THE Toyota GR Yaris has fought off challenges from Land Rover's Defender, the Ford Puma and Volkswagen's electric ID.3 to claim the title of UK Car of the Year for 2021.
Bucking the trend of EVs taking top spot - the previous two UK COTY winners were the Tesla Model 3 and the Jaguar I-PACE - the GR Yaris has a rally-bred petrol engine.
Itwas heralded as the Best Performance car when the 12 category winners were announced. After those results, it went head-to-head with the other 11 finalists for the overall honour.
The honour for the GR variant comes soon after Toyota landed another top award when the mainstrem Yaris was named the 2021 European Car of the Year.
"The GR exudes the same sort of emotions found in the original breed of hot hatches, with a modern-day twist thanks to advances in automotive technology. The most fun I've had behind the wheel of a car for many years," said John Challen, director of the UK Car of the Year Awards.
"Such was the strength in depth of the 12 cars in the overall category, that with just four votes remaining, five cars were still in the running," he added. "This fact shows that vehicle manufacturers are creating truly impressive, desirable and focussed products for their customers."
Agustin Martin, president and managing director, Toyota GB, said: "Our sincere thanks go to the UK Car of the Year judges for giving this prestigious award to GR Yaris. This unique car perfectly expresses Toyota's focus on the pure joys of driving and how we are drawing directly on our motorsport activities to create ever-better cars for the road.
"The unprecedented reception for GR Yaris - and for the all-new Yaris range more widely - is transforming the perception of our brand as a maker of desirable cars that are genuinely fun to drive."
The GR Yaris dominated its category and won the votes of many members of the 29-strong UK Car of the Year Awards jury in the final round.
"Raw, aggressive, rapid - the Yaris GR is the hot hatch done properly. Get these thrills while you can," said fellow UK Car of the Year Awards director, Alisdair Suttie.
Launched in 2014, the UK Car of the Year Awards are judged by 29 of Britain's leading motoring journalists.
In 2021, each judge used their expertise to pick out the top performer in nine vehicle categories, before deciding the overall winner from their favourites in each class.
Best City Car - Honda e
Best Supermini - Toyota Yaris
Best Small Hatch - Volkswagen ID.3
Best Family - Skoda Octavia
Best Luxury - Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Best Estate - Skoda Octavia Estate
Best Small Crossover - Ford Puma
Best Medium Crossover - Ford Kuga
Best Large Crossover - Land Rover Defender
Best Coupe - BMW 4 Series
Best Open Top - Lexus LC Convertible
Best Performance - Toyota GR Yaris
2014 - BMW i3
2015 - BMW i8
2016 - Mazda MX-5
2017 - Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2018 - Volvo XC60
2019 - Jaguar I-PACE
2020 - Tesla Model 3