By on December 13, 2016

Toyota Yaris Gazoo WRC

As it prepares to return to the World Rally Championship after a 17-year absence, Toyota and its Gazoo racing division just revealed a piece of brain candy for hot hatch lovers.

Making sky-high horsepower from its diminutive four-cylinder, the Toyota Yaris WRC hits the pavement — and dirt and snow — in Monte Carlo next month, but the vehicle itself could spell a less buttoned-down future for the brand.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC has tapped a team of Japanese, German and Finnish drivers to pilot the unit’s new rally monster. Microsoft is on board as a technology partner. Developed in accordance with Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) guidelines, the four-wheel-drive Yaris WRC can’t reveal its acceleration figures, but its power output isn’t a secret.

The WRC’s turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four makes over 375 horsepower and 314 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a six-speed hydraulic shift transmission. That tops the Ford Focus RS by at least 25 hp.

“The new [FIA] regulations allow for much greater freedom in terms of development,” said Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing, in a statement. “Although we have yet to explore all the possibilities, we can say that the car is reliable and quick. I really can’t wait to see the results in racing conditions.”

Having a high-performing race car is great fodder for an automaker’s PR and engineering teams, but what does it do for your average car buyer? For Toyota customers, the answer is: whatever the automaker feels brave enough to do.

Long associated with staid but reliable transportation, Toyota could use a hot hatch. Okay, perhaps 375 hp driving all four wheels is too much to ask out of a production subcompact, especially one from Toyota. Still, the automaker’s return to the rally circuit could bear showroom fruit.

Toyota Gazoo Racing chief Koei Saga has said he’d like to use Gazoo as a performance brand for Toyota vehicles, claiming “I am very much working on that so we can have a brand like the [BMW] M brand.” No one would argue that the Yaris or Corolla iM couldn’t be improved by herding a few extra ponies under the hood.

With the passenger car market shrinking, giving buyers something to get excited about isn’t a bad thing. Toyota should let its hair down.

[Image: Toyota Gazoo Racing]

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20 Comments on “Toyota Reveals the Yaris WRC; Hot Hatch Lovers Dream of What Could Be...”

  • avatar

    What Toyota should REALLY do is a) axe its’ Yaris, and b) do a hatchback version of the Yaris iA instead. The iA is a damn fine little car. Their “homegrown” Yaris is just a big ball of fail.

    And then they should reverse-engineer the thing to figure out Mazda’s secret sauce for making entertaining small cars. Toyota’s mojo in that segment dried up when Bill Clinton was still president.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I think Toyota is perfectly capable of building cars the way Mazda does, but why bother? It’s not like Mazdas are particularly popular, and at the end of the day, Toyota can evidently just slap one of its badges on a genuine Mazda anyway. That’s no excuse for the current Yaris, which excels at nothing other than being the ultimate penalty box, but it’s why some of Toyotas other cars take a more safe, boring philosophy.

      I will say the same thing about Mazda that I’ve said about Tesla. If other automakers wanted to replicate Mazda’a magic, they would; they’ve just decided not to. I will say that Ford’s mainstream models give you most of the Mazda magic with considerably more comfort, customer support and configurability.

      • 0 avatar

        Just read any owner review anywhere, they love their crappy little Yaris.

      • 0 avatar

        Kyree, I see your point, and in the short term, it makes sense, but in the longer term, I think Toyota is losing the plot when it comes to the compact and subcompact segments.

        The ONLY reasons Corollas and Yarises are selling? A) Toyota’s reputation, and B) pricing and hyper-aggressive leasing and finance deals. Having just bought a compact car myself, I can say with absolute certainty that anyone who actually drives any car that competes with the Corolla or Yaris will, at a bare minimum, give serious consideration to those other cars.

        It’s not like the difference in quality and reliability is that pronounced anymore. Using the school analogy, 30 years ago, Toyotas were straight A students and pretty much everyone else was a flunkout. That’s not true anymore.

        And you might well say, “who cares – Corollas are selling.” There’s some logic to that. But it’s the same logic GM used 35 years ago. We all know how that ended up for them.

        There’s no getting around it – Toyota product is getting stale in the compact and midsize segments. And consumers aren’t stupid forever – eventually they’ll figure out that they can get probably 85% of the reliability of a Toyota in a car that looks, feels and drives far better. In fact, you already can – in a Civic, which is selling quite well too, and could well overtake Corolla sales this year.

        Worth noting: the Yaris iA also outsells the “homegrown” Yaris by a margin of over two to one.

        And, yes, this segment is stagnant – for now, anyway. Who knows about five years from now? Maybe some Mazda style fun in their lineup wouldn’t hurt. Toyota built its’ business in this segment, and I think it ignores it at its’s own peril. Just sayin’.

        • 0 avatar

          “The ONLY reason Corollas and Yarises are selling is simple: it’s a) Toyota’s reputation, and b) pricing and hyper-aggressive leasing and finance deals”

          They’re also efficient, comfortable and have a very low total cost of ownership. That might have something to do with it.

          Toyota’s reputation is well-earned: they spent decades not pissing customers off. You’d think this was easy, but it’s something that, for example, Volkswagen still can’t get right.

          • 0 avatar

            Didn’t say the reputation for quality/durability wasn’t earned, psarhjinian. It certainly was. That’s why the Corolla has the residual values needed for Toyota to offer giveaway leases on them.

            Problem is, almost all of the Corolla’s competition can offer the lion’s share of its’ actual quality and durability, plus far better styling, handling and performance. This ain’t 1985 – it’s not like your three choices are a) Corolla, b) Civic, or c) a unreliable piece of garbage. Even the worst compact you can buy (say, a Mitsu Lancer or Dodge Dart) is a perfectly acceptable and reliable daily driver.

            I’m thinking this will eventually catch up to the Corolla if Toyota doesn’t add some driving sizzle, refinement and style to the model. Or maybe not…

  • avatar

    It’s a cold day in Hell* when people at SRT are casting sideways glances at Toy-effing-ota and feeling pangs of jealousy.

    Sergio, save us! We need a small car to play with!

    At least the Ram Rebel TRX concept could eat this for dinner. It’s neither small, nor a car, but it is bad ass. It’s like BTSR’s spirit animal, if spirit animals were cars and if BTSR had a soul.

    *The current temperature in Hell, MI is 25 °F (but it allegedly feels like 21 °F.)

  • avatar

    It’s good to see Toyota return to WRC – Carlos Sainz (El Matador!) won the 1990 and 1992 titles driving for Toyota.

  • avatar

    What I love about the idea of a WRC boy racer car is that you get performance without any reduction in durability.

    I have a friend with a Fiesta St – he drives on crappy roads and drives aggressively and has taken the car on some rally races, his struts were blown out after 35k miles. He threw on the Bilstein struts with custom springs for taller ride height and his car is supremely well suspended – he can take lyft fares, go off road, and get around snowy / muddy fields very, very well with good tires.

    As nice as ‘race cars for the street’ are, they can fall short in daily life. Low ride heights suck when you’re driving in a suburban mall parking lots and parking ramps downtown with speed bumps and ramps. Really tight suspension that crashes over potholes is unfavorable. Brakes that only work after they warm up can be unforgiving, and less-than-tractable motors are less than desirable when you’re trying to keep up a zippy pace with limited traction.

    There are few things I’d open my checkbook for, an a fast, factory rally Toyota is one of them.

    • 0 avatar

      A modern Fiesta even modified is a Cadillac compared to the Elva Courier I had. Lowered, stiffly sprung on top of the normal uncomfortable features of a bare bones British roadster. Still it was fun car and glad I had the chance.

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