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Corolla hot hatch ‘in discussion’

Main man: Chief engineer of the new 12th-generation Corolla hatchback, Yasushi Ueda, was in Australia this week – and is hopeful a high-performance version will be built in this model lifecycle.

Chief engineer reveals study underway for ‘GR’ version of Toyota’s all-new Corolla

Toyota logo10 Aug 2018

THE chief engineer of Toyota’s 12th-generation Corolla hatchback, Yasushi Ueda, has revealed that a high-performance version is on the agenda for possible development in conjunction with the Japanese auto giant’s Gazoo Racing (GR) sports division.
 
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the all-new Corolla hatch in Queensland this week, Mr Ueda said he was hopeful a performance model would be produced, but admitted that investigations underway are only at an early stage. 
 
“We cannot say officially the future products that will go on sale in the future, but we are now conversating what is the next, what is the next, and that (a hot hatch) is one of the things in discussion,” he said. 
 
“We are discussing to get feedback about that, so not now, but in the future.”
 
A 2.0-litre turbocharged engine developing up to 180kW/350Nm is already in service at Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus, but Mr Ueda said a specific development for the front-wheel-drive C-segment Corolla, now based on the new TNGA platform, would be required. 
 
“We are now discussing with the GR company the hottest margins for the 2.0-litre unit for this kind of development. There’s a lot of study yet before we are decided. We are now investigating the potential for the future in this model’s life,” he said. 
 
“I would like to have it (a hot hatch) but unfortunately I cannot have it at the launch timing.”
 
Asked about the suitability of turbocharging Corolla’s new 2.0-litre ‘Dynamic Force’ direct-injection four-cylinder engine – which in its naturally aspirated form develops 125kW/200Nm – Mr Ueda told us: “For normal usage, maybe this would be too much. But for a hot hatch, something like that, maybe this is one combination. 
 
“Not from a (sales) volume viewpoint, but for a hot hatch viewpoint we have to investigate what is more suitable for the future.
 
“Technically, today, to be honest, I cannot say it’s feasible – but today also I cannot say it’s not feasible!
 
“Personally, I’d like to have a hot hatch, but from a company business viewpoint, we have to investigate much more. 
 
“According to customer feedback that we are now having, we have to investigate a solution.”
 
Toyota Australia’s senior divisional manager of sales and marketing Sean Hanley also refused to rule out a performance variant coming with the new-generation Corolla, or with various other mainstream model lines, and said the Australian subsidiary was working closely with the GR division. 
 
“Me, you and a lot of other people would love that,” Mr Hanley told GoAuto. 
 
“We’re seeing in the market that Australian car buyers very much love performance. There’s no doubt about that, and I’m watching that in other brands as well. 
 
“The future possibilities of product derived from our Gazoo Racing team is very positive for Toyota. We don’t have any plans for Australia right now that I can confirm, but it’s certainly something that we will continue to work on with our Gazoo Racing arm in our parent company, and it’s not something that I would ever rule out.”
 
Talking about the potential for high-performance variants of a number of its models, Mr Hanley said: “I think there’s definitely potential there. We’re already starting to see it in HiLux, not under Gazoo Racing, but from a local perspective with Rugged X and the Rogue and Rugged.
 
“When you combine our local capability with the kind of product developments that Gazoo Racing, over a period of time, will bring to reality, I think there is a strong possibility that Toyota will have performance cars in the future.” 
 
As for dedicated sportscars and the forthcoming new-generation Supra, which is being developed by Toyota/Gazoo Racing as a joint venture with BMW and will share its underpinnings and various components with the new Z4, Mr Hanley said the company was very close to confirming it will be sold in Australia.
 
“We showed our dealer network the GR Supra concept car at a dealer meeting some weeks ago .. and I could not tell you how many of our dealers came to me after that event and said, ‘Please get this car.’
 
“So we are very close to being able to make some announcements, but not quite yet.”
 
GoAuto understands that confirmation could come at an international drive event next month.

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