Before the sporty GRMN Yaris, Toyota had a rare 1.8-litre version we all loved

The Yaris has been part of the Toyota furniture since the late 90's and has gone on to become a staple food of the Japanese brand's diet.

Toyota has enjoyed considerable success from the Yaris range in terms of market share while raising its profile considerably alongside the popular bakkie and SUV segments locally.

Also called the Vitz in other countries, South Africa received the compact offering from the second-generation onward in both hatch and sedan trim level.

A jack in the box

Besides its subjective styling and design, it did the job of reliable transport in and around the city to a tee, and many people chose it as their daily mode of transport.

Do you own one of these rare Yaris models? Email us, we'd like to know about it.

Not until recently, with the introduction of the Gazoo Racing 156kW Yaris, has the it ever been considered as a performance option for the masses. Sadly, it never came here officially except for three models intended for media and marketing purposes, but it gave people an indication of what Toyota and its performance arm was now capable of.

But before the likes of GRMN, there was a special edition not many people heard of, or even seen for that matter, because of limited numbers.

While the base model Yaris was doing the rounds in monthly sale figures, there was something of a glorified pocket-rocket brewing in the pipeline.

WATCH | Toyota's new GR Yaris pocket-rocket sends a warning to the Golf R

Most second-generation models came in the 1.4-litre displacements but for those that liked the Yaris and craved a bit more speed, could opt for the punchier special edition TS or T Sport from 2007 onwards.

Toyota Yaris 1.8

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Under its bonnet was a 1.8-litre 2ZR-FE engine equipped with dual VVT-i camshaft technology, and power was rated at 97kW and 173Nm. Less than desirable figures on paper but put that power in a chassis weighing just over 1000kg and you have a hand-rubbing concoction of nippy performance.

Toyota previously used this power to weight combination in the Starlet, the Yaris' predecessor.

It also featured a number of exterior changes over the normal version like bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights, revised front and rear bumpers with reflectors as well as side skirts. The interior remained pretty much the same bar the analogue speedometer and sportier seating.

The start of greater things

According to Toyota, the key reference point for the development team was to create a refined sports hatch, compact in size with fun-to-drive qualities to appeal to younger buyers, but also with high equipment levels and comfort appropriate for both day-to-day driving and longer trips.

At the time, the Yaris was the best platform to build on and would serve as a profitable starting point on the performance front.

It was also at around this time brands like Volkswagen, Opel and Ford was also putting out new versions of the Golf/Polo GTI, Corsa/Astra OPC and Fiesta/Focus ST225 and pushing the boundaries of what a modern hot hatch should be.

toyota yaris t sport

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Toyota still had the RunX RSI in production at the time as its out-and-out performance hatch and the introduction of the T Sport served as an able deputy even if the numbers weren't exactly mind-blowing.

While it is unlikely that Toyota will ever use a big displacement engine again in one of its compact cars, Japanese manufacturers in general know how to make powerful small capacity engines.

Ever since the 80's, Japanese manufacturers have become adept at extracting good power from small capacity engines as seen in models like the game-changing Mazda RX-7 and most recently in the new Suzuki Swift Sport.

Finding one of these 1.8-litre gems is a tough task, and those who own them won't let them go. These days you'll be fortunate enough to catch sight of the limited edition Yaris.

Just like the Opel Superboss and TS models of yesteryear, this Yaris also goes down as a must-have.