This little car has a rather large challenge, it’s been tasked with launching the Gazoo Racing sub-brand in Europe. With all that pressure on the little car, how has it taken it? The Yaris stands out from supermini market thanks to its unique 2ZR supercharged engine; a supercharged Yaris! 209bhp is turned out of the 1.8 litre powerplant and throttle response is perfect thanks to the forced induction. Torque is a slightly less impressive 185lb ft.
With less than pleasing torque, you can imagine the little Japanese rocket will spend the majority of its time thriving on revs, a different sensation to our normal turbocharged alternative. Thankfully, it’s been paired with a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox to keep the traditionalists happy.
The main issues that the engineers faced whilst creating the car was packaging all the hardware into the humble body of the Yaris. The underfloor also caused issues when they attempted to fit a performance exhaust. The entire chassis has been braced significantly to make it handle like a performance car, considerably stiffer springs and a large anti-roll bar also contribute to excellent level handling in the corners. Toyota even included a Torsen-type limited-slip differential to maximise traction.
The engineers behind the car wanted to create something that was about more than just numbers, they wanted an interactive experience for the driver too. The timescale and budget restraints do show somewhat show unfortunately, a terrible driving position, particularly for tall drivers, and limited adjustment for the steering wheel means you never feel like you’re part of the car. If they had the time then they would have no doubt extended the wheel arches and added a bespoke exhaust system too.
Still, once you press the ignition and listen to the keen, idling exhaust note you overlook the imperfections, the car is a joy to drive hard. Getting it in the higher rev band brings the car alive and really defines what a supermini should be. Unlike the super saloons and even the hot hatches of today, power isn’t always there when you press your foot down, it’s up to the driver to optimise performance and that makes the whole experience far more enjoyable.
Martin Sheen from Sammy Lee Motors said, “There’s something very special about driving a supermini, the way you have to work for your performance makes you appreciate the car so much more. You look at cars now with a stupid amount of horsepower, it’s more than they’ll ever need. With these cars, you’re constantly using every last bit of power and it’s an addictive feeling.”