls for the radar cruise control, audio and phone system.
The seats were very nice and comfortable, but as reported by a number of people they sit very high, apparently there is up-to 60mm of hight adjustment, but even on the lowest setting this was too high for me. Also the main infotainment screen and rear view mirror take up a lot of wind screen space, giving a letter box feel to the center of the windscreen. If the seat was an 1" lower this wouldn't be an issue for myself. However before my test drive I was talking with another customer who was also interested in the GR, he was probably over 6 foot, we discussed this issue and I can definitely see it being more of a problem for him and the taller drivers. After about 5 minutes in the car the seating position felt natural and I was used to the letter box effect and could happily accept this compromise. I didn't try the back seat space, but I had a quite look in the boot and it's tiny so bare this in mind if you need some storage space.
Power Delivery - As I'm sure most of you are aware the GR Yaris has a 260hp, 3 cylinder, 1.6L engine, and it's powerful more than I expected from a 3 cylinder. My only previous experience of a 3 cylinder engine is a 1.0L in a VW Up, the Yaris is nothing like that. The delivery is nice and smooth with a good amount of torque. There is little to no turbo lag and it's happy to be revved out. Although peak power is in the middle of the rev range. I might have given the clutch a hard time on the first pull major pull away, upon joining a dual carriageway from a roundabout as I wasn't expecting it to pull as well as it did. The power makes it very easy to reach the speed limit and go beyond it. As for the clutch other than me getting used to it (mainly getting used to driving a car that actually has some power), the pedal was good and firm and didn't require a lot of effort to press.
Suspension - The car as mentioned previous had the circuit pack fitted, this has stiffer suspension than the standard/convenience pack cars. You could definitely tell it was stiff, but it wasn't bone jarring / teeth rattling like some other cars (Fiesta ST). It is well damped which is what makes a massive difference when it comes to suspension, so much so I'd say it has better dampers than the Tein Flex A's on my BRZ, as it was very compliant on the rutted roads, with no torque steer when putting the power down. However I'd probably look at changing the suspension to a set of coilovers fairly quickly after purchase of the car, as I'd like a bit more refinement from them, perhaps the standard suspension would be more akin to my ideal setup. Although with coilovers the balance could be fine tuned.
Chassis - The chassis felt solid and didn't have any sort of body flex, I could tell during the limited corning that the body was nice and flat with little roll. As for the steering, it was perfectly acceptable and you could tell which directions the wheels were pointing, ideally I'd like to see how the steering behaved when on track to get a better feel for it. However it does lack feedback compared to the 86/BRZ, to be fair to the Yaris though I've not tested another car with the same steering feedback as the 86/BRZ, even my Mazda MX5 MK1 didn't feel as precise.
Brakes / Wheels & Tyres - The circuit pack cars are fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres as standard. On the wet roads the car had plenty of grip and traction and I never once thought I could use more grip, unfortunately I didn't really get chance to try changing the AWD drive modes to see if this would have made any difference to the traction levels. It would be interesting to see how the car reacts on the PS4S in proper wintry conditions. The brakes as standard are massive, even so they work amazing from cold without issue. However like the steering, the feedback from the brake pedal wasn't as exact as my modified BRZ's, it does have a nice consistent feel and not over servoed like a VW's.
Noise - The car was quiet inside, there is definitely less road noise than compared with my own BRZ which has added sound deadening. However the worst part of the car is the exhaust sound or lack of sound, I put the windows down for the last 5 minutes of the drive and you could barely hear the car even when static revving it. This is highly disappointing and whilst a 3 cylinder isn't exactly a screaming V8 I would have expected some noise, after all it is based on a rally car. I'd definitely recommend ordering an exhaust system to go on the car immediately. I guess this is why the car has the artificial engine sound through the speakers. The only positive from the quiet exhaust is that you can hear the turbo, which is fun when flooring it and lifting off then hearing the turbo vent to atmosphere.
Overall it's a good car and fairly priced when you consider all the performance technology it features, with the 0% finance currently available it makes the car a very tempting proposition. However it's not as involving as the 86/BRZ and lacks that extra feel of precision. It's therefore not a car I'd look at replacing my BRZ with. I am tempted to order one as a second car due to it's features and uniqueness which I hope will mean it holds value quite well. If I was to score it out of 10, I'd probably say a 7 is fair based on my 25minute test drive.
I'm looking forward to reading @Lauren's inital review to see if any of my thoughts match her's.
Thanks for reading.
p.s. If your thinking of ordering, the current expected delivery date is June 2021.