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‘Sportivo light’ looms

Baby booster: Big engine would give Yaris Sportivo a performance edge.

Toyota Australia is testing a 100kW 1.8-litre Yaris

23 May 2007

TOYOTA is testing a boy-racer version of its popular Yaris hatch for introduction into Australia. An example is currently under an intensive evaluation program at Toyota's headquarters in Melbourne.

According to Toyota Australia's product planning manager Doug Soden, the Yaris "1.8" still needs to complete a series of reliability and durability procedures before being given the green light for sale in Australia.

If and when that happens, expect to see this car in dealers in the second quarter of 2008.

GoAuto understands that Toyota will use the Sportivo badge for its go-faster light car.

The Yaris Sportivo will be powered by a development of the 2ZR-FE 1.8-litre dual VVT-i twin-cam four-cylinder engine found in the latest Corolla range.

In that guise, it produces 100kW of power at 6000rpm and 174Nm of torque at 4400rpm. A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard.

The Sportivo's specification is believed to mirror that of its European Yaris SR ("Sporty and Refined") counterpart.

All Yaris SRs include lowered and retuned suspension, sharper electric power steering, stability control, traction control, a bodykit made up of side skirts, a rear spoiler and redesigned bumpers, front foglights and 17-inch alloy wheels.

8 center imageThe Yaris SR's interior is also suitably revised, with sportier seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the obligatory metallic-look trim, redesigned seat fabric, and analogue (rather than digital) instrumentation.

GoAuto understands that both three- and five-door versions of the Yaris Sportivo will be offered, with no plans for a sedan variant.

In SR 1.8 guise (there are also SR 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.3-litre four-cylinder versions available abroad), the 0-100km/h sprint is dispensed of in 9.3 seconds.

This places the Yaris SR/Sportivo in "warm" rather than "hot" hatch performance territory.

Accordingly, Toyota will probably price it below rivals such as the $23,990 Suzuki Swift Sport and upcoming Ford Fiesta XR4.

With the $1000 increase in the price of the Corolla, now kicking off at $20,990 for the base Ascent, Toyota says there is now more room for a 1.8-litre Yaris variant.

The Yaris' Echo hatch predecessor was also sold as a Sportivo from 2001 to 2005. It was powered by a 80kW/165Nm 1.5-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine, when all other Australian-bound Echo hatchbacks made do with a 1.3-litre engine.

When discontinued, the Echo Sportivo three-door retailed from $19,990.

Meanwhile, the availability of stability control on the regular Yaris 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre versions continues to vex Toyota in Australia.

GoAuto understands that Toyota's engineering department in Japan is unwilling or unable to commit to the resources needed to tune stability control for Australia.

One company insider said that exacerbating this situation was the expected low uptake numbers for stability control in the price-sensitive light-car sector.

Right now only Hyundai offers stability control in the sub-$20,000 end of the baby-car segment, as part of a safety pack upgrade on the ageing TB-series Getz.

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