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What you notice straight away is that the GRMN’s peak power figure of 209bhp doesn’t arrive until 6500rpm, and the ascent to that point is delectably linear compared with turbocharged rivals’.
This car really is something special. Fed by the frigid air of Salisbury Plain, the intake hisses at high crank speeds with the intensity of a severely maligned moggy. Lovely stuff. The exhaust is a little nasal, but it sings a tight, dense, angry tune that wholly subverts what you know to be true – that you’re driving a Yaris.
At this price point, you’d expect the chassis dynamics to match, if not better, what’s under the bonnet. But on British roads, the results are mixed.
The GRMN’s cause is hardly helped by a high-set driving position and a steering wheel with minimal adjustability. The body is tall, too, and thus sacrifices some of the natural agility of hotter Mini Cooper variants. The low-speed ride, meanwhile, can be so brutal that attempting to accurately jab the low-resolution infotainment touchscreen is a uniquely frustrating endeavour.
You quickly forgive that, though, because this Toyota, more so than even the rear-driven GT86, is life-affirming to drive fast. With a footprint that feels almost four-square, you’re dicing with instability much of the time, although the dampers come into themselves with speed and provide magnificent composure. In this sense, the GRMN is not dissimilar to the original Ford Focus RS.
That composure allows you to push refreshingly hard – certainly enough to gently loosen the rears by way of either that limited-slip differential or the satisfyingly firm, high-biting brakes – and to do so with confidence. There is some torque steer, yes, and the front axle isn’t the most predictable companion on British roads, but there’s satisfaction to be had in driving around any issues. As they say, the throttle pedal goes both ways.
On the subject of pedals, they’re slightly wide-spaced in the GRMN, so necessitate proper ankle articulation for heel-and-toe shifts. In truth, this only adds to the sense that you’re in a proper rally refugee. It’s also something that illustrates that getting the best from this supersonic Yaris isn’t as simple as you’d think – but we’ll go into further detail on that in the forthcoming road test.
As for fuel economy, do you even care? Well, for those hardcore enough to run this car as a daily driver, our figures suggest you’ll manage around 26mpg if you’re reasonably well behaved most of the time but prone to bouts of mischief. Also note that the GRMN’s 205-section tyres have broadened the turning circle to the extent that at some time or another, you’ll end up making an unforeseen three-point turn – probably in full public view.