Hot Hatch

Meet the 268-hp AWD Toyota Yaris Americans can’t get


Toyota has developed a tantalizing homologation special for future WRC activity, but U.S. buyers will likely never be able to get it. What a way to end the week.

On Friday at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Toyota unveiled the GR Yaris, a hot hatch with specs to make American enthusiasts jealous.

Under the hood sits a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-3 with 268 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. For those keeping track, that makes the direct-injected turbo-3 the most-powerful production 3-cylinder ever in a car, according to Toyota. The turbo is a single-scroll, ball-bearing unit that feeds the DOHC 12-valve engine.

Toyota GR Yaris

The entire car only weighs just 2,821 pounds, which means each of those horses lugs around 10.8 pounds. It can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in less than 5.5 seconds and is electronically limited to 142 mph.

Power is sent through a 6-speed manual transmission to all four wheels via all-wheel drive. The front and rear axles have different gear ratios and multi-plate clutches to allow the torque balance to shift all the way from 100/0 front/rear to 0/100, making the GR Yaris front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive.

Toyota said the AWD system is lighter than a comparable twin-coupling or permanent all-wheel-drive system. It is controlled via a 4WD mode dial. In Normal mode, the power is split 60/40. Sport model switches the torque split to 30/70. Track mode splits power 50/50 and is designed for racetracks or rally stages. The system also automatically adjusts the power split to meet the traction conditions.

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

The GR Yaris is built on a new, global platform that isn’t expected to come to the U.S. The standard Yaris’ torsion rear beam suspension has been tossed into the trash in favor of a double wishbone setup, and MacPherson struts are used up front.

One look at the Yaris GR and it’s clear this isn’t a standard economy hatchback. The three-door body and roof have been lowered by a total of 3.6 inches, and the doors are now frameless. The front end has gaping intakes to feed the turbo-3. To save weight, the upper body, hood, trunk, and door panels are made from aluminum, and the roof is carbon fiber.

To arrest speed, the Yaris GR has 14-inch slotted front brake rotors grabbed by 4-piston calipers, while 2-piston calipers are used in the rear.

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota didn’t provide details about the interior, but there’s a touchscreen infotainment system, sport seats covered in what is likely synthetic suede, metal-covered pedals, and a three-spoke steering wheel. Two analog gauges are found in the instrument panel, along with a color information screen wedged in between. Photos also show JBL speakers.

Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division developed the GR Yaris with knowledge gleaned from its experience in the World Rally Championship with Tommi Mäkinen Racing. The hot hatch will serve as a homologation model and support development of a new race car for the Toyota Gazoo WRC team.

Full vehicle details and options haven’t been announced, but a Circuit Package adds front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials, a performance-tuned suspension, and 18-inch forged alloy wheels shod in 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.

The Yaris GR will be built in Japan at Toyota’s Motomachi plant by takumi, which are Toyota’s master craftspeople. The very same people built the LFA supercar.

Toyota is now taking orders for the GR Yaris and each will cost 3.96 million yen, which is about $36,000.

Sorry America, this turbocharged, all-wheel-drive, rally-bred Toyota hatchback likely isn’t for you.



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Hot Hatch, Performance

Revised 2020 Honda Civic Type R promises even more performance


The Honda Civic Type R is the most fun-to-drive front-wheel-drive car on the market, and for 2020 Honda says it’s even better. It’s so fun we named it the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018.

Honda revealed the updated 2020 Civic Type R on Thursday at the Tokyo Auto Salon.

The look inside and out is slightly revised, but Honda also gave the Civic Type R performance upgrades that we hope will improve an already great track car.

Those improvements include revised front suspension settings to reduce friction and improve steering feel, new dampers for a more comfortable ride, and stiffer bushings that Honda says will improve grip. New two-piece rotors and different brake pads are meant to improve high-speed braking and reduce fade. The 6-speed manual transmission has shorter throws between gears and a new shift knob. A larger front grille also improves engine cooling but doesn’t increase output of the 2.0-liter turbo-4 from the current car’s 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

2020 Honda Civic Type R

The only other exterior change is the availability of Boost Blue paint, which is exclusive to the Type R.

Honda promises more refinement and safety, too. The cabin gets a new Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and Active Sound Control that changes the sound inside based on the Comfort, Sport, and +R modes. The Honda Sensing group of active safety features also becomes standard throughout the Civic lineup. Honda didn’t say what’s included, but other Civics have forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and road departure mitigation that steers the car back into its lane if it’s about to leave the road. 

Honda says additional information about the U.S.-spec Civic Type R will be announced closer to the car’s release later this year. Honda did not give any information on prices, though the brand increased prices at least twice for the 2019 model to the current $37,255.



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Hot Hatch

Hyundai Veloster N vs. Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe: Big money vs. little money


The Hyundai Veloster N and Mercedes-AMG GT 63S 4-Door Coupe aren’t natural competitors, but we compare them for one important reason. Does magnitudes more money buy magnitude more fun?

For the record, neither won this year’s award for Best Car To Buy.

The fact that the $189,880 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe and $29,885 Hyundai Veloster N were both nominees for the same award shows the breadth of vehicles Motor Authority evaluates each year.

How does a small hot hatch based on an economy car fare against the strengthened bones of a luxury car turned big high-performance hatchback? Surprisingly well.

