When UMW Toyota Motor launched the Toyota GR Yaris on December 17, it gave us the 2021 price for a car that will be delivered this year. Then, we understood that the Penjana sales tax exemption given by the government for cars would expire at the end of 2020, and no changes were expected. With SST, the hot hatch is yours for RM299,000 on-the-road without insurance.

On December 29, the authorities at the last minute agreed to an extension of the sales tax rebate, asked for by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). This means that as of now, we’ll get sales tax exemption – 100% for CKD locally assembled cars and 50% for CBU imported ones – until June 30 this year. For most models, the 2021 price will be a carryover of the 2020 price, but the GR Yaris needs a new sticker.

Here it is. The hot hatch at the moment is now yours for RM286,896 on-the-road without insurance, with the 50% sales tax rebate. That’s over RM12k cheaper than the original RM299k price, which was already very attractive given the car’s price levels elsewhere (often higher than the Honda Civic Type R, and the equivalent of RM364k in Thailand). If you’re already set on one, untunglah. Add RM2k for the optional Vehicle Telematics System and RM800 for Platinum White Pearl and Emotional Red colours (Precious Black is the other ‘free’ colour).

Less than 130 units of the “made for WRC” hot hatch will be made available locally and our cars will have the top-of-the-line Performance Pack which, as the name suggests, adds a whole host of performance-enhancing goodies. Buyers will also receive an Early Bird Package that includes a helmet bag, a GR Yaris scale model and a GR Yaris Driving Experience that will happen this year.

Here’s a recap of why the GR Yaris is so unexpected and special. The European and Japanese Yaris (which has no relation to our ASEAN version) is five-door-only, so Toyota created the GR Yaris’ three-door body to be a better base point for its rally car. The bespoke body you see here is 45 mm lower than the regular Yaris, but the trailing edge of the roof is a whopping 95 mm lower, allowing for the fitment of a larger and more efficient rear wing on the WRC machine.

Those obviously swelled fender flares give the car a wide stance and add 60 mm in actual width. The huge lower grille has vertical air intakes on either side to cool the brakes. At the rear, there’s a large diffuser and twin exhaust pipes. The front splitter, bumper corner lips, mostly flat underfloor and rear spoiler help increase downforce, and reduce drag. All very purposeful.

Under the hood is an equally bespoke motor. The G16E-GTS 1.6 litre turbocharged three-cylinder is touted as both the largest and most powerful three-cylinder in production, as well as the smallest and lightest 1.6 litre turbo around. It comes with D-4S port and direct injection, as well as a single-scroll turbo integrated with the exhaust manifold.

Like Thailand, our market gets the European-spec engine that produces 261 PS at 6,500 rpm and 360 Nm of torque from 3,000 to 4,600 rpm – that’s 11 PS and 10 Nm down on the JDM car, but it still does 0-100 km/h in 5.5 seconds, with a six-speed manual gearbox (rev-matching function available). Top speed is electronically limited to 230 km/h.

To slow down, four-piston front stoppers clamp on 356 mm discs (bigger than the Supra’s), while the two-piston rear callipers are matched to 297 mm discs. The callipers are in red, and have GR badging.

The GR-Four all-wheel-drive system has been developed specifically for this car. Toyota’s first such system in 20 years ditches the heavy centre differential in favour of a multi-plate clutch in the rear differential to distribute torque to the front and rear wheels.

Choose from three different settings. In Normal mode, the car sends around 60% of drive to the front wheels and 40% to the rear, whereas Sport mode has a 30:70 split to add some RWD handling characteristics. Track mode dials it back to 50:50 for maximum performance. The system also comes with a rear-axle disconnect function that allows drivers to yank the (manual) handbrake to slide into a corner.

This AWD system is the reason why Toyota combined platforms for the GR Yaris. The front end retains the same GA-B underpinnings as the standard Yaris, but the rear end uses the C variant from the Corolla and C-HR instead. This allows the fitment of rear double wishbones, making space for the differential and half shafts.

The Performance Pack goodies include Torsen limited-slip differentials at the front and rear to shuffle torque from side to side, lightweight 18-inch BBS 10-spoke forged alloys and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, along with stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, retuned dampers and tweaked power steering settings. With all that hardware, the GR Yaris tips the scales at a decent 1,280 kg, helped by a standard CFRP roof and aluminium for the doors, tailgate and bonnet.

However, this is no stripped-out trackday hero, but a hot hatch will all the kit expected from a modern daily runner. Standard equipment includes LED headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights and taillights, keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone auto air con, a head-up display, front dashcam, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 7.0-inch touchscreen audio with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, reverse camera and six speakers.

Also on are sports seats with increased cushion padding and thinner backs, a three-spoke GR steering wheel and specially-positioned sports pedals.

There’s even the full Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assist features. Included are autonomous emergency braking with oncoming vehicle detection, daytime cyclist detection and nighttime pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist, lane keeping assist and automatic high beam. Six airbags and stability control, too.

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota GR Yaris

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota GR Yaris official images