Toyota has been testing an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission in the GR Yaris.
Japanese outlet Car Watch reports the automatic GR Yaris has been participating in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge.
Featuring a planetary gear seat, it’s reportedly been developed with a focus on running fast, with quick and comfortable shifts not coming at the expense of fuel economy.
“I’m told that it’s okay to break it. I’ve already broken it once,” said Shigeru Hayakawa, vice chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, who has been serving as the development driver for the new transmission and will race it in the 2022 season.
“GR Yaris is a sports car, sports car is a manual, but even automatic is quite competitive. Maybe automatic is better. I think I was able to show that there is a competitive part,” said Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda (translated).
There are paddle shifters but the development team’s goal was reportedly for the car to run faster when simply left in “D”.
As this is only a development vehicle at this stage, the shifter is a none-too-sporty one borrowed from the Toyota parts bin.
It stands to reason this transmission has been developed for more than just a rally challenge.
Toyota is planning to add a GR Corolla to its fledgling range of hot Gazoo Racing vehicles, after all, and it’ll be the first GR-badged hot hatch to be sold in the US plus the brand’s first hot hatch there in over 30 years.
While American enthusiasts love manuals as much as anyone – you can still buy a manual Volkswagen Golf GTI there, for example – the wider US market is about as manual-averse as Australia is, and an automatic could give the GR Corolla a broader appeal.
There are precious few hot hatches in this segment that don’t offer at least the option of an automatic transmission.
The Honda Civic Type R is famously manual-only, while the likes of the Ford Focus ST, Hyundai i30 N and Renault Megane R.S. Trophy offer a choice of manual or auto transmissions and the Volkswagen Golf GTI is auto-only in Australia.
The GR Corolla is expected to share its turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission with the GR Yaris, plus the pocket rocket’s sophisticated four-wheel drive system that can send up to 70 per cent of torque to the rear axle.
In the GR Yaris, the turbo three-pot pumps out 200kW of power and 370Nm of torque, but overseas reports have indicated the GR Corolla could eke out a further 20kW.
Even with only an extra 20kW over a GR Yaris and an unchanged torque figure, a GR Corolla would still stack up well in the small hot hatch segment.
A Golf GTI puts out 180kW and 370Nm, while an i30 N produces 206kW and 392Nm, a Megane RS Trophy 300 produces 221kW and 420Nm and a Focus ST 206kW and 420Nm.
The larger hot hatch is expected to debut in the second half of 2022, and Toyota USA has been rolling out teaser after teaser for the vehicle.
We’d be surprised if it didn’t come here given Toyota’s high-profile push of the Gazoo Racing sub-brand Down Under, which included sharp introductory offers for the GR Yaris.
MORE: Everything Toyota Yaris