Toyota Yaris RS hot hatch
Toyota could join the hot hatchback ranks for the first time in more than a generation, if plans to support the firm’s newly announced rally campaign with a high-performance Toyota Yaris come to fruition.
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 front
“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.”
Any hot Yaris is likely to be based on the next generation of the car – so it won’t arrive until 2018 at the earliest. 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.
Development of the hotter Yaris could be conducted under the guise of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing sub-brand. 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.”
Citroen C3 WRC entry could also impact production car range
Toyota’s WRC rival Citroen is also considering how to harness its 2017 WRC programme with its newly launched C3. The company’s boss Linda Jackson said, “The WRC helps us to spread the brand. But the challenge I’ve given my guys is, ‘Okay, it’s great to create a lot of buzz. But how to we get that to spin directly to our dealers and our customers, with the C3?’ And we don’t have the answer yet.”
Jackson did promise, however, that any motorsport-influenced C3 would go further than the ill-regarded ‘C2 by Loeb’ editions of the early noughties, which were little more than branding exercises. “If you’re going to do something like that then you’ve got to be credible, and you can’t just do some go-faster stripes,” she said. “You’ve got to add some value to it. We’re working on it, but it’s a real challenge – and one faced by lots of manufacturers, not just us.”