Toyota GR Yaris Facelift Adds New 8-Speed Automatic Option

Don’t worry, the three pedal six-speed is still to be standard on this updated Toyota hot hatch.  

Toyota has recently decided to give its GR Yaris a mid-life refresh. And while there is substantial changes made to its interior as well as a whole host of tweaks made under the skin too, what has nevertheless caught everyone’s attention is for the newly-available option to remove the third pedal in this Japanese pocket rocket. 

Apparently based on Morizo’s (aka Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda’s) desire to ‘provide the fun of driving to as many people as possible and expand the base of motorsports’, the facelifted GR Yaris can now indeed be had with the option of an 8-speed GAZOO Racing Direct Automatic Transmission. Though it is worth quickly reiterating here for those die hard stick-shifters that the six-speed manual transmission still remains available with this hot hatch. 

Developed through the crucible of motorsport, Toyota is currently claiming for this new torque-converter 8-speed to feature ‘control software used has been optimised for sporty driving’. The Japanese automaker has also asserted that its the use of close-ratio gears with this automatic (made possible from the jump to 8-speeds from 6 in the manual) will now enable drivers to better make the most out of the GR Yaris’ power band, but it remains to be seen if this pocket rocket is still to be as exhilarating to drive as its stick-shift counterpart. 

What can however likely be all but confirmed is for this new auto-equipped GR Yaris to be quicker off the line line than its manual counterpart. Such is because while this self-shifting transmission has added 18 kg to the overall weight of the GR Yaris, Toyota is confidently touting for the time between pulling the plastic paddle shifters mounted behind its steering wheel to the next ratio being engaged to be among the shortest in the world, which comes courtesy of the highly heat-resistant friction material in the gear-shift’s clutch. 

A new transmission oil cooler has also been fitted to these auto-equipped GR Yaris to increase its reliability, while the RZ ‘High Performance’ variants further net a Torsen LSD that Toyota claims ‘enhances driving force control performance through accelerator operation’.

Now moving onto the perhaps the substantial change with this facelift meanwhile, Toyota has also completely revamped the GR Yaris’ interior layout in order to make it more driver-focused. Among the major alterations within includes a new driver-focused dashboard panel housing the same 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as previously seen on the GR Corolla, with this pint-sized hot hatch essentially also gaining an all-new (almost BMW E30-esque) angled dashboard stack that sees its central infotainment display tilted 15º towards the driver. 

As for the changes made under the skin on the other hand, the GR Yaris’ turbo triple now produce 304 PS (up from 272 PS) and 400 Nm of torque (up from 370 Nm). This moderate gain in power comes amid Toyota having increased its direct injection pressure, installed a new intake air pressure sensor, fitted new lightweight pistons and a strengthened valvetrain, in addition to adding a different intake air pressure sensor to it.

To go along with this bump in engine performance, the GR Yaris also nets some minor body rigidity and suspension improvements by way of more spot welds in its shell and an increase in number of bolts fastening the body to the shock absorbers from one to three. A “Cooling Package” will be available too with this update, bringing with it an improved an extra radiator, intercooler spray, and a redesigned intake system.

It is also probably worth highlighting while on the subject minor changes that this updated Japanese hot hatch has a new ‘Circuit Mode’ that includes anti-lag control and an increase in the speed limit of the speed limiter, when the car’s GPS detects that it is entering a track. Oh, and just note as well for the manual-equipped GR Yaris at least to probably the only production car in the world right now featuring the factory option of a vertical parking brake. 

Finally, Toyota’s designers were let loose to have a bit of fun tweaking the design of the GR Yaris. The changes start at the front end where there is a new bumper with distinctive air intakes, while found at the rear are different LED taillights that incorporate a light bar. 

The updated GR Yaris is currently slated to go on sale in Japan this coming spring, with a likely Malaysian debut (if its prior pre-facelift iteration is anything to go by at least) likely to follow suit by the end of this year. The question remains though on whether Toyota will even bother to bring the auto-equipped variant over, or stick to likely continue selling out again of just its manual version instead. 

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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