Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Toyota GR Yaris
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
Toyota GR Yaris
- Brilliant powertrain
- Superb dynamics
- Relative refinement
- Some hard plastics in cabin
- Oversize interior mirror
- Audio exhaust noise enhancement
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Toyota GR Yaris
It's a rally rocket for the road. A lightweight, pocket-sized, all-wheel drive, three-cylinder turbo screamer with enough grunt to blow the doors off performance cars twice its size.
Yes, it's the much-anticipated Toyota GR Yaris, the basis for homologation of Toyota's 2021 World Rally Championship contender. And remember, Toyota won the manufacturer's title in 2018, the driver's championship last year, and is leading the WRC pack in 2020. So, it's a significant arrival, packing a huge amount of tech into a compact, entertainingly racy package.
Toyota invited us to a local launch program, including open and closed road driving opportunities, so we could see what all the fuss is about.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Toyota GR Yaris8.3/10
In late 2020, Toyota Australia offered the first 1000 examples of the GR Yaris at a discount to help establish the car and the GR brand. The first 250 were accounted for in 30min. That grew to 560 in 24 hours, and all 1000 were spoken for in seven days. Another hundred, at a slightly higher price, were snapped up in only a few weeks.
There'll be fresh supply in 2021, although it's not yet known how many or exactly when. But we do know they'll be at full retail price. Even at $50K, I'd say, if you're thinking about it, don't hesitate. This is an instant classic.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
Toyota GR Yaris8/10
First thing you'll notice is that this is a three-door body that's waaay lower and waaay wider than the standard five-door Yaris.
That's because World Rally Championship regulations for 2021 demand a competition car's bodywork must be close to the road car it's based on.
|(mm)||Yaris five-door||GR Yaris||+/-|
The GR's roof tapers steeply at the rear, being 50mm shorter than the standard five-door overall, but 90mm closer to the ground at the trailing edge of the roof. Combine that with frameless doors and you have a close to coupe look.
It's offered in the Gazoo Racing colours of black, red and white, specifically, 'Tarmac Black' (metallic), 'Feverish Red' (mica-metallic), and 'Glacier White' (solid).
The GR sits on a new, dedicated TNGA platform, essentially combining the front end of the Yaris (GA-B platform), with the rear of the Corolla (GA-C), and you'll understand why a bit later.
It shares just three exterior components with the Yaris hatch – headlights, tail-lights and mirrors. And the car stands apart thanks to its more aggressive grille with huge front air intakes.
There's also a rear spoiler, side skirts, and fat fenders, with 18-inch Enkei forged alloy rims sitting under them. They're shod with high-performance Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber (225/40).
The wider tracks, greater overall width, fat rubber, and pumped guards give the car an aggressive stance and tough look. Like a muscular terrier ready to chase down whatever you throw at it.
The headlights, taillights and front and rear fog lights are LED. And there's tricky aero everywhere, from spats in front of each tyre, to multiple underbody covers, and steps built into the inside of the rear bumper.
Weight has been carved off all around the car, but the highlights are a carbon roof, aluminium bonnet, doors and tailgate, and the body uses lots of lightweight, high-tensile steel.
Inside the sports front seats feature suede inserts and leather accents, there's a small-diameter, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and a short-throw gear shift and handbrake.
The dash is a neat, two-tier design, with the 7.0-inch media screen standing proud at the centre of the upper level. The top part is covered in a soft-touch layer, but the plastics used on the lower dash section and doors are unforgivingly hard.
A simple instrument binnacle houses a large speedo and tacho dials sitting either side of a 4.2-inch multi information display, offering an array of details including turbo pressure and gear-shift indicators.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
Toyota GR Yaris7/10
Not only does the GR have two fewer doors than the standard Yaris, as a strict four-seater, it also has one less seating position.
Although this car is focused on driver engagement, day-to-day practicality isn't forgotten with storage comprising elongated trays on the lower level of the two-tier dash, a modest glove box, a storage compartment/armrest between the front seats, front door bins with (500ml) bottle holders, and a pair of cupholders in the centre console.
The rear seats are nicely sculpted, but despite a marginally longer wheelbase, it's tight back there. Sitting behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm (6'0") driving position I was cramped for headspace and legroom. Great for a couple of pre-teen kids, but very much a short trips only proposition for grown-ups.
