This special GR Yaris is hiding a secret with big ramifications
The giant-slaying Toyota GR Yaris won the hearts of many enthusiasts that had the option of purchasing one. Unfortunately, the USA was completely snubbed of this entertaining little hot hatch. Globally, owners and reviewers have noted that it offers rally-inspired dynamic capabilities thanks to a grippy all-wheel-drive system while punchy performance is produced by a downsized 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo gasoline engine capable of big power, while a manual gearbox provides driver engagement. That's right, the GR Yaris is not available with an automatic. That's why this rally car, spotted at the first round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge held in Akitakata, Japan this past weekend, is so curious, as it features an eight-speed automatic gearbox that could find its way into the new US-bound GR Corolla hot hatch.
Car Watch reports that this car is a development vehicle for Toyota Gazoo Racing that tackled the competition as a means to gather data for the new drivetrain. With the addition of the automatic transmission, we see that the prototype GR Yaris sports a new bumper design with larger air intakes for improved airflow to two new oil coolers positioned at either side of the front end. Inside, a set of paddles behind the steering wheel still puts the driver in control.
Based on information sourced by the team that was running the prototype in the competition, this transmission is a variation of its existing torque converter but the planetary gear has been revised for faster shifts. The development team detailed that with the new transmission, which has not yet been officially confirmed for production, speed and fuel efficiency are of equal priority.
Based on that, we can assume that the main reason for the automatic option is so that the product can better adhere to the stringent emissions regulations in Europe. But it could serve another purpose. Toyota is already working on a new hot hatch in the form of the GR Corolla. Developed specifically with the US market in mind, it'll enter a segment that contains the likes of the Golf GTI and Hyundai Veloster N, both of which are available with dual-clutch automatic gearboxes to broaden their appeal. With rumors suggesting the GR Corolla will use the same 1.6-liter engine and AWD system as the GR Yaris, any automatic that fits the GR Yaris will surely fit the Corolla too. Previous rumors suggested that the GR Corolla would get an automatic gearbox, so this test mule seems to support those.
With a teaser campaign already well underway, it's just a matter of time before we find out for certain.