In this edition of Data Digest, we’ll be discussing the upcoming, rally-bred Toyota GR Yaris.

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Preliminary specifications were announced at the international media first drive of a prototype version of the first all-wheel-drive Toyota hot hatch in 20 years – and there’s certainly plenty to get excited about.

Let’s start with the most salient change to the GR Yaris over its regular siblings: its design, namely its door count. The standard Yaris unveiled in October is strictly as a five-door proposition, meaning the GR’s three-door layout was designed specifically for the hi-po flagship.

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Not only does the deletion of the rear doors save weight, but its 95mm lower roofline streamlines aerodynamics – a key stipulation of Toyota’s factory-backed rally team that helped develop the car, in preparation for a race-prepped version of the hatch making its competition debut in 2021 as the next Yaris WRC.

The Japanese brand claims a sub-1300kg mass for its upcoming pocket rocket, thanks to a “less is more” philosophy that sees aluminium bonnet, doors, rear hatch and a carbon-fibre roof fitted, saving 38 kilograms.

For a manufacturer like Toyota – the ‘Prius company’ which spent the better part of the last two decades building ‘whitegoods on wheels’ – to green-light a carbon-fibre-roofed, bespoke-bodied hot hatch for production takes a serious change in strategy.

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Speaking with Britain’s Autocar, chief engineer for the GR Yaris project Naohiko Saito claims it wasn’t easy to get the hot Yaris past executives: “When we asked for three doors, everyone disagreed, because it meant a new body. We had to fight for it, but we finally got it… I would say it’s not a bean-counter car.”

The bespoke additions continue under the bonnet, where there’s an all-new 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine producing “over” 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque – comfortably making it the most powerful three-pot ever produced.

Drive is sent to all wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, enabling a 0-100km/h sprint of under six seconds.

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The power split across the aforementioned all-paw system varies between drive mode, sitting at 60:40 (front:rear) in Normal, 30:70 in Sport and 50:50 in Track.

Combined with the Yaris’ light mass, the potent triple enables a power-to-weight ratio of 142kW-per-tonne, similar to that of larger machinery the likes of the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R. In fact, it’s cars like the former that Toyota benchmarked during development, not more logical light-sized rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio RS.

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Two variants of the GR Yaris – both equipped with 18-inch wheels – will be offered in overseas markets, the higher-spec trim known as the ‘Performance Pack’. Base cars get 225mm Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres and open front and rear differentials, while PP cars score sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, mechanical front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials, tweaked suspension tuning and lighter alloy wheels.

Tucked behind the alloys are a quartet of mammoth sports brake discs – the fronts said to be larger than the 348mm units on the Supra sports car – clamped by four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers. MacPherson struts feature up front, while the regular Yaris’ torsion-beam rear axle has been replaced by a double-wishbone, multi-link setup.

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Despite the rear-biased nature of the all-wheel-drive system, there’s no Mercedes-AMG A45-like ‘drift mode’ to speak of, nor is there launch control or a multi-mode stability control system – just an on/off button and the ferocity of your right foot.

Other aesthetic upgrades – three-door bodyshell aside – include pumped-up arches, large front air intakes, dual exhaust tips, an aggressive rear diffuser and sporty side skirts.

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Photo credit: CarAdvice

Inside, drivers are tipped to grip a GR-badged steering wheel, complemented by unique instruments, heavily-bolstered sports seats and a spattering of red accents around the cabin.

The 2020 Toyota GR Yaris will make its debut at the Tokyo Auto Salon on January 10. Australian customers will be able to get their hands on the all-paw hatch from the fourth quarter of 2020, solely in base, non-Performance Pack trim. Pricing is yet to be confirmed, though we wouldn’t be surprised if it lobs locally with a starting price north of $40,000.

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