No fold-down centre armrest, cupholders or storage back there either, although outer armrests are recessed into the interior panels behind the B-pillars. Connectivity runs to a single USB-A socket and 12V outlet in the front.
Boot capacity with the 60/40-split fold rear seat up is 141 litres (VDA), which is tiny, but expands to a claimed 737 litres with it folded down. Enough, Toyota says, to load in four spare wheels/tyres for track days.
On the subject of spare tyres, don't bother looking for even a space saver as standard fit. An inflator/repair kit is your only option.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
Toyota GR Yaris8/10
First up, let's get the price on the table. At $49,500, before on-road costs, the GR Yaris is not a budget-focused shopping trolley. But you'll want to take the long way home on the grocery run.
At that around $50K mark an interesting range of cross-shopping options emerge. Audi's S1 ($50,400) is super cool and AWD, but gives ground on grunt at 170kW. The Mercedes-Benz A250 ($51,500) also looks sharp, but you have to pay $57,800 for the AWD '4Matic' version to match the GR's drivetrain.
Renault's Megane R.S. Cup Trophy ($53,490) is a three-pedal sporting thoroughbred, but it's FWD only. And then there's the VW Golf. Soon to be updated in eighth-generation guise, the current GTI manual ($47,190) undercuts the Yaris but is FWD only. Step up to the AWD Golf R and you have 213kW to play with, but cost-of-entry is $55,990.
So, the GR Yaris hits the Goldilocks zone on price and dynamic performance, but what about spec? Aside from the safety and driver-focused tech, as well as the exotic materials baked into the car's design, the standard equipment list includes, heated sports front seats with suede and leather accents, a small-diameter leather-trimmed and heated steering wheel, plus leather on the short-throw gear shift and (manual) handbrake.
There's also a 7.0-inch colour media touchscreen (including voice recognition) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and eight-speaker JBL audio (including digital radio and active noise control), satellite navigation, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control air, plus keyless entry and start. A 4.2-inch multi information display sits between the main dials in the instrument display.
Not a premium fit-out, but far from spartan, with the majority of those features enhancing the central focus on driving enjoyment.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
Toyota GR Yaris9/10
Under the GR Yaris' bonnet is an all-new (G16E-GTS), single-turbo, 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine, making 200kW at 6500rpm and 370Nm from 3000-4600rpm.
That's nearly 270hp from a 1.6-litre triple! And Toyota claims it's the world's most powerful, mass-produced, three-cylinder powerplant.
It features heaps of competition-focused elements, including multi oil-jet piston cooling, machined intake ports and large-diameter exhaust valves, as well as an aluminium oil cooler and high-capacity water pump.
The single-scroll turbo uses ball-bearing internals for rapid spool up, and the intercooler is a large crossflow type. The pistons are pent-roof for more efficient combustion (with minimal heat loss), while shot-peening of surfaces and a resin coating for the piston skirt are claimed to reduce friction and improve durability.
The battery sits under the boot floor (rather than in the engine bay), which leaves room for a high-volume (10.8-litre) air cleaner (with compound filter).
The mechanical, electronically-controlled system is built around a lightweight high-response coupling, and a rear diff featuring an integrated, electronically-controlled, multi-plate clutch.
It uses a slightly different gear ratio for each axle which delivers a theoretical torque split of up to 100 per cent to the front or rear wheels, with multiple pre-set modes available.
'Normal' is 60:40 front to rear. 'Sport' is 30:70 for your favourite B-road, and 'Track' is 50:50 for a quick, balanced circuit set-up.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
Toyota GR Yaris8/10
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.6L/100km, the GR Yaris emitting 172g/km of CO2 in the process
Stop-start.is standard, but you'll be heading for the priciest bowser because minimum fuel requirement is 98 RON premium unleaded. You'll need 50 litres of it to fill the tank.
With track time in mind, a 2.1-litre sub-tank is designed to ensure consistent fuel delivery, even with the fuel-warning light on and lateral forces reaching up to 1.2G during hard cornering.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
Toyota GR Yaris10/10
This is unlike any Yaris you've ever known. Tommi Mäkinen Racing partners with Toyota in the WRC, and had big input into this car's development, as did a bunch of pro racing drivers. And it definitely feels like a road-ified competition car.
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration is 5.2sec, although four-time Australian rally champion and long-time Toyota collaborator, Neil Bates, showed us data he'd been sent by an early-adopting Aussie customer, lowering that number to 4.7sec.
