The new Toyota GR Yaris makes its world debut today at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon, benefiting from technical, design and construction enhancements that promise to deliver an even greater driving experience.
The GR Yaris met with such praise and enthusiasm on its launch, Toyota might have considered its work was done. Here was a car that at a stroke stormed to the top of the hot-hatch segment, a rally-born, thoroughbred machine that left all competitors in its wake.
Think again: this was in fact just the start of the story. In the three years since the first car came off the line, intensive efforts have been invested in making it even better: more powerful, more responsive, more engaging and – believe it – more rewarding to drive.
Toyota Gazoo Racing engineers, Master Drivers, and race and rally professionals have worked together in the spirit of constant improvement to enrich the GR Yaris’ essential character as a “driver- first” car – one that is all about the special experience you enjoy from the moment you get behind the wheel and fire up the engine.
The check-list of changes is extensive, justifying the “new GR Yaris” description. Key elements include evolution of the world-leading turbocharged three-cylinder engine to deliver even more power and torque and the introduction of a brand-new eight-speed Gazoo Racing Direct Automatic Transmission, engineered for competition-fast gear changes.
The bespoke GR Yaris chassis has been further strengthened and in the cabin the cockpit layout and driving position have been redrawn for a more authentic sports car feel, whether on-road driving or in motorsports competition. The suspension has also been adjusted for greater handling control and robust performance under high loads, with revised spring rates and a strengthened front shock absorber assembly.
The new GR Yaris offers everything that made the original such a success, but more so. As a result, it promises to set itself even further ahead of the competition.
A more focused range will offer a single version in “Circuit” specification, with a cooling performance pack that includes an additional radiator, intercooler spray and modified air intake.
The new GR Yaris will be available in the UK and across Europe from Summer 2024. Details of UK specifications and pricing will be announced at a later date.
GR Yaris: the story so far
The GR Yaris is the perfect demonstration of how Toyota and its performance arm Toyota Gazoo Racing are committed to developing ever-better cars through motorsport. From the outset, this was not going to be just another hot hatch: this was a car that in engineering and design terms directly reaped the benefits of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s championship-winning experience in the World Rally Championship.
A new engine, a new electronic all-wheel drive system and a tailor-made chassis were all part of the plan. When the production car reached the hands of the press and customers, the response far surpassed Toyota’s expectations. Since the model’s 2020 launch, more than 18,000 cars have been sold in Europe – the greatest number going to UK customers – with a 99 per cent customer satisfaction rating. Most of those sold have been the Circuit version, hence the decision to focus on this specification for the new model. Customers include many performance car aficionados, who consider the GR Yaris to be worthy of a place alongside significantly more powerful prestige models in their collections. The GR Yaris is thus beyond categorisation; it is in a class of its own and an instant sports car classic.
The development programme that has delivered the new GR Yaris follows the concept of “develop, race, break, fix”. This describes how in seeking improvements, the car is pushed to its limits – literally to the breaking point of its components. Chief Engineer Naohiko Saito said: “Every aspect of the new GR Yaris incorporates the knowhow and expertise fed back from actual motorsport situations and from our Master Driver and race and rally drivers.”
More power, more torque, more control
At launch, the GR Yaris’ turbocharged engine had the distinction of being the world’s most powerful three-cylinder production unit. Now it offers even more: power has been increased by 19.7bhp/20 DIN hp and the driver can call on an additional 30Nm of torque; maximum figures have risen to 276bhp/280 DIN hp and 390Nm.
This new benchmark in performance reaffirms the car’s supremacy in its class, increasing its advantage over the competition and delivering an authentic race car feel that reaffirms how Toyota has realised its ambition to build a rally car for the road.
At the same time as engine output has been raised, steps have been taken to ensure durability is maintained. Once again, the race track and the rally stage were the proving ground, with the engine tested to breaking point in the Japan Rally Championship and the Japanese Endurance Race series. Details include a strengthened valvetrain, a new exhaust valve material and an increase in the D-4ST fuel injection pressure. New lightweight pistons with wear-resistant rings have been fitted and a new intake pressure sensor has been added.
