Tuesday | 20 Oct 2020

Toyota duo explores GR Yaris hot hatch

Toyota’s Yaris WRC is a born winner. Second at its FIA World Rally Championship debut at Monte-Carlo in 2017, Jari-Matti Latvala led it to the winners’ circle a round later in Sweden.

Turns out the road car equivalent, the GR Yaris, has enjoyed a similarly successful delivery. Latvala joined current championship leader Elfyn Evans at Goodwood SpeedWeek to get their first taste of the production car which provides the visual base of Toyota’s WRC future.

They couldn’t get enough of it. Evans said: “It really does feel like a rally car in miniature. I’ve driven some hot hatches in my time, but not a homologation special like this and I can tell you I am very, very impressed.

“It’s got that kind of raw driving experience, if you like. The great thing about this GR Yaris is that you can use it on a day-to-day basis, but then play with the settings a little bit and it’s like a proper rally car.”

Latvala hadn’t been aboard for more than a couple of minutes before he was working on those settings and fiddling with those switches.

The Finn said: “When you look to the settings you can make, you have things like the different power and torque split. You can take a 50:50 split for the gravel or the snow, but then you can make it 30:70 to the rear or the other way around if you prefer to drive more like the front-wheel drive.

“And, of course, you can take away all of the traction and stability control to give yourself some real freedom. But trust me, you have to be quite careful like this!”

Latvala remembers the best of the best rally cars tweaked for the road. He knows the McRae edition Subarus, the RB5 Impreza, the Sainz-badged Toyota Celica and a host of Ford Escort RS Cosworth derivatives. And he rates this one as highly as any.

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“This is a fantastic car,” he said. “I remember those cars you mention, but it’s been a long time since we saw a car like this one, a car which has some genuine roots in rally sport.

“The nice thing is that Toyota has really done the job with this car. It’s not like it has some stickers on and maybe some small parts different. This feels like a rally car and the front end of the car is very, very like the rally car.

“If you look to the bumper and the cooling package at the front of the car, it will be the same like on the rally car. That’s how close this GR Yaris is to the Yaris World Rally Car.”

While Latvala looks to the details, Evans was happiest on the handbrake.

“There was one section at Goodwood where you have to make a donut,” he said. “You have to drift the car around in a 360. I came into it the first time and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I yanked on the handbrake and it drifted perfectly and was so happy in the drift, I could probably have still been there doing it now. It’s pretty rare to find a road car that’s as composed and capable as this one.”