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Toyota GR Yaris — long-term review

It's Toyota GR Yaris vs... water

Specification:
Toyota GR Yaris
Engine:
1618cc, 3cyl turbo
Claimed MPG:
34.3mpg, 186g/km
Performance:
0-62mph in 5.5secs, 143mph
Weight:
1280kg
Price:
£29,995/£34,375 as tested/£396pcm

The picture, I will admit, is not the best. You’ll be amazed to learn that I had trouble convincing anyone at home to stand by the side of a submerged road while I waded past in the GR Yaris. An old GoPro didn’t have a say in the matter. 

This wasn’t even what I was meant be writing about. A couple of days before I’d driven to Norfolk and back - a 400-mile round trip - to drive Lotus’ final editions of the Elise and Exige, so I was going to tell you about the GRs long-range ability. But then on Saturday it sheeted down. I went for a long walk in the rain first thing. Head space. And heads given a bit of time off come up with ideas all by themselves. 

This one wasn’t exactly up there with the theory of special relativity, but did have a very clear thought process. It’s raining so there’s lots of water. Driving through puddles is fun. I’ve got a GR Yaris parked over there. It was 1+1+1 rather than e=mc2. 

But this sort of stuff is exactly what I need right now, and exactly what the Yaris is great at. Larking around. And seeing as we’re not really meant to travel too far, we need local adventures. Small things we can do near home that give us a bit of light relief. And I reckon a little 4wd hot hatch is better at just going out and mucking about than anything else.

I tried to think of another car that would have been as well suited, and couldn’t come up with a single one. Because you need something with a rally mindset. An Ariel Nomad. There, that would have worked, but it would have needed a very different approach to clothing. I did wonder about a Defender. That would have been good, but too big, too competent, in need of an actual river to inject that all-important hint of jeopardy. 

No better car than the GR Yaris then, for splashing through water up to five inches deep. I put it in Track mode to split the torque 50:50, slackened the stability control and without travelling further than five miles from my house, had a really entertaining afternoon. It just laps this sort of stuff up. I’ve said before that if you get all chin-scratchy about the GR Yaris it’s not as dynamically sensational as the Civic Type R, it doesn’t have such pure steering and amazing damping. But the Yaris’ appetite for adventure, it’s eagerness, enthusiasm and tenacity, really do set it apart. 

While I’m here I might as well tell you about that trip to Lotus as well. It was fine. It’s been yonks since I’ve driven that far in a day, and yet I wasn’t as bushed at the end as I feared I might be. Bit of lower back soreness from the high-set seats, the ride is firm and you notice the short wheelbase and lack of momentum. It’s all a little turbulent and busy. Lift off and it loses speed quickly – blame the light weight, blunt aero, short gearing and 4wd transmission losses. All of which contribute to poor cruising economy. I got a true 30.3mpg on a run I know the vastly more powerful Merc-AMG A45 I ran before would have done at least 32mpg on. 

And the tank’s tiny, which means a 260-mile range even if you’re prepared to run the fuel light gauntlet. It does have lane keep and radar cruise. The former is automatically on every time you start the car and normally cheek-bitingly frustrating (it can be disabled with a long press of a button on the steering wheel), but it works well enough on motorways. The sound system is probably the biggest drawback – it has to pedal hard to overcome tyre roar and constantly seems to be near max volume. All a bit tinny even if there are no issues with phone integration. 

In short it’s no wafter. But neither you nor I ever expected it to be. But more than that I don’t want it to be. Because if it was good at the long haul, it wouldn’t be nearly as good at doing the stuff that does matter – jumping in puddles with the infectious enthusiasm of a five-year old. 

Mileage: 1472 Our mpg: 29.1

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