The new model will be offered in a single “Circuit” specification that includes a cooling performance pack. This equips the car with a new sub-radiator to improve reliability in full-throttle driving, modifications to the air intake and an intercooler spray.
Super-fast shifting with new Gazoo Racing Direct Automatic Transmission
The introduction of a brand-new eight-speed Gazoo Racing Direct Automatic Transmission is one of the most significant changes in the new GR Yaris programme, offered as an option to the established six-speed manual gearbox. In designing the new unit, Toyota focused on achieving the fastest possible downshift speed. Changing to automatic operation; using an automatic also lets the driver focus more strongly on steering and use of the brake and throttle pedals.
Where conventional gear shifting relies on sensing vehicle behaviour, such as deceleration g-force and speed, the new transmission’s optimised software is also finely tuned to sense how the driver is using the brakes and accelerator. By doing so, it anticipates when gear shifting is necessary even before changes in vehicle behaviour occur, so that gear selection reflects the driver’s intentions and is similar to how professional drivers operate.
In track testing, the new system proved its value, helping secure faster lap times than the manual transmission. Handling performance is supported by the standard provision of front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials.
To address issues including the vulnerability of automatic systems to heat damage and the need to balance high shift speed with driveability, GR engineers carried out repeated materials and software revisions. The test programme included TGR World Rally Team drivers putting it through its paces on different surfaces, including snow-covered roads in Finland. The unit was also used in the Japan Rally Championship, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge and the Super Taikyu Series.
Increasing the number of gears from six to eight allows the transmission to have closer ratios. It also benefits from a new torque control system and a compact, high-response linear solenoid. Using highly heat-resistant material in the gear-shift clutch and adjustments tuning of the control software have produced world-class shifting speeds. Shifting in the D-range is of competition standard and the predictive gear selection function aligns perfectly with the driver’s intentions. Cooling requirements are addressed with the installation of an automatic transmission fluid cooler as standard.
A new drive mode selection function is available to tailor the car for both sports driving and everyday use, with Sport, Normal and Eco modes engaging different settings for the electric power steering, air conditioning operation, throttle response and the driver’s instrument display. On models equipped with the Gazoo Racing Direct Automatic Transmission, the gearshift feel and selection are also adjusted. Shift feel is response-oriented in Sport mode and has a balance between shock and response in Normal and Eco modes. In Sport mode, response is prioritised in the D range, while using M range ensures the quickest shifting. The driver will find that working within the rev band from 4,900rpm to the 7,200rpm red line puts them at the heart of the action.
As with the current GR Yaris, optimum grip and traction are achieved with the GR-FOUR electronically controlled, permanent all-wheel drive system. Developed specifically for the car, this adjusts the balance of front and rear-wheel drive in three modes to suit the driving scenario – Normal, Sport and Track.
Increased body rigidity delivers even better response
The GR Yaris’s lightweight body has been rendered even more rigid with around a 13 per cent increase in spot welds and the application of approximately 24 per cent more structural adhesive. As a result, the car’s yaw response, steering feedback and grip feel have been enhanced, enhancing what was already a taut and highly rewarding chassis.
The platform was purpose-designed for the car, combining the front section of the Yaris’ GA-B structure and a new rear end crafted from Toyota’s larger GA-C platform.
The light but rigid suspension systems have been retained – front MacPherson struts and rear double wishbones with trailing arms – but adjustments have been made in response to feedback from competition drivers. Adding extra bolts to fasten the front shock absorbers to the body suppresses changes in alignment that can happen when upper bush deforms in high-load driving. The front and rear springs have also been adjusted for optimum performance and improved handling control.
New competition-inspired driver’s cockpit
Significant changes have been made inside the GR Yaris to give the driver’s cockpit an authentically sporty feel with a design that’s true to the “driver first” principles that define the car.
The GR team took the inputs from racing and rally drivers as inspiration for re-positioning controls and giving the driver faster, clearer access. Race and rally drivers also had direct input into the changes.
Controls that often need to be used in competition driving, such as intercooler spray, VSC-OFF and hazard lights have been moved closer to the driver so they can be reached quickly and easily when using a racing harness. On the passenger side, the tray in the instrument panel has been made larger so there is space for extra meters or a co-driver’s monitor to be fitted.
