Toyota Australia product planning manager Mark Dobson admitted that there’s a certain mass-market appeal that can be drawn upon for a hot version of a car as popular as the Corolla, despite the Toyota 86 already offering enthusiast appeal in the range.
“We want exciting cars, and we think the 86 delivers on that,” said Dobson of the brand’s popular two-door coupe, which starts from just $29,990.
“[But] hot-hatches have more of a halo status about them. They allow a brand to build a car that’s aspirational.”
A go-fast version of the Corolla seems like a logical step for a brand trying to boost its “waku-doki” excitement factor, particularly given rival cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Subaru WRX have long been successful showroom traffic drivers for buyers.
“The rationale behind [a program for a potential production Corolla hot-hatch] is how many are we going to sell, and what can we sell it for? Is there a decent size slice of the market [for a car like that]? It comes down to market demand,” Dobson said.
“Our practice in the past has been a little bit different,” he said of the fact the brand has often made “stylish or sporty looking” cars but without real performance or enthusiast appeal, such as the brand’s popular Sportivo models which were introduced in the previous generation Corolla hatchback line-up (see image below). Those cars saw the adoption of a powered-up 1.8-litre engine with 141kW and 180Nm, a six-speed manual gearbox and stylised body kits with larger alloy wheels.
If Toyota were to pursue a new hot-hatch Corolla, potential driveline options could be problematic. A larger capacity petrol engine may not cut it against turbocharged competitors, and the Toyota 86’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated 'boxer' four-cylinder would likely be unsuitable for the car. It's also unlikely the brand would fit a higher capacity V6, as was seen in the Japanese-market Toyota Blade Master G.
Toyota did, however, preview a high-tech, high-performance hybrid drivetrain in the Yaris Hybrid-R concept of 2013 – that car featured a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 223kW teamed to a pair of electric motors at the rear which gave the car a stonking 313kW total output.
Putting the hybrid tech aside, that 1.6-litre turbo engine - which is yet to be offered on any Toyota production model to date – would be enough for a truly fast Corolla hatchback, and one that would out-power almost all of its rivals.