Toyota GR-S Vios First Drive

Aesthetic improvements rarely make a huge difference when it comes to performance, but when Toyota introduces a new variant, it’s usually something special. The new top-of-the-line offering in the Vios lineup isn’t just a pretty variant, it is loaded with features that make the driving experience special. 

What can we say? It’s aggressively styled, and we do see the GR spirit in the exterior design of the GR-S Vios. The design certainly takes cues from the GR Yaris. Toyota added to the front bumper, the rear bumper, and the side skirts. Toyota made a big deal out of the badging of the GR-S, and we’re pretty impressed at the added details. One such peculiarity in its bodywork is the 10-speed badge on the side skirts. The Vios doesn’t come with an automatic or Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), but it has 10 programmed gear ratios baked into the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), but more on that later. 

It looks good. We thought that facelift looked great, but this just extends the Vios’ already attractive design. We’re particularly fond of the red unit that we were given the chance to drive, however, Pearl White is also a favorite of ours at the office. The GR-S is only available in three colors: red, white, and black, all of which are the brand’s GR colors. 

If there is one thing we’re not a hundred percent loving, it’s the wheels. The flower pattern isn’t the greatest in terms of design. It is blacked-out and glossed up, and in-theme with the rest of the car. We’re just not sure about the design of it, but we’re sure that some people will be able to warm up to the set over time or as soon as they see it in person. 

We were thoroughly impressed by interior additions to the GR-S. It’s the only model in the lineup with a leather interior. While that was good enough to catch our attention, what really tickled our fancy was the fact that Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) was able to equip its subcompact sedan with a special pair of semi-bucket seats which further enhance the sporting character that the Japanese brand wants to emphasize with the GR-S. 

Suede in the middle, leather on the outside, and a GR logo embroidered in the headrest, these thrones are sure to attract Toyota GR fans in the Philippines. You also get red accent stitching that can be found all throughout the upholstery. The door cards, shift knob, and steering wheel were all given a pop of color. 

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S interior Gauge Cluster

While Toyota covered the body kit and the seats in great detail, we feel that the tech package of the GR-S is actually one of the biggest highlights of this variant. Starting out with the gauge cluster, instead of the old calculator display, you now get an LCD screen that reminds us of the Toyota 86’s. On top of that, the cluster gets red accents instead of the more traditional blue of normal variants. Glad to see that the black and red theme is being kept. 

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S infotainment system

The infotainment system also comes fully equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB, AUX, and Bluetooth connectivity, which makes it a thoroughly modern system. We wished that the screen was much bigger, but the current dashboard molding of the Vios doesn’t allow for much larger display size. Still, the unit is serviceable and it also comes with a reverse camera, a luxury that was nowhere to be found on the Vios prior to the facelift back in 2020. 

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S 1.5-liter engine

All that sporty styling must equate to a better driving experience, right? You would be forgiven for thinking that, but it’s a bit of a placebo. Toyota added 4 more simulated gear ratios to the CVT, making the car seem like it’s more eager to stay in its powerband. There is no bump in power and torque; you still get the same 105 hp and 140 Nm of torque from the 1.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine. 

Handling is still like before. The Vios is pretty good, still, but if you’re buying the GR-S because of performance enhancements, the biggest change will be the transmission tweaks. The tires are Bridgestone Turanzas, which results in a quieter ride in the city. 

2021 Toyota Vios GR-S Push-Start Button

Starting at just P1,020,000, the Vios GR-S is a pretty easy recommendation to make. For just a bit over the 7-digit mark, you’re getting Toyota’s best-ever subcompact sedan. For a little more, you can get it in white. We’re actually fans of the price tag because of the value the GR-S presents as a sporty-looking, top-of-the-line model in the lineup.

Right off the bat, the Honda City RS springs to mind if we were to pick a comparable model. The black and red color palette makes the rivalry between the two a lot hotter. The Vios is a home-grown hero, while the Honda is made in Thailand. The GR-S variant actually closes the gap a bit with the Honda City RS, and the price is absolutely spot-on, undercutting the Honda by P38,000 RS vs the GR-S. 



1.5 L

Fuel Type



105 hp @ 6,000 rpm




Name Toyota Vios 1.5 GR-S CVT
Body Type Sedan
Price ₱1,055,000
Transmission Category CVT



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