For years, Toyota has been the staid and reasonable choice in the hatchback market. They’ve dipped their toes in the water in the past to create what amounts to lukewarm hatches. In the cold light of history, the Matrix XRS was probably their best effort, and it was lackluster compared to the competition. This new effort, the supercharged and track-focused Yaris GRMN, has the weight of the world on its tiny little shoulders. This shining review from Auto Express seems to indicate that it’s done its job quite well.
Toyota is trying to brand Gazoo Racing as their performance arm, in a similar vein to BMW’s M or Subaru’s STi. The team have been building Toyota sports cars for years, and are still involved in the company’s LMP1 efforts in the World Endurance Championship. The little 209-horsepower supercharged 1.8-liter is more responsive to throttle input than the turbocharged competition, and it certainly has a unique power delivery curve and audible accompaniment. Outside of the engine, the car has been fitted with sportier seats, and the steering wheel from the FT-86, the suspension has been completely revamped (now perhaps too stiff), and the tires have been swapped for track day specials.
So now Toyota has a great little hot hatch, and they’re pushing boundaries in the market. Is that enough to justify the Focus RS and Civic Type-R rivaling price tag? On this side of the Atlantic, at least, we’ll never truly know.
Update: I changed the headline to be more accurate to all you hardcore Corolla FX16 fans out there.