2019 Hyundai Veloster and 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

By the numbers

While both cars are turbocharged, they have vastly different power ratings, transmissions, and performance specifications.

The AMG is a monster with two turbos huffing between the cylinder banks of its 4.0-liter V-8 to create 630 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. The power is sent to all four wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission. This is a Mercedes-Benz, so no manual transmission is offered, though it does have steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

The Hyundai makes do with only 2.0 liters, 4-cylinders, and a single turbocharger to produce 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, though the $2,100 Performance Package increases output to 275 hp (it also adds a limited-slip differential, a variable exhaust system, larger brakes, and Pirelli P Zero summer tires on 19-inch wheels). The power is sent through a 6-speed manual transmission and goes only to the front wheels. Can’t drive stick? The Veloster N isn’t an option.

On paper and in most performance metrics, the AMG stomps on the less-expensive Hyundai. The German horsepower machine can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds on its way to a top speed of 196 mph. Hyundai hasn’t released any performance specifications for the Veloster N, but it feels considerably slower.

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

On the track

Numbers are great for bragging rights at Cars & Coffee or on social media, but in the real world, numbers aren’t as important as feel.

The feel behind the wheel and through the wheel creates the fun.

On the track, the AMG comes alive with brutal acceleration, but its handling becomes ham-fisted in tight turns. The twin-turbo V-8 pins occupants into their leather-wrapped seats as the 9-speed fires off quick shifts, but in corners the AMG’s 4,500 pounds of heft make itself known. The big luxury hatchback wants to plow into tight turns, has issues transitioning from side to side and then back again.

That’s all before the AMG GT 4-Door starts to cook its brakes. In our half day of track testing at Atlanta Motorsports Park, the brakes of the AMG GT 63 S smoked heavily after a few laps, though they never faded. The available carbon-ceramic brakes would have remedied this issue as we learned during our first drive at Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin, Texas.

To its credit, the big luxury hatchback from Benz is rock-steady stable at high-speed cruising.

The track is where Hyundai’s mission for the Veloster N comes into play. Hyundai says it isn’t chasing lap times, but instead aiming for driving feel. That makes the Veloster N the polar opposite of the AMG on the track, with responsive turn-ins and incredible stability in high-speed side-to-side transitions. Despite the difference of 355 horsepower, the turbo-4 is the little engine that could—it gives everything, all the time. The 6-speed manual can be a bit ropey, but we didn’t have many issues with it on the track.

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

On the street

The AMG GT is clearly designed to devour miles of Autobahn asphalt at triple-digit speeds. On the street, its four-corner air suspension provides a smooth, comfortable ride regardless of drive mode. The 9-speed searches for gears at low speeds. While the Sport modes fix this issue, their shifts can be too harsh for day-to-day driving. The supportive seats hug occupants’ bodies in all the right places.

The Hyundai isn’t nearly as comfortable, but it’s tolerable on the street. That is, until it’s put in N mode. The dampers firm up so much that the ride feels like it could liquefy our kidneys. The 6-speed’s gearing allows third and fourth gears to serve for a lot of the driving, then straight to sixth for highway cruising. The car doesn’t suffer from exhaust drone or grabby brakes, and it also doesn’t let drivers play with their cell phones thanks to the manual transmission.

2019 Hyundai Veloster and 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster and 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

Value

The AMG looks like it costs nearly $190,000, and the Hyundai feels like it costs less than $30,000.

With 22-inch chrome monoblock-like wheels, a rear-mounted wing, matte-blue paint, massive front intakes, and the gaping Panamericana front grille, our AMG GT screamed “Look at me!”

The Veloster is, oddly, more subtle, with 19-inch wheels courtesy of the Performance Package, a well-integrated rear spoiler that doesn’t stand out, and Gulf blue paint. Only the red lipstick on the nose sticks out. It still says hot hatch, but compared to the AMG GT or the Honda Civic Type R, it’s not as in-your-face bold.

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

The cabin of the AMG GT is awash in leather, wood, metal, soft-touch plastics, and silver matte plastics. A wall of screens with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster next to a 12.3-inch infotainment screen creates a tech-heavy environment. It all looks expensive.

The Veloster N’s interior shows its economy-car roots with hard plastics, a simple analog gauge cluster, a manual emergency brake lever, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Both the AMG GT and Veloster N are compromised hatchbacks. The Mercedes has four doors plus a hatch, but the rear isn’t large or well-packaged, though two will fit in the back seat well provided they aren’t too tall. The Hyundai has three doors and a hatch, making getting in and out of the rear seat a chore. The rear seat is short on head, knee, leg, and foot room and is better used for cargo or small kids.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Hyundai Veloster N – Best Car To Buy 2020

There’s a winner

Of course there’s a winner.

The Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe is blazing fast, sounds mean, and has all the techno wizardry we expected from a German luxury sedan, but it’s heavy, expensive, and compromised for space.

Quick enough, visceral, and mostly livable, the Veloster N is the definition of a hot hatch. Its interior feels budget-grade and the ride can be too harsh. A hoot on the track and a weapon on the street, its performance value proposition is hard to beat.

Most importantly, the Hyundai Veloster N is fun. In fact, it’s more fun than the more-expensive, more-luxurious, and faster Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe. That earns the Hyundai Veloster N the win in this comparison.



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