2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN review

The Toyota Yaris GRMN is the first in a new generation of sporty Toyotas. So, is it a match for the best hot hatches?...

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN

Priced from £26,295 Release date On sale now

GRMN. It sounds like a union but is actually Toyota's new performance sub-brand – its answer to GTI, Cupra and Type R. The letters stand for Gazoo Racing Meisters of Nurburgring, with Gazoo the company charged with running Toyota’s various motorsport programmes around the world. And the car chosen to launch the brand in the UK is this limited-run Toyota Yaris GRMN hot hatchback.

Power comes from a supercharged 1.8-litre petrol engine which has been tuned by sports car maker Lotus to produce a healthy 209bhp.

What’s more, the body of the Yaris has been stiffened, the suspension, steering and brakes have been overhauled, and the car gets a livery inspired by Toyota’s rally colours. A central exhaust and large rear wing complete the look.

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN review – price, specs and release date

What's the Yaris GRMN like to drive?

Below 2500rpm, performance feels lethargic, because the GRMN doesn’t have the low-down torque of its turbocharged rivals. However, it starts to pick up at that point and really comes on song at about 4000rpm, spinning quickly up to its 7000rpm redline.

Wringing it out like this is a joy and it sounds great when you do so. You just have to remember that this isn’t a car that lets you be lazy with the gearbox.

The only gearbox option is a six-speed manual that's slick and easy to use, unless you’re after reverse. Toyota has also adopted a back-to-basics approach elsewhere, eschewing the trend for different driving modes and an exhaust you can turn up or down depending on your mood.

What you do get is steering that’s sharp but not unsettlingly so, and grip that’s strong but not so fearsome that it’s hard to gauge where the limit is. And while the model is taller than many hot hatches, so needs a split-second to shift its weight before changing direction, these movements are well controlled.

In short, it’s a lot of fun on challenging roads, with a distinctive and old-school charm.

As for the ride, the GRMN is undoubtedly firm, but it’s rarely crashy and settles down nicely on the motorway rather than restlessly jiggling around in the way that the old Ford Fiesta ST did. It’s just a pity you have to put up with a lot of road noise.

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN review – price, specs and release date

What's the Yaris GRMN interior like?

The GRMN comes in three-door form only, and its front seats don’t automatically slide forward when you tip forward the backrests, so getting people in and out of the rear is a faff.

Most adults will wish they had a bit more rear leg room, too, because the Yaris isn’t especially spacious by modern small car standards, while the boot will struggle to swallow much more than a few shopping bags or one good-sized suitcase.

2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN review – price, specs and release date

In the front, you sit several inches higher than you’d ideally chose to, and have a slightly bothersome relationship to the car’s pedals (too close) and steering wheel (too far away).

Still, at least the seats themselves are excellent; comfortable, well-bolstered and grippily upholstered.

You also get an attractive-looking sports steering wheel, but little else has been done to lift the interior ambience, so the dashboard is disappointingly monotone and plasticky, and the graphics on the laggy touchscreen infotainment system look dated.



This hot Yaris proves that Toyota and Gazoo are more than capable of making cars that are fun to drive, which augurs well for future GRMN models.

Future models will need to be more competitively priced, though: the GRMN costs £26,295, for which you could have a Mini John Cooper Works and plenty of change, or a Hyundai i30 N which handles brilliantly, feels a lot faster and is much roomier and easier to live with.

That’s not such a problem here because Toyota is bringing just 80 Yaris GRMNs to the UK, and all have apparently found homes already. But we suspect it would make it difficult to sell – and impossible to recommend – cars built in larger numbers, even if they turn out to be Gazoo Racing’s real meister-pieces.

What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5

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Toyota Yaris GRMN

Price £26,295 Engine 4cyl, 1798cc, petrol Power 209bhp at 6800rpm Torque 184lb ft at 4800rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual 0-62mph 6.4sec Top speed 143mph Official economy 37.3mpg CO2, tax band 170g/km, 33%


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