Everyone’s favourite hot hatch just got a little bit better. Yes, it’s facelift time for the rally-derived hatch that seemingly overnight became a legend. As you might expect, the Yaris gets the same facelift treatment we’ve grown very used to seeing; a bit more power, revised interior bits and some exterior tweaks. But I don’t want to talk about that because unless you’re seriously in the market for one, it’s boring. No, I want to talk about the market itself.
The Yaris GR was a surprising success for Toyota who wanted to produce a version of the car that would make for an epic rally machine when in full-fat WRC form. The rulebook said they had to shift 25,000 units to be able to use it as the basis for their rally machine. Most other manufacturers in WRC didn’t bother with the faff. But Toyota, thanks in part to their petrol head CEO, said screw it let’s do it. And so the GR Yaris was born.
It’s fair to say it massively exceeded expectations more than selling the 25k required for it to enter the WRC. It was utterly adored by the press when they first got their hands on it and when a feature on it ran on TopGear, that was it.
I can’t recall who, but I remember an owner of a GR Yaris complaining that he got more unwanted attention in the Yaris than any Supercar he owned; he lost track of the number of hooligans pulling up alongside him trying to get involved in a drag race.
Seemingly everyone was obsessed with this little pocket rocket. I suspect its success was down largely to the fact this car was built for fun. In a world where cars are getting a bit too serious and sophisticated, the market was clearly over the moon to have a silly little hatchback that felt decidedly old school.
It was near impossible to get your hands on one new and because of its glorious reputation, AutoTrader was flooded with cars massively over list price even to date. And this is my gripe with it. At £30k it then just becomes too serious a thing again.
When you think you can hop into something like an M235i for half the money and have every bit as much fun if not more so, the Yaris feels a little out of place. Are people really weighing up between a used F80 M3 or a Yaris GR? No, of course not.
The people who are buying these Yaris GRs are buying their second, third, and fourth cars and to those guys, paying an extra £5-10k is just an issue. This inflates the price so much that the market which genuinely would like a hot hatch for all its perks, cannot afford to get in one. And if they can, they’d be too scared to properly drive it.
It’s a crying shame because the Yaris GR has become a paradoxical car; so desirable that I never want to buy one.