Toyota GR Yaris set to gain an automatic gearbox option

An automatic gearbox-equipped GR Yaris has competed in a Japanese rally challenge, and the transmission could be made available on the road car

Automatic Toyota GR Yaris
  • Eight-speed automatic could come to UK
  • GR Yaris has a motorsport-derived three-cylinder engine
  • GR Corolla in development

The Toyota GR Yaris hot hatchback could soon be offered with an automatic gearbox. Toyota has entered a prototype GR Yaris with an eight-speed automatic in its Gazoo Racing Racing Challenge, with the firm’s Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Shigeru Hayakawa, behind the wheel.

As the Japanese racing series is Toyota organised, it’s likely that the prototype is acting as a test car for a possible road-going version. Externally it looks largely the same as the manual car, apart from a modified front air intake that could feed the transmission’s oil-cooler. Inside, the changes amount to a Toyota automatic gearlever and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

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It’s currently not known whether the GR Yaris automatic is destined for the UK market, but our right-hand-drive layout and the popularity of automatic hot hatches in this country look to be in its favour.

A Toyota GR Corolla is also in the works - Toyota dropped several interesting teasers recently - and this development car may shape the driving experience of the bigger Corolla. It’s not yet known whether the GR Corolla will be available with an automatic transmission, a manual gearbox, or both.

The GR Yaris was designed to be a production version of the company’s World Rally Championship (WRC) car, although it uses none of the same mechanical components and was effectively not required after the brand switched to the sport’s new plug-in hybrid regulations. It isn’t a like-for-like replacement for the Toyota Yaris GRMN special-edition, and is much faster than the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI.

We expect many buyers to go for the Circuit Pack, which will add a range of upgrades to make the Yaris better on a racetrack, including a limited-slip differential, more advanced suspension and lightweight alloy wheels.

The GR Yaris is unique in the hot supermini class for its four-wheel-drive system, as all current rivals are front-wheel drive. A bespoke 1.6-litre three-cylinder petrol engine powers the GR Yaris, and its 257bhp makes it among the highest-powered production superminis ever. This power figure puts the GR Yaris a massive 60bhp clear of the Fiesta ST and Polo GTI, with both producing 197bhp. Zero-to-62mph takes under 5.5 seconds, and you can hit a limited top speed of 143mph.

Surprisingly few body panels are carried over to the GR Yaris, which has been redesigned as a three-door model to make it more rigid allowing Toyota to fit outlandish aerodynamic enhancements.

The body is made from a concoction of exotic materials; aluminium is used for the bonnet, doors and tailgate, while the roof is made from a carbon-fibre polymer. The roofline, meanwhile, is completely different to the standard car, sitting at 95mm lower to improve aerodynamics.

Under the bonnet, you’ll find that the engine has been mounted further back than in the regular Yaris, to improve weight distribution across the car’s axles. While the normal car has torsion-beam rear suspension (like many cars), the GR Yaris has a more expensive double-wishbone rear setup.

Read our guides to the fastest hot hatchbacks and best drivers’ cars on sale now.

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