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Toyota Yaris gets hotter

By raccars Published

Yaris

Toyota Yaris hot hatch could be first road model to get Gazoo racing badge, reflecting WRC links.

Toyota is preparing to re-enter the hot hatch market with a new Yaris variant as its sports car and WRC divisions merge in a bid ‘to speed up' the development of its road-going sports models. Toyota has kicked its development of its hot hatch plans into gear, partly as a result of its recently-announced rally campaign, and is now reshuffling its performance engineering operations.

New year, new department

Toyota issued a statement on December 14, saying that its Sports Vehicle Management Divisions and Motorsport Unit Development will become the Gazoo Racing Development Division from January 1, 2017. The brand hopes that this will hasten the development of mass-production sporty vehicles and allow for knowledge to be shared between the development of racing car components and the mass-production vehicle operations.

The release also announced that Tetsuya Tada, the engineer who led the development of the GT86 sports car, will no longer be the Sports Vehicle Management Division’s general manager. Instead, he will be chief engineer for the new Gazoo team. This move indicates that the new Yaris hot hatchback, which has just been teased by a released sketch and should go on sale at the end of next year, will be a serious performance car in order to build worldwide credibility for the Toyota Gazoo sub-brand.

Gazoo was previously a motorsport enterprise, with operations limited to Japan but it launched in Europe at this year’s Paris motor show. Toyota believes that the new WRC-influenced Yaris, will help to build the brand’s image in new markets.

A couple of Yaris concepts have been prepared in the last few years, with one featuring a turbocharged engine capable of delivering 180bhp. The latest sketch, which was shared on the brand's official blog, indicates that at last a production car is on its way.

Toyota in the WRC

After 17 years out of the series, the Japanese manufacturer will be back in the WRC next year with its Fiesta rival. There is no requirement for the creation of performance road cars linked to its competition vehicles but the Toyota CEO and European President, Johan van Zyl, said that he wanted more than a simple marketing tie-up as an acknowledgment of Toyota’s return to WRC.

Van Zyl said there was no point being involved in motorsport is this wasn’t reflected in the brand’s product. This is why Toyota intends to ‘totally integrate’ its racing aspirations in order to offer products linked to its WRC participation.

Zyl has said that he is ‘a car person’ and likes to see enthusiasts enjoying driving high performance cars that reflect the WRC competition, adding that it is similar to the way in which people want to wear Nike trainers as worn by their athletic idols. even though they clearly cannot run as fast.

Motor show debut

The hot Yaris looks set to be derived from the face-lifted Yaris which will arrive next year and it could make its debut at next year’s Tokyo Motor Show, which starts on October 27. It may feature a more powerful variant of the hybrid electric and petrol set-up found in the Yaris.

Another option is that it will have the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol unit found in the brand’s C-HR crossover, which Toyota engineers raced at Germany’s Nürburgring earlier in the year. This could deliver 180bhp and make the hot Yaris a serious rival to cars such as the Fiesta ST and the Polo GTi.

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