Toyota GR Yaris automatic to be unveiled next month – report

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Toyota’s rally-inspired hot hatch is due to add the long-awaited option of an automatic transmission as soon as next month, beside a power boost and new styling and technology.

The automatic-transmission version of the Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch may make its world premiere in two weeks from now – alongside a facelift reportedly planned to bring a power boost – according to a new report.

A report from Japanese magazine Best Car in September 2023 claimed a facelifted GR Yaris was around the corner with tweaked styling, updated technology, stiffer chassis, a power boost, and the option of an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Now fellow Japanese publication Magazine X claims an updated model with the long-awaited auto option will debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon from 12 to 14 January 2024.

Toyota this week announced it will exhibit “GR and Lexus new production models” at the Tokyo Auto Salon, but it has not confirmed the identities of the new cars.

As previously reported, the gearbox – marketed as the Direct Automatic Transmission – is a conventional torque-converter automatic design with paddle shifters, but it has been designed with high-performance driving in mind, rather than only convenience.

The transmission’s torque converter will reportedly immediately lock up when it changes gear – compared to most automatics, which won’t lock until the vehicle stops accelerating – and will change down gears aggressively under hard braking, among other changes designed for racetrack driving.

Toyota has been developing the gearbox for two years in a GR Yaris entered into a rally series in Japan to prove its durability.

Magazine X reports the final name for the gearbox may be GR-DAT, and that it may be fitted to a new variant in Japan known as RZ-H – compared to ‘RZ’ and ‘RZ High Performance’ for the current six-speed manual versions.

According to Best Car‘s earlier report, the updated GR Yaris range – which may adopt the ‘Evolution II’ moniker – may upgrade its 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder from 200kW/370Nm to 221kW/370Nm, matching the larger GR Corolla hot hatch.

The magazine claims the update will introduce exterior revisions – including a revised front fascia, and a larger rear spoiler on some models – plus a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster from the GR Corolla in place of today’s analogue dials and small 4.2-inch driver display.

It claims changes will also be made to the suspension and brakes, with body rigidity also reportedly planned to be increased.

Best Car forecasts a price rise from the 3.96 to 4.56 million yen ($AU40,600 to $AU46,800) of the current model, to a price “likely to approach” five million yen ($AU51,300).

In addition to its information on the new automatic version, Magazine X claims the updated GR Yaris will spawn showroom versions of the Kalle Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier special-edition concepts (below) – named after Toyota’s World Rally Championship drivers – unveiled at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon.

The publication says 100 examples of each special edition will be produced, and sold in Japan through a lottery system due to open for orders in March 2024 – after they are unveiled at the Monte Carlo Rally in late January.

Awkwardly, there is a chance Rovanpera and Ogier may not be behind the wheel of a Toyota GR Yaris WRC car at the Monte Carlo Rally, as the pair only plan to race at certain rounds of the 2024 World Rally Championship.

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According to Magazine X, Toyota has now sold more than 25,000 GR Yaris hot hatchbacks – the minimum needed for homologation to go rallying – split across Europe (45 per cent of sales), Japan (41 per cent) and Oceania (eight per cent, which includes Australia).

Toyota reportedly expected the GR Yaris RS – a cheaper model sold in Japan with the GR styling and three-door body, but a 1.5-litre non-turbo engine and CVT automatic from the regular Yaris five-door – to be more popular than the high-performance turbocharged versions.

However, 48 per cent of sales in Japan are the top-of-the-range RZ High Performance version, with limited-slip differentials and Michelin tyres.

Data published by the outlet shows most GR Yaris buyers in Japan are aged between 50 and 59 (28 per cent) – ahead of 40–49 year-olds (23 per cent), 60–69s (14 per cent), 20–29s (11 per cent) and 30–39s (nine per cent) – while 60 per cent of vehicles traded in were Toyotas.

Among the 40 per cent of trade-in vehicles from other manufacturers, it says the list was topped by the Suzuki Swift – ahead of the Honda Fit (Jazz), Subaru Impreza hatch, Mazda 2 (Demio, as it is known in Japan) and Daihatsu Move.

The Subaru WRX is reportedly in ninth place, ahead of the Subaru Impreza sedan in 10th.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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