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Toyota Yaris WRC points to performance car future

Toyota Yaris Gazoo WRC

Toyota has revealed the car that will help it break its 17-year absence from the World Rally Championship, with the Japanese brand today unveiling the Yaris-based rally rocket that will stalk global stages from 2017.

And in exciting news for fans of hot hatches, Toyota has already confirmed the all-new rally car will spawn a genuine high-performance road car, heavily tipped to be named the Yaris Gazoo, with the Japanese giant rumoured to be tapping into the nomenclature of its official motorsport division to create a new road-going performance sub-brand.

The Yaris rally car will be piloted by Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen, both of whom will be tasked with taming the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine's 279kW and 425Nm. That power will be fed through a six-speed hydraulic gearbox and sent to all four wheels with the help of two mechanical differentials and a third active differential that can split torque between wheels as required.

While Toyota is yet to confirm the 0-100km/h sprint time (salaciously declaring it "classified" information), it has published a 201km/h top speed for its rally-spec Yaris.

Global Toyota president, Akio Toyoda, praised the return to the world's biggest rally stage, saying the competition would help shape future road-based product.

The Yaris WRC will have a direct impact on expanding the Yaris line up, with a performance oriented version.

"Because they involve competition on all types of roads, rallies are the optimal stage on which to hone the capabilities of both people and cars," he said. "Toyota has not been seen on that stage for a long time, but I'm truly happy that we're back."

But if gravel-spitting rally cars aren't your thing, there's good news out of Toyota Europe, with a teaser sketch of a new performance-flavoured Yaris road car released overnight with a caption that simply read: "The Yaris WRC will have a direct impact on expanding the Yaris line up, with a performance oriented version."

While details on the Fiesta ST-bothering hot hatch are thin on the ground, we can make some educated guesses. For a start, expect a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, good for around 150kW and 270Nm, and for the performance-focused Yaris to be offered in three-door form only.

  • Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC
  • Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC
  • Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC
  • Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC
  • Toyota Yaris WRC Toyota Yaris WRC

And it could be arriving sooner than we were expecting: while the next-gen Yaris isn't due until 2018, the rendering released overnight appears to show a current-model car dressed in a body kit and a colour scheme to match that of the rally car.

While Toyota Australia has ruled out selling the Yaris 'Gazoo' here, the brand is eager to introduce more performance models Down Under, and told CarsGuide it would be keeping an eye on any future product spawned from the brand's return to world rallying.

"It's exciting that the performance-focused Yaris is the first production-based offshoot of our return to WRC," said Toyota's local PR Manager, Stephen Coughlan.

"While we'd love to have a hot hatch in our local lineup at some future point, we have no plans to introduce this product in the foreseeable future.

Any future performance product could arrive wearing Gazoo badging, with Toyota globally understood to be considering dumping the traditional 'TRD' name.

"But we will eagerly be watching to see how it's received, and will of course consider any future opportunities on a case-by-case basis."

Any future performance product could arrive wearing Gazoo badging, with Toyota globally understood to be considering dumping the traditional 'TRD' name to better align with its existing motorsport brand.

"The Gazoo brand is the overarching moniker under which Toyota's motorsport activities sit, including the World Endurance Championship, WRC and our one-make series in Japan," Mr Coughlan said.

"We're certainly putting consideration into how that branding might work within our local market."

How do you feel about performance Toyotas called Gazoo? Tell us what you think in the comments below.