The brilliance of the Toyota GR Yaris and why 'hooning' is allowed

Matt Prior opinion

Many supercar drivers also own a Toyota hatch for everyday duties

Prior talks with the chief engineer of the GR Yaris, and riffs on Australia’s ‘moron tourism’

What I suspected was the case with the Toyota GR Yaris has turned out to be about right. 

“It’s no wonder I’ve had correspondence from people with big car collections who drive a Yaris every day,” I wrote in 2021 after spending a few months living with one and finding that it offered a driving experience so special that it would please people who could afford rather more than the £29,995 the hot hatchback cost.

And last month, Toyota presented me with some data backing that up: 48% of GR Yaris owners own one as an ‘additional car’, when the class average is only around 10%.

Many have a GR Yaris “next to a supercar”, said a delighted chief engineer Naohiko Saito. “This is something we’ve never seen before.”

Given this, and that Toyota has sold 100% more GRs than it had expected to by now, it’s little wonder that it has felt emboldened not only to put the car through a facelift but to suggest that it will make it a permanent fixture in the range – for as long as it’s still able to sell it.

“This isn’t the end of development,” said Saito at the event where I drove a pre-production example of the facelifted car.

“Smells and noise are something we don’t want to give up. We want to make sports cars for the next 100 years.”

By the end of this decade, though, 80% of new cars sold in the UK must be zero-emissions, and while it has only a 1.6-litre engine, the GR Yaris isn’t one of those.

Still, I live in hope of a long existence – and that Toyota resists the temptation to hike the price too much, now that it knows the wherewithal of many buyers.

More excitable quotes, although less happy ones, come from ABC News in Canberra. The Street Machine Summernats car event has come to town, and with it has come “moron tourism”, according to Mark Richardson, Australian Capital Territory’s acting inspector of road policing.

Australia has some strict anti-hooning laws – hooning being the word for “any antisocial behaviour in a motor car”, according to the authorities – but they don’t dissuade semi-organised burnout events.

“The real car enthusiasts aren’t the problem,” said Richardson. (I’d like to think those are people like me and you.) “If we set up an IQ [testing] station at the [state] border instead of a vehicle testing station, we’d probably halve our problem. They literally come down here to see ‘how big of a pest can I be this week?’.

“They were all over Canberra [this week] and we were just playing whack-a-mole.

“Every jurisdiction in Australia has been through this. It’s not unique to us and it’s not unique to the Summernats; it happens all year round. [Hooners] just haven’t evolved very far; they’ve just plateaued as a sub-species of the human race. I don’t know what goes through their minds.”

I know, Mark, I know. And yet… As somebody who is partial to a burnout or a drift, I wonder: is a hoon still a hoon if nobody’s around to see it?

Is it antisocial if you’re sufficiently antisocial as to want to hide away from society anyway?

Visible hoonage gets my goat like it does Richardson’s. It’s why I dislike most noisy, showoff-ish supercar events, where bad, loud, obnoxious driving (and owners) are prevalent.

And it’s why I think most recreational driving (or motorbike riding) is best done alone and why it’s better to assume that anybody who might see you also has a camera aimed at you.

It’s easy enough to find appropriate space, even in England, where there are 1124 people per square mile. In Australia, there are just 9.1. Hooners there literally have to go looking for bystanders. Personally, I think it’s much better to drive where people are not.

Source: Autocar

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