Toyota has sold more than 32,000 GR Yarises
Sales success means hot hatch will be developed and sold for as long as emissions regulations allow
Toyota says that the unexpected success of the GR Yaris has led it to make the hot hatchback a permanent fixture in its line-up.
Speaking at an event where we drove a prototype of the new facelifted GR Yaris, its chief engineer Naohiko Saito said: “This isn’t the end of development.”
The GR Yaris ‘Evo’ has gained upgrades to its high-performance durability, more power, a stiffer body, revised suspension and the option of an eight-speed automatic gearbox alongside the six-speed manual.
Toyota has sold more than 32,000 GR Yarises – far more than it expected. It needed to make 25,000 cars with the distinctive three-door bodyshell (the regular Yaris is five-door only) to homologate the shape for its World Rally Championship competitor.
Toyota was so uncertain that the GR Yaris would hit the target that it also created a cheaper variant for Japan called the RS, featuring the regular Yaris’s 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain and none of the GR’s specialist hardware.
It has sold more than 3000 but ultimately hasn’t needed the RS to make up the numbers.
Toyota has also been taken aback by the wealth of the buyers who are buying GR Yarises. “This is something we’ve never seen before,” Saito said.
Some 48% of GR Yarises are bought as ‘additional cars’ to a customer’s garage, whereas the class average for hot hatches tends to be around 10%, with the vast majority bought as the owner’s only vehicle.
The GR Yaris is now tracking “100% above plan”, according to Saito, hence the facelift could be justified – although he stresses that neither the facelift nor the project in the first place would have been possible without a car enthusiast like Akio Toyoda (who stepped down as president and CEO to become chairman last year) at the head of the company.
Toyota executives tacitly confirmed that they would develop and sell the GR Yaris for as long as emissions regulations allow, with Japan, the UK, Switzerland, Germany and Australia particularly keen on the car.
“Smells and noise is something we don’t want to give up,” said Saito. “We want to make sports cars for the next 100 years.”
Given that by the end of the decade 80% of cars sold in the UK will need to be zero-emissions, though, the GR Yaris’s longer-term future here is still unclear.
This generation of the car still can’t be sold in the US, either, because it doesn’t comply with impact regulations.
Production of the facelifted GR Yaris will start in April and deliveries in June. UK pricing will be announced in March.