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Editorial: Should Toyota introduce a Corolla ‘TRD’ hot hatch?

December 4, 2014

There’s no denying the hot hatch segment is a very popular one all around the world, especially in Australia. For some reason though Toyota is one of the only auto giants that doesn’t cater for this niche. Why?

Scion iM concept-Corolla GTI

Ford offers two hot hatches – the Fiesta ST and Focus ST – and both prove you can make a vehicle that’s both serious and practical. Volkswagen, the company that basically started the hot hatch segment back in the 1970s, offers two as well – the Polo GTI and Golf GTI.

All of the big premium German manufacturers certainly present something for the performance small car market, with cars like the Audi S3, the BMW M135i, and the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG. It seems like Japanese carmakers aren’t currently interested in pocket rockets, with the Nissan Pulsar SSS being the only real exception that’s available in Australia, and the upcoming Honda Civic Type R.

Of all Japanese companies however, surely Toyota has the capacity to turn this around? Interestingly, it does. In America Toyota has a sub-brand called Scion, which sells a rebadged version of the Toyota 86, called the Scion FR-S, and various other youth-oriented models. There’s now a report coming through that has revealed Scion is planning a hot hatch based on the Corolla.

According to a Wards Auto report Toyota is planning to introduce a production version of the very interesting concept car that was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, called the Scion iM concept (pictured). The concept is based on the ‘Auris’, which is essentially a rebadged version of the Corolla hatch that’s on sale in Australia.

The concept showcases many attractive elements, including a chunky wide-body bodykit, flared wheel arches, and various spoilers and vents that really separate it from the humdrum Corolla. It also gets performance brakes and a bespoke interior. It’s believed the production version will debut at the New York Auto Show in April next year.

From this, Toyota – or TRD (Toyota Racing Development) – could quite easily produce a Corolla brother for international, right-hand drive markets such as Australia. If the demand is there, and it makes for a good business case, Toyota could technically produce such a product. At the moment Toyota Australia offers the 86 as the only real sports car. While there are ‘RZ’ versions of the Camry and Corolla, these can hardly be considered as dedicated driving machines.

Scion iM concept-rear

With Toyota Australia closing down local manufacturing in 2017, putting approximately 2600 Australians out of a job by 2018, the Aussie arm is going to have to do something special to ensure it stays close to local buyers. Introducing Scion could be a good move, or better yet, offering a Corolla based on the iM concept. What do you reckon? Is there a place in the world for a Corolla ‘GTI’ hot hatch? Would you buy one? Feel free to tell us your thoughts below.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.

  • Jon

    Well I know when I bought a Corolla early this year I was surprised that the entire drivetrains in the car were precisely the same whether you spend $21K on the base model or $30K on the Levin. Even as a relatively conservative buyer I would have expected the existing Levin to have at the very least a TRD style exhaust, intake and a different ECU with standard and high octane maps to distinguish it from the lower end models.
    I’m not really sure there is much point having a “hot” Corolla hatch though. Toyota appears to possess such a sullied reputation amongst car enthusiasts that I doubt the potential market for it would be viable in that particular small car class. And when you already have a 103 kW Corolla for $30K, what price would a TRD one sell for? More than that and it would be completely uncompetitive unless engine output was extremely high, whilst less than that and suddenly the Levin looks to be even worse value than it arguably already is.
    Maybe Toyota should consider a high performance Yaris instead, since I think such a car would be more competitive in terms of performance, price and overall appeal in the light car class. For example, I’d jump at a normally aspirated Yaris with, say, 120 kW, a redline at 7,500, low gearing to match and a weight below 1,100 kg. I think it would make for a very good warm hatch.
    That said, given Toyota are biased against turbos, it is always going to be a big challenge to put a normally aspirated performance engine in the front of a front wheel drive car whilst maintaining an acceptable front to rear weight bias. Gone are the days, for example, when variable valve lift technology was viable – such engines would no longer pass emission requirements.