Those of you outside of Japan might be wondering – what is a Toyota Aqua? Launched in 2011, the first-generation model was sold outside its home market as a rebadged Prius c. Its replacement was unveiled last year as a small hatchback that rode on the same platform as the Yaris. It’s slightly longer than the Super Mini, and for 2023 it’s getting the GR Sport treatment.
Note that the previous generation Aqua was also tweaked by Gazoo Racing back in 2017. Being the entry-level GR Sport trim level rather than the midrange GR or flagship GRMN, the subcompact hatchbacks are shown without any extras. That said, there are some hardware changes as the electric power steering has been modified to sharpen handling. Also, the front and rear suspensions have been stiffened, but the latter retains the basic torsion beam setup instead of switching to a multi-link layout.
Gazoo Racing engineers added additional braking under the floor and reinforced the rear bumper for better stability when cornering at high speeds. Power+ mode gives the Aqua a more direct steering response to feel agile even though there’s no ridiculously powerful turbo three-pot engine under the hood.
The slightly more aggressive body is matched with exclusive 17-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza 205/45 R17 tires. Inside, the GR-branded front seats benefit from extra lateral support and are covered in a one-of-a-kind fabric combined with synthetic leather that is only offered on the GR Sport. Aluminum pedals, a three-spoke steering wheel, and dark accents round out the changes.
The Aqua GR Sport can only be had with front-wheel drive but other trim levels are available with AWD. Motivation is provided by a three-cylinder 1.5-liter gasoline engine good for a powerful 91 horsepower (67 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 120 Newton meters (89 pound-feet) of torque at 3,800 rpm. It’s safe to say you won’t be setting any lap records around Suzuka.
It is the sixth member of the GR Sport lineup in Japan where it joins the Aqua Coupe, Yaris, C-HR, Hilux, and Land Cruiser. Keeping with the global family, Toyota also sells the RAV4 and Corolla Cross in GR Sport flavour. There’s even a Fortuner GR Sport that functions as a body-on-frame SUV with rear-wheel drive.
Available only in Japan, the Toyota Aqua GR Sport retails for ¥2,595,000 (about $18,800 at current exchange rates).