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It’s been out of the hot hatchback game for more than a generation, but if plans come to fruition, Toyota could be back in the game very soon with an exciting car.
It’s been 17 years since Toyota last competed in the World Rally Championship (WRC), but that doesn’t seem to have fazed the Japanese car giant, which plans to enter a Yaris (shown above) into the event next year.
The most exciting part of all for hot hatch enthusiasts is that while WRC rules don’t state that a manufacturer has to produce a production version of their rally car, Toyota’s European President & CEO has said he wants more than just a marketing tie-up to acknowledge the firm’s return to the WRC.
Speaking exclusively to Autoexpress, Johan van Zyl said: “It’s no use doing motorsport if you can’t reflect it in your product. What you’ll see is that we want to totally integrate it into our offering. From the European side we would like to do something – to bring something to market that will reflect our participation in WRC.”
However, any hot Yaris will almost certainly be based on the next generation of the car, so we shouldn’t expect to see one arrive before 2018 at the very earliest.
Speculation is rife whether Toyota will choose to equip the road legal Yaris with a more powerful version of the car’s hybrid petrol-electric set-up or adapt the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that features in the C-HR crossover, which was put through its paces by Toyota engineers at the infamous Nürburgring earlier this year.
If Toyota decides to go with the latter option, we could potentially see a hot hatch with up to 180-horsepower – placing it in the same category as the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST.
Van Zyl also hinted that Toyota could develop the hotter Yaris under its Gazoo Racing sub-brand, which was recently launched in Europe at this year’s Paris Motor Show. A WRC-inspired Yaris could be a great way to give the Gazoo brand some exposure in newer regions.