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Toyota Yaris GRMN hot hatch makes 2017 Geneva show debut

Supercharger power and limited-slip differential for new Ford Fiesta ST rival

The Toyota Yaris GRMN hot hatchback has made its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show - where further technical details on the Fiesta ST rival have been revealed.

Called the Yaris GRMN (standing for GAZOO Racing Masters of Nurburgring), the new model is Toyota’s first hot hatchback for more than a decade. The company has confirmed that its 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine will have more than 205bhp, and that it will be the only car in its class to use a supercharger instead of a turbocharger.

Like its rivals, the Fiesta ST and Peugeot’s 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport, the Yaris GRMN (plans for which were first revealed by Auto Express last October) will be front-wheel drive. And as with the 208, the Yaris will employ a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential to help put down its power and aid turn-in through corners. Further chassis mods over the regular Yaris hatchback will include a thicker front anti-roll bar, shorter springs and bespoke shock absorbers that have been developed in conjunction with Sachs.

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Toyota sources say the Yaris GRMN will complete the 0-62mph sprint in around six seconds; that would be slightly quicker than Ford’s newly revealed three-cylinder Fiesta ST.

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The Yaris GRMN will be offered in three-door form only. It gets 17in BBS multi-spoke alloy wheels and a black rear spoiler mounted at the top end of its rear hatch. The cabin will feature sports seats and the same leather-clad steering wheel as the Toyota GT 86.

No on-sale date has been given, but we’d expect early UK buyers of the Yaris GRMN to get their cars before the end of this year. Toyota GB is likely to be limited on production numbers, and the price should reflect that, with a starting figure north of £20,000.

GT 86 project leader takes control of Yaris GRMN project

Toyota has reorganised its performance car engineering set-up in preparation for the hot Yaris, switching the man responsible for the GT 86 sports car to its GAZOO Racing sub-brand, which will oversee development.

In a statement issued on 14 December, Toyota announced that its Motorsport Unit Development and Sports Vehicle Management Divisions would merge into a Toyota GAZOO Racing Development Division. The move, Toyota says, is designed “to speed up development of the mass-production of sporty vehicles, as well as to facilitate knowledge feedback from racing car component development to mass-production vehicles”.

Significantly, Tetsuya Tada, who led the project to develop the ultra-agile rear-drive GT 86 sports car, recently moved from general manager of the Sports Vehicle Management Division to become chief engineer at the new GAZOO department.

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The switch is backs up statements from Toyota insiders who have said that the Yaris hot hatchback will need to be a “genuine” performance car if the GAZOO sub-brand is to start to gain global credibility.

Previously a Japan-only motorsport enterprise, GAZOO was launched in Europe at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. The division has already experimented with the Yaris; it has prepared a couple of concepts over the past few years, and one of them featured a 180bhp turbocharged engine.

Toyota’s European boss Johan Van Zyl told us late last year, “We want to create a global feel for motorsport and GAZOO stands for us wanting to learning from motorsport, and for developing excitement around cars. If you love cars, they shouldn’t just be for getting from A to B.”

He added, ““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.

“I am also being a car person so I like to see that the people can really experience the joy of that - especially those who are real enthusiasts,” he added. “Lots of people like to wear the same Nikes as the athletes, even though they can’t run as fast.”

What do you think of the car's first official pictures? Leave us a comment below...

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Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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