Are Toyota's GR cars worth buying?

Performance Toyota models are what everyone had been asking for, but are they any good?
Kalle Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier with the Toyota GR Yaris
Kalle Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier with the Toyota GR Yaris / Qian Jun/MB Media/GettyImages

When you think of Toyota, what do you think of? Well, that depends on when you were born. Back in my day, it would have been the mk.4 Supra. However, if you were born a few years later, it would be understandable if you only associated Toyota with boring econoboxes and all the personality of a beige wall. I think Toyota realized that, and so they decided to make a better world for the children of the next generation. How did they do that? Electric cars? Hydrogen cars? Well, they did both of those things, but neither made the world a better place. Toyota bringing out GR versions of their cars did. But before I get to it, let me answer your first question...

What are Toyota's GR cars?

You might remember (unless you're suffering from a bout of short-term memory loss) that in the mid-2000s and 2010s, Toyota became the most boring car manufacturer imaginable, releasing dreary, slow cars that offered nothing but pure economy. Not only this, but cars such as the RAV4 (pictured below) became watered-down versions of themselves and held back by boring designs.

2014 Toyota Rav4
2014 Toyota Rav4 / Heritage Images/GettyImages

However, the Japanese auto giant became self-aware as the 2010s drew to a close. At the 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon, Toyota debuted its first exciting car in over a decade: the absolutely insane Toyota GR Yaris. GR is Toyota's racing division, and this Yaris would be tuned by them.

And then Toyota went crazy. We got the GR Corolla, which it decided not to send to the UK for some reason, the GR86, the Mk5 Supra GR, and most recently, the Corolla Atlis GR-S for the Asian market.

GR Toyota Yaris
GR Toyota Yaris / Qian Jun/MB Media/GettyImages

But what makes Toyota's GR cars so good?

Well, honestly, at first, it was all hype; the only cool performance-ish Toyota mass-produced in the 2010s was the GT-86, which, yes, was a great car to drive, but it wasn't the performance car that long-term fans of Toyota wanted.

Hype is a dangerous thing in the world of cars. Let me explain. In 2017, car fans worldwide were excited when Mitsubishi announced it would bring back the Eclipse name. The excitement was short-lived. The Eclipse would be coming back as a dull, bland, slow SUV. If you're old enough, you'll remember when Ford brought back the Thunderbird name.

So, the expectations were high. Toyota exceeded expectations. For lack of a better word, the Yaris GR, from a performance perspective, was insane.

The GR Yaris did everything right. From its 1.6l turbocharged engine, the little Yaris produces a very respectable 257 horsepower. This becomes even more respectable when the car weighs 1280kg. This power-to-weight ratio, combined with all-wheel drive, gives the GR Yaris a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, which is as fast as the 300-horsepower variant of the Jaguar F-Type, in a hatchback. Oh, and to add to this, you can squeeze 35MPG out of it if you drive carefully enough.

... And Toyota didn't stop with just the GR Yaris, as most manufacturers would have. On 31 March 2022, Toyota launched the Corolla GR.

Oh boy, was the GR Corolla good. It had 300 horses, rally styling, a tri-exhaust, and the ability to go from stationary to sixty in sub-five seconds. That wasn't all there was to it, either. A point that needs emphasizing is that the GR cars are not just numbers cars either; they boast hoards of power without the handling to make the cars feel refined or civilized.

The GR Corolla is able to put down all of its 300 horses with its 'GR Four' all-wheel drive system. Furthermore, torque is adjustable, too, depending on how you plan on driving. If you plan on driving sensibly, there is 'front mode,' which splits torque 60:40; if you plan on having some fun and kicking the rear end out, you can split the torque 30:70 with 'rear mode'; however, if you wanted to take your GR Corolla to the track you could split the torque 50:50, for maximum stability.

So, togo backto the question, what makesToyota's GR cars so good? The answer is the amount of care Toyota put into making these cars. A lot of manufacturers make performance cars, and that's great, but nota lot of manufacturersgo all out in the same way Toyota did, making a massive effort to make the cars as rigid and responsive as possible. A lot of car manufacturers makepowerfulcars, and that's great, but (I'm looking at you, German brands) not every manufacturer tries to make their cars as responsive as possible, and that's what makes GR cars so good;they're madefor drivers, not just people who want to show off how much horsepower they have.