Few performance cars have captured the attention of car enthusiasts in 2020 quite like the Toyota GR Yaris. Even less have been so divisive, with some reviewers panning it – like JDM Masters, while others are commending it, as is the case with this test by Jonny Smith from The Lake Brake Show who recently had the opportunity to put one through its paces in the UK.

However, there might be an explanation to that, as pointed out by CarAdvice, which noticed that most, if not all positive reviews tested the higher-spec GR Yaris with the limited-slip front and rear differentials, better Michelin tires and lighter wheels, sold under different names, depending on the market, including Track Pack in the UK and Rallye in Australia. JDM Masters, on the other hand, apparently drove the standard GR Yaris without those goodies that seem to make a big difference.

According to this reviewer, not only does the GR Yaris (alongside the GR Supra) represent an exciting return to performance vehicles for the Japanese automaker, but it is also a proper driver-focused machine that’s been born out of the World Rally Championship.

While typical hot hatches such as the Honda Civic Type R, Renault Megane RS and Hyundai i30 N are performance variants of ordinary models, the GR Yaris is a little different. Sure, you could be forgiven for thinking it is simply a Yaris with a new powertrain and bodykit, but it is much more than that.

As Smith points out in his test, the body of the GR Yaris is all new and the roof is 91 mm lower than the standard five-door model. In fact, only the headlights and taillights are shared with lesser versions. It is such a significant upgrade over the regular model that Toyota says it takes 10 times longer to build it.

Powering the car is a turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder that pumps out 257 hp and 265 lb-ft (360 Nm) of torque. The example tested here is equipped with the available Circuit Pack that includes 18-inch forged alloy wheels, a performance-oriented suspension setup and limited-slip Torsen differentials at the front and rear axles.

During his review, Smith comments on the excellent engine and notes that the car has superb grip, great steering, and a perfect pedal setup for heel and toe shifting.