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Toyota hints at a hot version of its new baby Yaris

Toyota’s WRC team is looking handy for an upset in the current competition, which has two more rounds – Spain starting on October 27 and a Rally Australia final, centred around Coffs Harbour from November 17.

Yaris Hybrid. Photo Toyota

The Toyota Gazoo Racing squad is second in the manufacturer points, but still capable of toppling leader Hyundai, and has gained ascendance in the driver standings, through top hope Ott Tanak having won the last round, Great Britain.Toyota New Zealand is likely to pounce on opportunity to include a hot Yaris in its own GR plans.

It has previously indicated strong interest in an equivalent edition of the current car, the 1.8-litre GRMN, as start-out Gazoo choice, but that opportunity has never realised. Presently the sole car sold here that fully aligns with the Gazoo Racing motorsport arm is the Supra.Toyota Europe, which will again build the Yaris in France, is super keen on a racer. The operation’s executive vice president, Matt Harrison, was quoted overnight as saying the rally effort is creating a good connect with the road car range.

Harrison told England’s Autocar magazine: “This is the strategy of Gazoo Racing – not just the sports cars, like Supra, but to look at performance derivatives as well.

“We have some ideas about more aspiration opportunities for the car, but you’ll hear more in a couple of months… that’s more related to our desire to link Yaris to our success in motorsport.”While a sizzler Yaris will serve a good job of lifting the marque’s street presence, the weight of volume expectation will of course continue to fall on the mainstream versions that have performed strongly for TNZ.

Toyota is proposing this fourth generation of its most affordable passenger model can be seen as a wholly fresh start that delivers a step change in ride, handling and style, while debuting Toyota-first safety features including a centre airbag.

TNZ has not revealed launch timing, but the car goes into production in Japan early next year and Toyota Australia having already signalled it will take it from around June it as strong a sign as any about the local thinking.The car’s GA-B platform is a new version of the TNGA underpinning used by the Corolla, CH-R, Prius and RAV4, plus some Lexus models. The maker promises a 30 percent increase in body rigidity and a lower centre of gravity contribute to it becoming a more playful car.

The platform is 50mm wider, with a 60mm wider track, while the wheelbase has increased by 50mm to boost passenger space. Despite this, the model has actually reduced in length by 5mm. Toyota says it had to keep the car under four metres in length to ensure it maintained excellent in-town manoeuvrability and a best-in-class turning circle.

A 40mm reduction in overall height has been achieved without compromising headroom – in part because the seating has been lowered. The driving position has been improved, with a hip point 3.6cm lower than the old car and greater seat and wheel adjustment for a less upright seating point.

Photo: Toyota

The cabin features a minimalist dashboard and infotainment screen mounted within the driver’s eyeline, alongside ‘binocular-style’ instruments and an eight-inch touchscreen. It is in line to adopt the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity now set to become an update feature on some current Toyota models. It’s the first car in its class to feature a centrally mounted airbag system between the driver and passenger. A comprehensive suite of driver aids is standard.

It features a trio of three-cylinder engines though it looks likely the entry 1.0-litre will be restricted to Europe and Japan. Markets such as ours will focus on a 1.5-litre drivetrain in two formats, pure petrol or hybrid-electric. The latter has been developed specifically for this car.

In Europe that base 1.0-litre offers with a five-speed manual gearbox, whereas the 1.5 is to provision with a six-speed manual – which would suit the Gazoo car – or CVT automatic option (which probably wouldn’t). Past practice suggests NZ will only to take the CVT in the mainstream choices.

The hybrid mates the 1.5 to a 60kW, 140Nm electric motor and an air-cooled lithium ion battery. That battery is 27 per cent lighter than the nickel metal hydride pack it replaces, yet is capable of delivering more power at a faster rate than the old item.

In a briefing to European media, Toyota says the new powertrain is 15 per cent more powerful than before yet produces around 20 per cent less CO2. Power, torque and efficiency figures have yet to be released, however.

What has been confirmed is that the Yaris hybrid can switch to electric-only mode at speeds of up to 130kmh far higher than previously. The engine itself runs on the Atkinson cycle for greater efficiency, has variable valve timing, has a thermal efficiency figure of 40 per cent and runs at a diesel-like 14:1 compression ratio.

Further, Toyota claims it has diminished the ‘elastic band effect’ of CVT-equipped hybrids. It cites the engine having more power and torque being accessible more quickly from the electric side as making a big difference, as it suppresses engine revolutions and makes more use of EV power. According to a spokesman; “The way it drives is much more fun, more dynamically engaging.”

Source: Stuff NZ