Toyota Yaris hot hatch edging closer as new details emerge

Toyota Yaris hot hatch teaser

Toyota is set to make a comeback into the hot hatch segment for more than a generation with its new high-performance Yaris. As revealed by Auto Express in October, Toyota has kicked its hot hatch development up a gear, thanks in part to the newly announced rally campaign.

Toyota has reorganised its performance car engineering set-up, switching the man responsible for the GT86 sports car to its Gazoo Racing sub-brand as it prepares to ramp up development of the Yaris hot hatchback.

In a statement issued on 14 December, Toyota announced that from the 1 January 2017, its Motorsport Unit Development and Sports Vehicle Management Divisions will merge into a Toyota Gazoo Racing Development Division. The move, Toyota says, is designed “to speed up development of the mass-production of sporty vehicles, as well as to facilitate knowledge feedback from racing car component development to mass-production vehicles”.

Significantly, the release also states that top engineer Testuya Tada, who led the project to develop the ultra-agile rear-drive GT86 sports car, is moving from his existing position, general manager of the Sports Vehicle Management Division, to become chief engineer at the new Gazoo department.

The switch is likely to back up statements from Toyota insiders who say that the Yaris hot hatchback – teased with a sketch earlier this week and due in showrooms at the end of 2017 – will need to be a “genuine” performance car if the Gazoo sub-brand is to start to gain global credibility.

Previously a Japan-only motorsport enterprise, Gazoo was launched in Europe at the recent 2016 Paris Motor Show, and a WRC-influenced Yaris would be an ideal way of building its image in new regions. Indeed, the division has already experimented with the Yaris; it has prepared a couple of concepts over the past few years, and one of them featured a 180bhp turbocharged engine.

Van Zyl told us, “We want to create a global feel for motorsport and Gazoo stands for us wanting to learning from motorsport, and for developing excitement around cars. If you love cars, they shouldn’t just be for getting from A to B.”

Toyota Yaris RS hot hatch

All of this comes after a teaser image was shared by the brand on its official blog. It’s only a sketch, but it gives us an idea into how the model will look. It hints at several features, including an aero kit, bigger brakes and wheels or even a multi-coloured paint scheme. It’s not likely that a Toyota hot hatch would be so outlandish, but it does at least confirm that the car is on the way.

The Japanese manufacturer is using its Fiesta rival to re-enter the WRC in 2017, 17 years after it last competed in the series with the Corolla. Rallying’s rules don’t force manufacturers to make fast road cars that are linked to the competition vehicles – but Toyota’s European President & CEO has said he wants more than just a marketing tie-up to acknowledge the return to WRC.

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, Johan van Zyl said, “It’s no use doing motorsport if you can’t reflect it in your product. What you’ll see is that we want to totally integrate it into our offering. From the European side we would like to do something – to bring something to market that will reflect our participation in WRC.

Toyota Yaris RS hot hatch detail

“I am also being a car person so I like to see that the people can really experience the joy of that – especially those who are real enthusiasts,” he added. “Lots of people like to wear the same Nikes as the athletes, even though they can’t run as fast.”

The hot Yaris is likely to be based on the facelifted Yaris that’s coming next year – so it won’t arrive until late 2017, possibly making its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota could opt to power the faster edition with a more potent version of the Yaris hybrid’s petrol-electric set-up. But another option is the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol that features in the C-HR crossover raced by Toyota’s engineers at the Nurburgring earlier this year. That could produce up to 180bhp, giving the Yaris a motor to match the likes of the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST.

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