Race on Sunday, sell on Monday, that’s the old adage. Toyota has been racing the Vios in a celebrity-powered nationwide one-make race for three seasons now (fourth one confirmed for 2021), but UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) did not have a sports version of the B-segment sedan in showrooms.

Until now. Say hello to the Toyota Vios GR-S, which gives most of us without the budget for a full Gazoo Racing product (should I sell the house for the GR Yaris?) a taste of GR, and some badges to go along with it, of course. Based on the latest facelifted 2021 Toyota Vios, the GR-S is a locally-engineered model and the first one to wear the GR Sport badge in our market.

“This is a very special model for several reasons: it was developed locally, it was inspired by the success of the Vios Challenge, and above all it had to meet with all the criteria of what the GR brand represents before becoming truly worthy of being bestowed with a GR badge,” said UMWT deputy chairman and Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s chief motorsport officer Akio Takeyama, who himself races in the Vios one-make series.

The Vios GR-S is more than just the usual bodykitted variant. The headlining feature is the “10-speed CVT” – Toyota has programmed the stepless automatic gearbox to have 10 virtual ratios in its manual mode. That’s three speeds more than the seven in the regular car. You can shift using the steering paddle shifters. Toyota says that the 10-speed configuration improves response by keeping the 1.5L NR Dual VVT-i engine (unchanged, 107 PS/140 Nm) in a higher RPM range.

There’s more. The GR Sport comes with sports-tuned suspension “for both increased handling and confidence in high speed as well as comfort”. It rides on 17-inch black multi-spoke wheels with 205/45 tyres, the largest ever fitted to a Vios from the factory. Previous sporty Vios variants that went beyond an aerokit included the 2017 Vios Sports Edition and the TRD Sportivo with optional sports suspension from the “Dugong” generation.

To match the sportier drive is a significantly more aggressive exterior. The Vios facelift has been given an aerokit that’s fronted by a bumper that’s “reminiscent of the GR Yaris” (mouth gets honeycomb mesh instead of horizontal slats), a rear bumper fitted with an integrated diffuser, a black boot spoiler, side skirts (with small “10-speed” logos) and black side mirrors/door handles. A GR boot badge, too.

Inside, the Vios GR-S comes with sports seats in a leather and suede combo, with red stitching. The front chairs also sport GR logos on the head rests. There’s also leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, and the GR logo is repeated on the floor carpets and push start button. Another sporty touch is the red Optitron meter panel with red needles (blue-white theme in the other variants), and GR animation on the 4.2-inch multi-info display. As for the rest of the kit list, the GR Sport follows the 1.5G.

We end with comments from GR ambassador and two-time Vios Challenge champion Tengku Djan Ley. “It is a shadow of the actual Vios Challenge race car. It’s a refined version of the race car. The Vios GR-S is not just about outright performance or purely handling, but more importantly, it is a car that is able to deliver great driving enjoyment and pleasure,” the Prince of Drift said.

“It’s a car with a lot of character, it’s a lot more engaging, and has better steering feedback. The availability of a 10-speed CVT transmission may sound too much, but for a 1.5 litre, it allows the car to be driven at the optimum power band and keeps it spirited throughout the RPM,” he added.

Available in Platinum White Pearl and Red Mica Metallic, the Toyota Vios GR-S is priced at RM95,294 on-the-road without insurance, without the sales and services tax (SST). It’s available exclusively at GR Garage outlets and Toyota dealers participating in the Vios Challenge. What do you think of this warmed-up Vios? Proceed to the regular version if it’s too much.

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota Vios GR-S

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota Vios GR-S official images