Similar times have been recorded independently overseas, and the car feels every bit that quick, surging forward with pure, linear, thrust.
Peak torque of 370Nm is a gigantic number for a 1280kg hatch, and it's available across a broad plateau from 3000-4600rpm.
The high-performance exhaust incorporates dual mufflers and circular sound baffles wrapped around its twin tailpipes. The result is typically guttural three-cylinder engine noise combined with a raucous, growly, exhaust note.
But beware, Toyota has played around with "engine sound enhancement" through the audio system, "integrated with throttle action and vehicle speed." Boo.
Aside from its rapid acceleration one of the strongest initial impressions behind the wheel of the GR Yaris is how well it rides.
he reason the Corolla's rear end was grafted onto the front of the Yaris to make this car's platform is that while the strut front suspension remains (albeit re-tuned with newly developed knuckles, stiffer bushes, and beefier struts), the rear swaps out the standard car's puny torsion bar set-up, for a wider track, trailing-arm, multi-link arrangement.
I was expecting harshness in line with the GR's performance focus, but not so. Aside from some rumble on coarse roads from the 225/40 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres, this powerhouse Yaris is surprisingly civilised. For mine, a great balance between ride quality and dynamic response is the hallmark of a thoroughly well-tuned suspension.
The sports front seat is a fantastic combination of location and comfort, the short-throw shift for the six-speed manual gearbox is sublime, while clutch weight and action are spot-on. Save the manuals!
There's a little button on the console to fire up a 'iMT' rev-matching function, but I preferred the old-school 'heel and toe' for braking and down-changing into corners, and the relationship of the pedals is made for it. Huge fun, and very satisfying.
Then there's the steering. The absolutely superb steering. It's electrically-assisted, yet road feel is brilliant, thanks in part to the column's tricky (mainly aluminium) construction, there's next to no shock feeding back through the wheel. A direct connection with the front treads, with no NVH penalty is mega-impressive.
And the brakes are professional grade, with 356mm x 28mm two-piece ventilated and grooved front discs clamped by four-piston alloy calipers, 297mm x 18mm vented rotors at the rear with two-piston calipers, and high friction pads all around.
Put it all together and you have a 'please don't let it end' hot-hatch experience. Set to Sport on the open road, the GR-Four AWD system quietly does its thing.
Irrespective of the selected mode, torque balance shifts in response to driver inputs (steering angle, throttle and brake) and vehicle behaviour (acceleration, yaw rate, etc), as well as surface conditions. It's amazing, and turns go-fast wannabes into neat and tidy heroes.
The GR Yaris puts its power down firmly, and grips hard, but at the limit, the system also co-operates with the stability and traction controls, and ABS to keep things on an even keel.
The car is balanced, communicative, and super responsive. You somehow sense, rather than consciously feel, the smart AWD system buttoning things down behind the scenes.
The brakes, complete with short-stroke pedal, are flawless, washing off speed powerfully but progressively, with zero fade, even after a solid hammering on closed road exercises during the launch program.
Scratching my head for something to pick on, the best I can come up with is the size of the interior rear-view mirror. It's big, and the windscreen's short, so sighting the apex in left-hand corners can be tricky. That's it.
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
Toyota GR Yaris8/10
Although the standard five-door Yaris scores a maximum five ANCAP stars for all variants, this completely different, low-volume beast won't be assessed, and can't claim the same status. But that's not to say it's lacking in active and passive safety tech.
The GR Yaris features Toyota's 'pre-collision safety system' incorporating autonomous emergency braking (AEB), able to detect pedestrians day and night, and cyclists during the day.
It also includes emergency steering assist and intersection assistance (able to detect oncoming cars when turning right, and pedestrians crossing the street, when turning right or left), as well as high-speed adaptive cruise control (above approximately 30km/h), lane trace assist, lane departure alert (with steering assistance), road-sign assist (speed signs only), auto high beam, blind spot monitoring, a head-up display, and a reversing camera (with guidelines).
If all that isn't enough to avoid an impact the GR Yaris features six airbags (front, front side, and curtain) as well as two top tether points and ISOFIX child restraint anchors in the rear.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
Toyota GR Yaris8/10
The GR Yaris is covered by Toyota's five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, the 'Toyota Warranty Advantage' program also covering the engine and driveline for seven years.
Capped-price servicing is available with scheduled maintenance intervals set at 12-months/15,000km, and $205 (each) for the first five services.