The driver’s field of vision from the wheel has been improved by changing dropping the top edge of the instrument panel by 50mm, changing the position of the rear-view mirror and angling the control panel 15 degrees further towards the driver.
The instrumentation includes a new 12.3-inch fully digital combimeter with two layout modes – normal and sport, the latter providing a sports performance-focused data display. The design is free of any superfluous ornamentation, so graphics a clear and information can be instantly viewed and understood. On the automatic model, the read-out includes transmission oil temperature and a visual warning in addition to a sound alarm to alert the driver when engine revs are too high for downshifting.
Precise changes have been made to give the driver the best posture. The seat has been lowered by 25mm and steering wheel adjusted accordingly. The shift direction has been changed to suit competition driving so the driver pushes the lever forward for downshifts and pulls back for upshifts – a detail promoted by Master Driver and Toyota Motor Corporation Chairman Akio Toyoda (alias “Morizo”).
As might be expected in such a thoroughbred machine, the changes to the GR Yaris’ exterior are far from being simple cosmetic tweaks. Once again, the feedback from professional and master drivers and experience gained in the heat of motorsport have been integral to the revisions.
The essential package remains the same: GR Yaris is a three-door car and very much a model in its own right: only the rear light clusters, antenna and door mirrors are carried over from the standard hatchback. Every element has been revised to achieve optimum downforces, aerodynamics and grip.
At the front of the car there is a new steel mesh for the lower grille, optimised for the best balance of thickness, strength and weight reduction. The side grille has a larger opening and lower bumper has a new split-construction that makes it easier and less costly to repair or replace.
At the rear, an opening in the bottom edge of the lower garnish allows air from beneath the floor to escape, reducing drag, improving the car’s manoeuvrability and stability and dispersing heat from the exhaust system.
The fog and reversing lights have been relocated, moving from the lower bumper to be integrated in the rear combination lamps, reducing the risk of damage. Similarly, the high-mounted stop light as been moved from the rear spoiler to lower down on the back door so that all rear lamps are aligned and in a clear line of sight for following drivers. Moving the stop light also makes it easier for the spoiler to be changed or customised.
The new GR Yaris introduces a new exterior colour option, Precious Metal, in addition to the established signature shades – Emotional Red, Precious Black and Super White/Platinum White Pearlescent, representing the colours of the Toyota Gazoo Racing livery.
New equipment features* include latest-generation Toyota Safety Sense systems, navigation and a digital key. The automatic model will provide a higher specification with forged wheels, rear and side monitors and premium JBL sound system.
*Specifications may vary according to local market; details will be confirmed nearer the time of the model’s launch.
Rally champion-inspired special editions
Toyota is to produce special editions of the new GR Yaris, named after two of its World Rally Championship (WRC) star drivers. The Sébastien Ogier Special Edition and Kalle Rovanperä Special Edition are based on concept models shown at the 2023 Tokyo Salon. They will be unveiled at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of this year’s FIA WRC, which takes place from 25-28 January.
New GR Yaris technical specifications*
|Track – front (mm)
|Track – rear (mm)
|Kerb weight (kg)
|1,280 1,300 (Gazoo Racing Direct Automatic Transmission)
|In-line 3-cylinder with turbocharger and intercooler
|Bore x stroke (mm)
|87.5 x 89.7
|Max. output (DIN hp/kW @ rpm))
|280/206 @ 6,500
|Max. torque (Nm @ rpm)
|390 @ 3,250 – 4,600
|6-speed iMT or 8-speed GAZOO Racing Direct Automatic Transmission
|GR-FOUR AWD system, electronic multi-plate clutch AWD with three selectable modes
|Differentials – front and rear
|Suspension – front
|Suspension – rear
|Brakes – front
|356mm ventilated discs with opposed 4-pot callipers
|Brakes – rear
|297mm ventilated discs with opposed 2-pot callipers
|BBS 8J forged aluminium
|225/40ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
|Fuel tank capacity (l)
*European specs may vary pending final homologation