TOYOTA has confirmed it is planning a high-performance version of its Yaris supermini – and the car could make its public debut within the next 12 months. As Auto Express revealed in Issue 1,443, the Japanese manufacturer intends to use its recently launched assault on the World Rally Championship to publicise its Gazoo Racing tuning division, with the goal of turning it into a performance sub-brand.
Now Toyota has issued the first teaser sketch of the car, “announcing its return to the hot hatch market”. It says it will “use experience gained from its full-blooded return to the WRC to develop and improve its road car technology and expand the Yaris range with a new performance-focused model”. The sketch reveals little of the car’s looks, beyond showing it’s likely to feature a small spoiler mounted at the rear edge of the roofline; our exclusive image gives away more. But Auto Express understands it will be based on the existing Yaris – albeit one with a very mild facelift – and that it will hit showrooms just before the end of 2017.
Engineers are said to be focused on delivering a ‘genuine hot hatch’, rather than a warmed-up regular Yaris in a bodykit. That means hybrid power is unlikely, but Gazoo Racing has previously experimented with Yaris concepts using a 180bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged engine. That sort of output, coupled with a six-speed gearbox and stiffer suspension, could give Gazoo the kind of accessible performance model it’s likely to need if it wants to become a global brand. The Ford Fiesta ST rival would be Toyota’s first performance hatch since 2004’s Corolla T-Sport. In October, Toyota Europe boss Johan van Zyl told us: “It’s no use doing motorsport if you can’t reflect it in your product.”