Craig takes delivery of his 40th birthday present to himself, a GR Yaris from Vantage Toyota Preston. But not before Covid has a say in proceedings...Images by Andrew Ambrose
You’re supposed to be looking at a BMW M2, but casually gate-crashing a friend's test drive last November resulted in fate intervening. I’d always promised myself an M car and with the PCP drawing to a close on my Mini JCW and my 40th birthday on the horizon, it seemed the perfect excuse to bag an original, manual M2.
But then here came this little Toyota, carrying more speed on this treacherous little B-road caked in mud at one degree C than my modified JCW ever could in the dry. And it was snowing. Importantly, it did it with character, complete engagement and wasn’t just a one-dimensional speed demon. The direct steering, oh-so-snickety gearbox, positive brakes and supreme traction were a complete riot.
On top of that came the sheer strength of the body structure, which allowed the suspension to absorb absolutely everything the road chucked at it. Even the ridiculous driving position didn’t bother me, although at 6ft 1``I can't say the same about the widescreen rear view mirror.
I agonised over the next few days about what I personally wanted from a performance car and what it meant achieving a life goal. Both are great cars - the Yaris is more fun, the M2 is more satisfying - and both score enthusiast points in opposing areas. In the end I gave the GR the nod because it would be more fun, more of the time given its compact footprint and the UK’s inclement weather.
With the M2 I’d always be waiting for the right road, in the Yaris I’d already be on it. I’ve always been drawn towards smaller, lighter cars that punch above their weight and the more I thought about the Yaris, the more the M2 faded from my thoughts. Seven days later I placed a £1,000 holding deposit with George at Vantage Toyota Preston and the long wait began.
What helped seal the deal was the strong residuals forecasted and a rather helpful £3,500 WeBuyAnyCar profit over the Mini’s settlement fee, thanks to the current silicone shortage. I’ve never cared for such things, believing cars should be driven and enjoyed, but here was a Toyota that felt like a win-win...if I wanted out, I wouldn’t lose out. It soothed the conscience over trivial grown-up responsibilities like mortgages and financing this magazine endeavour.
I will admit to moments of wavering during the long wait, with Clio 200s in fancy hues catching my eye, but a second test drive organised by George - this time in the dry where the car was equally impressive - kept the fire alive. The complete irony of the story is my buddy who hoodwinked me into the test drive has since ended up with an M2 Competition!
Collection day finally nears with an immediate trip North of the border to the Old Military Road booked in order to run the car in. Then Covid decides to have its way with a close family member and I have to isolate less than eight hours before the handover.
Ever helpful, George took it in his stride and safely parked the car out of customer reach within the showroom and hid it under a cover. Eleven agonising days later I almost trip over myself walking through the showroom doors in anticipation, delighted to find a brimmed tank and a handwritten note from the entire sales team wishing me the best with the car.
It wasn’t quite the Cairngorms, but heading out the Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales was a decent substitute. I even crossed paths with red GR Yaris and exchanged thumbs up. Everywhere I’ve been so far the Yaris is getting a positive reaction - it’s refreshing to see.
I intend to keep the car for as long as possible, before values dip below the point the man maths calculator taps out. Right now it honestly feels like that ‘keeper’ I’ve always searched for. I’m not ashamed to admit I get off on the engineering that’s gone into the car and the homologation aspect. I adore the fact it harks back to the likes of the E30 M3, Lancia Delta Integrale, Escort Cosworth and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Also, despite having modified every car I've ever owned for improved handling and pace, I won’t be touching the Yaris, because it’s so complete out of the box, and I’m frankly blown away by the fact Toyota offers a 5yr/100,000 mile warranty. The GR Yaris running costs should also be quite reasonable.
So far, the only things that have irritated me about the car have everything to do with stupid EU driver assistance equipment and almost nothing to do with the vehicle itself. One of the first things I did was deactivate the keyless entry and start, the second was to fit a set of gloss carbon arch guards from Automotive Passion for £73. A minor flaw occurred during a snappy upshift when the gear knob decided to rotate a fraction. A swift Google later and the GR Forum suggested it’s a common occurrence, and a 360+ degree rotation clockwise will lock it back into place.
Otherwise, I’m one very happy bunny. I plan to get it run in as quickly as possible with a few road trips, then I’m planning a cheeky track day to properly learn the car. I might even let John Bee lose with a few column inches - although I fear we may be too late to the party now and the car has had too much exposure. If you’d be interested in his fully independent review, please let us know
TOYOTA GR YARIS RUNNING COSTS
Date acquired - 30/6/21
Total mileage - 2,966
Recent mileage - 2,966
MPG - 26.4
Expenditure - £73 / arch guards