This brace of upgrades will make the GR Yaris even quicker and more capable, and expand its appeal to more buyers.

Even though the first iteration of the Toyota GR Yaris was already a brilliant approximation of driving nirvana, being the most fun-to-drive car around since the Mitsubishi Evo IX, Toyota nonetheless decided to announce a host of enhancements to their special baby hatchback at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon. The latest version’s differences are more than skin deep, with significant improvements in almost all respects and the addition of an optional self-shifting transmission.

What’s new for the 2024 GR Yaris?

The most obvious enhancement can be found under the bonnet, where the 1.6-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder "G16E-GTS" engine receives an output boost, jumping from 200 kW/370 Nm to 220 kW/400 Nm in its latest iteration. .

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New pistons and valvetrain upgrade sees the new GR Yaris engine output rise to 213 kW and 390 Nm.

While a software revision alone would have been enough to achieve the new engine’s figures from its pre-facelift version, Toyota is still Toyota, so the engineers went much deeper into the engine’s mechanical make-up by fitting new lightweight pistons, strengthening the valvetrain, and uprating some of the control system’s sensors. “Circuit” trim adds a secondary radiator to handle sustained hard work even better, a different air intake, and an intercooler water spray system to further improve durability and engine output consistency under duress.

The 2024 Toyota GR Yaris update includes the availability of a specially-developed, brand-new and bespoke 8-speed automatic gearbox.

The most obvious mechanical change revolves around the gearbox, because Toyota also introduced an optional 8-speed automatic transmission to supplement the existing 6-speed manual. In keeping with the GR Yaris ethos, this is a bespoke, reinforced unit, developed with a specific focus on optimised downshift speed and rapid, predictive gear selection. Longevity will be ensured by a dedicated gearbox fluid cooler as part of the standard package.

This transmission has been deployed to great acclaim in various motorsport formulas around the world before public release, proving its effectiveness and durability. This transmission’s control system not only monitors the usual road- and engine speeds, steering angle, and g-forces acting upon the car, but also considers the way in which its driver uses the accelerator and brake pedals to adapt its shift pattern in anticipation of changing dynamic demands. Clever!

It looks like a Yaris from afar, but the GR Yaris shares little apart from its lights and badge with the normal Euro Yaris.

Other improvements are harder to spot, but Toyota says that the latest GR Yaris bodyshell is more rigid, thanks to a 13% increase in spot welds and 24% more structural adhesive being used. And, while the basic suspension layout is unchanged, the springs and dampers have been recalibrated, and the front struts are located with extra upper bolts to improve steering feedback. These detail revisions should elevate the GR Yaris’s fantastic driving dynamics to even greater heights.

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New bumpers and light clusters visually distinguish the 2024 Toyota GR Yaris from its predecessor, but the invisible changes are far more significant.

Cosmetic changes inside and out

Functional enhancements to the new GR Yaris exterior amount to new bumpers and light clusters at both ends, with larger side air intakes and new steel mesh for the lower grille in front. These changes improve engine cooling and reduce aerodynamic drag, while the new rear bumper also enhances cooling for the exhaust system. This was all developed based on feedback from the GR Yaris’s recent motorsport career.

Inside the cabin, a new dashboard design greets the driver, but this change may not really constitute an improvement for eveybody. Instead of the outgoing model’s neat, slimline dash panel, the new one features a monolithic slab of plastic in front of the driver, housing a new 12.3-inch digital cluster and offering space for extra gauges when kitted out for racing.

The 2024 Toyota GR Yaris dashboard has been redesigned to better meet the needs of motorsport, but it's not as nice to behold as the outgoing model's interior.

The new dashboard is not a pretty setup, to be honest, and recalls 1980’s General Motors products in general appearance, but seeing as this is what motorsport users demand, this is what Toyota gave them. Smaller changes, also driven by motorsport demands, involve a 25-mm lower seat mounting and a matching steering column, while the cluster housing has a 50-mm lower upper edge for improved forward visibility.

For a detailed view of the differences between a normal Corolla hatchback and its GR sibling, check out our comparison in this article on ALL THINGS MOTORING.

Fat tyres, flared wheelarches and a squat stance: The Toyota GR Yaris owns its motorsport-inspired persona.

Toyota’s renewed commitment to providing thrilling driver’s cars

These updates to the GR Yaris confirm Toyota’s assertion that they’re continuing their focus on building engaging, pace-setting driver’s cars alongside their bread-and-butter mainstream products. Many of these enhancements were proposed and promoted by Akio Toyoda, Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, who is a well-known petrolhead.

With such a force of nature at the helm of the giant automaker, it’s no wonder that we’re now seeing a steady stream of fun-to-drive machines emanating from Toyota. Keen drivers all over the world, and those who remember the awesome performance Toyotas from yesteryear, are sure to rejoice.

Shaped like a combat boot and just as effective, the Toyota GR Yaris is purposeful if not pretty.

Meanwhile, the Germans, who have dominated this market section for the past few decades, surely have to be rethinking their strategies. None of their products display this level of focused development, and none of them are as good to drive as the littlest hot Toyota, either. Are keen drivers willing to choose a Toyota over, say, a Golf R? Yes. It’s happening already.

At the time of publication, Toyota SA has not yet confirmed when the updated GR Yaris will reach local shores, but we expect it to arrive towards the end of 2024 or early in 2025. In the meantime, buyers can still have a blast in the existing model - you won’t find greater fun anywhere else at its current list price of R 848 600.

Martin Pretorius


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