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Is this the ultimate hot hatch? Toyota launches the rally-inspired GR Yaris

Toyota has formally launched the 2020 GR Yaris, a four-wheel drive rally-inspired hot hatch boasting 260hp.

Forged in the heat of the World Rally Championship, the all-new pure-bred performance model has been developed by the manufacturer’s racing arm, Toyota Gazoo Racing – hence the GR moniker.

It’s been developed in partnership with Tommi Makinen Racing – Toyota’s partner in in its title-winning World Rally Championship campaign.

Despite its £29,995 starting price tag, the GR Yaris remains competitive in price with other potent hot hatches like the Honda Civic Type R, whilst more expensive than others like the Ford

Powered by a new 257bhp 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine, it is expected to deliver 0-62mph acceleration in less than 5.5 seconds.

That’s the kind of power and speed you’d normally expect with a larger (and more expensive) saloon car.

Somewhat uniquely, the Toyota GR Yaris is not a tuned-up version of an existing car, but an authentic performance model in its own right, with a bespoke chassis and drivetrain.

For UK buyers, there are two trim levels: GR Yaris and the even fierier GR Yaris Circuit Pack, with respective on-the-road prices of £29,995 and £33,495.

The Circuit Pack version features torsen limited-slip differentials for each axle, uprated suspension and special Michelin PS4 tyres.

The new flagship Yaris promises “the handling to match its rally spirit”, thanks to a lightweight construction, specially developed platform, dynamic balance and new GR-Four intelligent all-wheel drive system.

Toyota says these sports-focused elements are key to its role as the road-going precursor of a future Toyota World Rally Championship competition car, reviving the spirit and excitement of competition homologation models of the past.

This is the second pure sports car to be launched globally by Toyota Gazoo Racing, following the return of the Toyota GR Supra last year.

Special, and quite complicated, ‘homologation’ rules mean manufacturers need to build production versions of race cars in order to enter certain global rally competitions.

Toyota returned to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with the Yaris WRC (World Rally Car), claiming five victories and winning the manufacturers’ title in 2018.

Its success has continued in 2019, with the team claiming both the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships.

Earlier in 2019, TGR took Toyota to its first outright victory in the gruelling Dakar Rally with a Toyota Hilux driven by the Qatari champion Nasser al-Attiyah.

Those keen to be among the first UK GR Yaris owners can sign up to Toyota’s “keep me informed” service for the new model, via their local Toyota centre or the toyota.co.uk website.

Orders will be accepted later in the year, with first deliveries expected in November.

Belfast Telegraph