Toyota GR Yaris Rallye performance review

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Finally we have the Yaris we have been waiting to test, the Toyota GR Yaris Rallye!

For me this is a great story and something that is under-appreciated with the majority of club-level racing enthusiasts. Grip is king, but the first thing most people throw money at is power.

Whenever someone asks me what the most important thing about a rally car is, I answer suspension and differentials.

If you can’t use the power and put it to the ground, it is a negative to have it. With the GR Yaris Rallye Edition, all Toyota has added is grip thanks to improved suspension, limited-slip differentials front and rear, and better tyres.

But the big question remained: would it be enough to put the Toyota GR Yaris Rallye in front of the Subaru WRX STI on the CarExpert Leader Board?

It’s something the Toyota GR Yaris couldn’t achieve in our comparison test…

WATCH: Atko’s video review of the standard GR Yaris

Overall Road Performance

As noticeable as the improvement in grip is on the track, on the road the level of fun you can have whether in the GR Yaris or the Rallye is very comparable.

Because you feel more on edge with the non-Rallye version, you don’t have to be moving as fast to still put a smile on your face.

If you care about time and outright performance, the Rallye is the pick. But you don’t miss out on the pleasure of driving this car, even if you go with the standard version.

Overall Track Performance

I already knew the Toyota GR Yaris was easy to just hop into and drive fast.

It offered great feedback, and the sensations you look forward to as a driver. The funny part was that it actually took me until the last lap to do the fastest lap in the Rallye.

It was like my brain had already imprinted what to expect from a GR Yaris, and it took time to understand how much more grip the Rallye actually had.

It was like a different car to drive and the increase in grip was noticeable everywhere. Unfortunately for the Subaru fans out there, it only took one lap to knock the WRX STI down the leaderboard – and then it was a game of who else the Toyota GR Yaris Rallye could dislodge.

Engine

As we already know, the Toyota GR Yaris lays claim to some impressive numbers. 200kW and 370Nm from a 1.6-litre, three-cylinder engine makes this a really entertaining. 

There is no difference between the two versions in terms of outputs, but the extra grip from the chassis and tyres just means you can be a bit more aggressive with your power delivery in the Rallye.

This meant I didn’t have the same issues with falling too low in the revs and it taking time for the engine to get going again. Add that to higher corner speeds and the Toyota GR Yaris Rallye engine was able to live in a better window.

It really enjoys staying in the top end of the rev range. Once again, I didn’t feel I could balance the car using the torque curve as much as I would have liked and I think some slight changes to the differentials could help this, which I will get to in a bit.

It definitely is an engaging, but also challenging engine to drive. You really feel like you need to drive it hard to get the most out of it.

Braking

Wow, this is an improvement! I already loved the brake feeling in the Toyota GR Yaris, it was easy to modulate and gave great feedback. In the Rallye though, you can go even harder.

The increase in stability is massive, but it maintains the nimbleness to rotate into the corner with ease. You already had the feedback, but with the upgrades of the Rallye it became one of the best cars on corner entry we have tested.

It’s so easy to release the brake pedal just the right amount to be able to start adding steering, with the GR Yaris Rallye responding in just the right way.

Each lap I braked a fraction later, the car would still make its way to the apex and this is one of the big reasons the lap time just kept dropping.

There was absolutely no interference from the ABS once again, which is a big tick on the track.

Chassis

The overall balance and ability to adjust your line is a huge improvement. I could be much more aggressive and forceful with what I wanted the car to do, and it responded with ease.

The chassis still has slight tendency to understeer mid-corner, but it’s much more sorted on the longer-radius fast corners, with a massive increase in corner speed as well.

The front end was a bit more reactive as well. I could induce some lift-off oversteer if I wanted and also add steering late in the corner if needed, something I couldn’t achieve as easily in the regular GR Yaris. 

It’s amazing how, while offering the same fundamental feedback and experience, you feel like you’re in another world on track. All the little issues don’t exist anymore, and you just send it into every corner with absolute confidence.

The final impressive part about the chassis is how easy it is on the tyres. I was able to do my fastest lap on my last one and every time I checked tyre pressures, they had barely moved. That is a dream in the racing world. 

Transmission and Differentials

With the six-speed manual transmission I had the same problem a few times, and struggled to get the gear fully engaged. 

You have the same three modes as in the regular GR: Normal, Sport, and Track. Normal distributes torque 60 per cent front and 40 rear.

Sport sends 30 per cent to the front and 70 per cent to rear, then finally Track mode is 50/50. I went straight to Track, given it was the best in our last test.

The all-wheel drive system already works really well, using a clutch pack to distribute its torque front and rear, but the Rallye gets Torsen limited-slip differentials on both axles. The overall locking of the front and rear differentials isn’t as strong as I would expect, but that means they’re smooth in their engagement.

During the entry phase of the corner, the car is very free and easy to rotate. The level of locking on exit is really nice and not aggressive at all, probably not as strong as I would expect, but that’s why it’s so smooth in its engagement.

Personally I would have liked a slightly more rear-biased differential balance, in order to have the ability to balance the car using the throttle more easily. 

Suspension

The Toyota Yaris GR Rallye has a lot of support and an excellent ability to control the wheel and chassis movement when pushing hard. 

The Rallye doesn’t move around as much on the track as the GR, which seems more tyre-related because the fundamentals of the suspension feel the same. This is actually interesting, as you have an increase in grip and corner speed but with similar body movement.

Toyota has done a good job adapting the Rallye’s suspension to cope with these increasing forces.

The ability to attack curbs and bumps is once again excellent. It’s even more impressive at maintaining the balance and allowing the driver’s focus to be solely on the job at hand.

Steering

The steering was excellent, it offers great feedback and I felt really connected to the car.

Wheels and Tyres

Jumping up to Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres from the standard model’s Dunlop Sport Maxx is a massive improvement as you would expect. The Michelins seem like a perfect spec. They have excellent grip and saw no drop off in performance during our testing.

It is impossible to say exactly how much, but the tyres would have accounted for at least half of the time improvement.

Driver Aids (Electronics)

I did all my laps with traction and stability control off, and had complete confidence the whole time. Still if you are inexperienced, it is worth building up to that.

Cockpit (Ergonomics)

This is definitely not my favourite interior. The seats are little higher than I would like, but I still felt like the car wrapped around me.

The dash is also underwhelming, but when you’re flat out and on the limit, that all fades into the background.

Lap Time

From being slightly disappointed with the standard Toyota GR Yaris, to being massively impressed with the Toyota GR Yaris Rallye… it’s absolutely amazing what grip can do.

I knew from the initial test the fundamentals were there, but it literally couldn’t put it to the road. 

I thought this could (and should) be a sub 60-second car – and that is what the Rallye Edition makes it…  

59.34 seconds on my final lap blew my mind. That’s 2.25 seconds faster than the GR we initially tested and a jump of over 12 places up the leaderboard, and impressively less than half a second off the Audi RS3.

The Toyota GR Yaris was already great driver’s package. The step up to the Rallye takes it to a whole new level in terms of performance.

Atko’s 3: 

  1. Really attack corner entry, it’s amazing what you can get away with
  2. Still be patient mid-corner, it can understeer 
  3. It still doesn’t do donuts like a Subaru, so be careful if showing off

Click the images for the full gallery

WATCH: Atko compares the WRX STI against the GR Yaris

MORE: Everything Toyota Yaris

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