Kris Meeke reviews the GR Yaris at SpeedWeek

Three stars from the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team stable had the enviable opportunity to showcase the talents of the all-new GR Yaris in its dynamic debut at last weekend’s Goodwood SpeedWeek extravaganza.

We’ve already enjoyed glowing reports from Jari-Matti Latvala (below right) and Elfyn Evans. Now it is the turn of Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke (below left) to offer his thoughts after hurling our new four-wheel drive, 257bhp hot hatch around Goodwood Motor Circuit and the estate’s brand new rally stage.

Toyota GB: Last year you were able to test a GR Yaris development mule on various surfaces. How did that feel and how does it compare to driving the production car on asphalt?

Kris Meeke: “Yeah, during my time as a Toyota WRC driver we were asked to test the [development] car on different surfaces, from the frozen lakes and gravel roads of Finland to a tarmac arena in Japan. Throughout that process our feedback was taken and after each time the car was improved. So from a driver’s perspective it was nice to see [Toyota] taking the spirit of motorsport and translating that into a road car.

“The biggest thing you feel with [the GR Yaris] is that it is so nimble and quick to change direction. You have real responsiveness from the throttle and you feel the torque, so you’re able to manage the car and manipulate the weight balance to control it. It really is an impressive machine. You get the feeling that it’s been designed with the spirit of the World Rally Championship in mind.”

TGB: Can you expand on that comment about it being designed with the WRC in mind?

Kris Meeke: “It was very important from Toyota’s point of view [that] to build a good rally car you need a good platform. Here with the GR Yaris they were able to change the roof line… [to] increase the size of the rear wing you can fit on the rally car. You can see the front bumper – the big air intake for cooling – but especially the lightweight components: carbon roof, the engine design, where it is positioned. Also the suspension points – they’re all part of the regulations of how you build a rally car. So if it’s really good on the initial platform, then you can build a better rally car.”

TGB: That’s an intriguing thought. But what would you say is the secret to the GR Yaris’s success as a motorsport-inspired road car?

Kris Meeke: “For me, the biggest difference you get is the adjustability in the differentials. In ‘Normal’ mode you’re getting 60% of the torque supplied to the rear axle, 40% to the front. That’s a rule of thumb in an all-wheel drive system, so it’ll feel pretty much equal but it gives you the best compromise in all conditions.

“In ‘Sport’ mode you get 70% of the torque supplied to the rear axle with only 30% to the front. It lightens the front wheels a bit in the steering effort and gives you more drive from the rear, but you have to be on the top of your game to get the best out of it.

“We also have a ‘Track’ mode, which is a 50:50 drive split. This is pure four-wheel drive motion where everything is making the car go forward. There’s not going to be much slip across the axles in a track situation, so it’s designed to give you ultimate performance. [But] in all conditions this car’s going to perform. The technology’s there to give you the best performance.”

Learn more: GR Yaris media reviews

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