Toyota’s hardcore GR division could soon offer an automatic transmission choice for customers in the market for a GR Yaris or GR Corolla.

    Toyota GR Corolla chief engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto told CarExpert the brand is working on an automatic transmission option for buyers right now.

    “It’s possible. We are testing an automatic transmission in the GR Yaris in the Japanese rally team,” Sakamoto-san said.

    “We have joined the rally series with a GR Yaris with automatic transmission, and with each rally if we find some issues, we improve it. Such kind of activity is the central idea of the GR company – always from motorsports development.”

    The GR Corolla chief engineer – who has just been nominated for World Car Person of the Year – agreed that in markets like Australia where automatic transmissions are believed to account for more than 90 percent of vehicle sales, having an auto option for buyers is a vital consideration.

    “If the automatic transmission is good enough for the GR models, it can be applied to the GR Yaris, GR Corolla or other GR models. It’s possible,” he said. But he went on to say that it can’t just be a gearbox that does the job for the driver, and that it needs to be fit for purpose.

    “The automatic transmission needs to be good enough for the sports car, not just easy driving. That is a minimum requirement for the GR model. So if we can’t achieve that, maybe we have to give up! I’m not sure!” he laughed.

    “Our boss wants us to develop something, so we need to complete that.”

    Sakamoto-san said the vehicle currently under development in the rally team is a ‘regular’ torque-converter automatic with eight gears, rather than a dual-clutch auto or CVT.

    “In the test vehicle it is a ‘normal’ automatic transmission, but with changed gear ratios – we modified it. We are developing it, so each time we modify something to improve it. Each time we may change something, nothing is fixed. We are studying what kind of gear ratio is good, how many gear steps are good.”

    He further explained that the GR-Four all-wheel drive system in the GR Yaris and GR Corolla will not be affected by the adoption of an automatic transmission.

    “Basically it should not affect that – the transfer coupling is just [behind] the transmission, so the transmission itself doesn’t affect the all-wheel drive system,” he said.

    Toyota Australia product public relations spokesman Sam Dabestani told CarExpert that it’s a process of trying to refine the offering to make sure the auto version will meet the requirements of the GR team and customers alike.

    “It’s a development process – they’re testing out concepts with motorsports, taking the learnings from that, and if it’s suitable, if it’s high-performance enough to be applicable to a sports car like this, if it makes the grade basically, it makes the grade,” he said.

    “But if it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board, and that’s what they’re in the process of right now,” said Mr Dabestani.

    The Toyota GR Corolla and Toyota GR Yaris models both use a 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, paired exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox and Toyota’s GR-Four all-wheel drive system.

    Rival hot hatches from Volkswagen (the front-wheel drive Polo GTI and Golf GTI, and the all-wheel drive Golf R) use dual-clutch automatic transmissions as standard in Australia.

    The outgoing Renault Megane R.S., a front-wheel drive hot hatch that is soon to finish its run here and globally, came with the choice of manual or DCT automatic. And the Honda Civic Type R, also front-wheel drive-only, is only available with a six-speed manual.

    The Hyundai i20 N comes only with a six-speed manual, but the bigger i30 N range is offered with six-speed manual or dual-clutch eight-speed auto. The latter transmission choice arrived on stream approximately two years after the manual model launched.

    MORE: Everything Toyota Yaris
    MORE: Everything Toyota Corolla

    Matt Campbell
    Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
    Buy and Lease
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers