Toyota Hints At Cheaper, Lighter "Baby FT-86," Is A Mid-Engine Hybrid Roadster Next?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
toyota hints at cheaper lighter baby ft 86 is a mid engine hybrid roadster next

With rumors coming in that Toyota is repositioning its planned FT-86 “Toyobaru” sports coupe to reflect higher price and higher buyer age targets, word around the enthusiast fring of the autoblogosphere has been downright apocalyptic. After all, the promised combination of a $20k base price, manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive were what launched the FT-86 to internet notoriety. But development overruns are a fact of life, and Toyota says it has no choice but to bump the FT-86’s projected price point to $23k base, $26k loaded-level. So while the FT-86 faces the bloat that comes with a more upmarket target, another sports coupe aimed at undercutting the FT-86’s prices by about $5k is already under development according to Road & Track.

According to RT’s source,

This car will measure about 150 in. overall length and come powered by the company’s 3SZ-VE engine, a 1.5-liter inline-4 that produces 109 bhp. It will feature a front-engine/rear drive layout.

Motor Trend adds that this new baby coupe is being developed as

a two-door version of the Gazoo Racing inspired rear-wheel drive GRMN (GRMN = Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring) hot hatch concept unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Our insider tells us that this concept, destined for a late 2012 debut, is based on the European-spec Aygo’s platform, but modified to rear drive… engineers are shaving as many pounds as possible off the new coupe, with an end goal of approximately 2200 pounds

That weight goal is nearly 500 lbs less than the Honda CR-Z (with manual transmission), highlighting the fact that Honda should probably have just built a sporty non-hybrid coupe on its Fit/Jazz platform. It’s also on target to match the predicted weight of the next-generation Mazda MX-5.

Interestingly, that (GRMN) concept was shown along with a Gazoo-tuned version of the FT-86 as well as one other concept, a mid-engined MR-2-based roadster with a 392 hp V6 hybrid drivetrain derived from the Highlander Hybrid. With news that the FT-86 is moving up in price, and a smaller Miata-fighting lightweight coupe is under development, one has to wonder if Toyota is moving hard to repair its enthusiast credentials and developing a three-car RWD sports line with the 100 hp coupe as an $18k entry, the $25k FT-86 as a mid-point, and a $35k-50k-ish hybrid roadster as the flagship (with the LF-A as a hyper-halo of sorts). Alternatively, Lexus doesn’t have a successor to its SC lined up yet.

Given all of Akio Toyoda’s talk of building cars with “splendid flavor” again, and the anti-enthusiast reputation Toyota has earned in recent years, this three-nameplate attack might just be the image overhaul the company needs. With the FT-86 planned for 2011, and the “Baby FT” scheduled for 2012-ish, there’s plenty of time for Toyota to develop a mid-engined hybrid flagship. If this all pans out, enthusiasts might just forgive Toyota for abandoning enthusiasts by offering nothing more sporty than the Celica over the last several years.

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  • L'avventura L'avventura on May 10, 2010

    On Gazoo's site (Gazoo being a subsidiary of Toyota) it says: "Then we narrowed the ideas down to this one - a 1,500,000 yen FR sports car. When I again asked the guys "do you want to drive that?", everyone delightedly nodded! That is how we decided to make it." So its more a 1.5million yen (~US$16k) FR car, which is far less then the $20k figure American blogs have been talking about. Also, Sam Mitani obviously took the rendering from Best Car (which he contributes to), and that magazine is saying the car will be 1.6 million. Based on the comments by the chief engineer (above link) it seems they plan on reviving a car in the spirit of the RWD KP61 Starlet, not a MX5.

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    • L'avventura L'avventura on May 10, 2010

      @mythicalprogrammer Based on comparative pricing of Japanese vehicle to their US counterparts, regardless of tariffs, they achieve some level of parity. For instance, the Prius starts at just over 2 million yen (2,050,000円) which is comparable in equipment to the base Prius in the US. In Japan, that Prius is $21,470, in the US $22,800. The reason is quite simple, the automotive market is incredibly competitive, they price it based on the competition, they don't price it based on exchange rates. Which is why relative exchange rates have such an impact on the bottom line of these companies. So, a 1.5 million yen RWD hothatch, I would expect to start at around $15~16k, its very unlikely it'll be $20k, especially since they seem to be using the Aygo as a basis. Let's also keep in mind that the Aygo isn't sold in the Japan, so the fact that they use it as a base is very intentional.

  • The engine is likely from a different family. Toyota's 1.5 liter engine in the Scion and Yaris are actually 2NZs. This engine is probably the one used in the shared Daihatsu Xenia platform... and it's interesting that the dunderheads at Toyota are finally figuring out that they might as well use it in something else. (I've complained that they should have used that engine and platform from the beginning). I've driven it... it's a good motor, with a strong midrange, typical of modern engines with electronically controlled ignition, and, surprisingly for a Toyota, a decent upper range, as well. That 109 may look measly on paper, but the original Miata had just over a hundred horses (not 120), and the European versions even less (90 or so... 70 at the wheels), so low power isn't a handicap here. It's likely that merely adjusting the engine programming and fitting better breathing on the engine will pump it up to 120-130 hp without incurring significant costs.