Toyota plots sports car for masses


Toyota is said to have begun development of a new small sports car that’ll slot under the GT86. The new model, which is said to be based on the S-FR concept that was showcased at the 2015 Tokyo Auto Salon, could come to fruition through a collaborative effort involving Toyota, Daihatsu, and Suzuki. In fact, our sister publication Autocar UK says the model in question could be the revived Toyota MR2. 

The S-FR concept previewed a fun-to-drive lightweight sports car that had a front engine and rear wheel drive (FR) layout. A sportier version was showcased the next year by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing, but the model didn’t reach production and was shelved.

  1. New small sports car could use a 152hp, 1.3-litre turbo-petrol
  2. Daihatsu Vision Copen, Toyota S-FR concepts share dimensions, design cues
  3. Production-spec S-FR expected to be revealed in 2026-27
The 2016 Toyota S-FR Racing concept.

Rumours online have been talking about Toyota reviving the Starlet hatchback, specifically the Japanese brand’s GR sub-division is looking at adding a fourth model after the GR Supra, GR 86, GR Yaris, and GR Corolla. This model is not to be confused with the Maruti Baleno-based Glanza that is on sale in South Africa under the same name. The Starlet was predominantly a hatchback that was sold in Japan, among other markets (where it got multiple body styles), in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and developed a name for itself as a sporty, yet affordable runabout. 

The recent report about the potential revival has fuelled further speculation around a production version of the S-FR. Both models could share the same turbocharged 152hp, 1.3-litre three-cylinder engine, which would enable Toyota to rationalise R&D expenses for a smaller variant of the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine featured in the GR Yaris and GR Corolla hatchbacks. 

That Daihatsu showcased the rear-wheel drive Vision Copen concept at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon underscores the feasibility of a joint project. This 3.8 metre-long Daihatsu concept previews a rival to the Mazda MX-5 and has similar dimensions and design as the 2015 Toyota S-FR concept. Furthermore, it also features a 1.3-litre powertrain, although Daihatsu has not provided detailed specifications.


Daihatsu's Vision Copen concept.

Suzuki could also use this collaboration to revive its own front engine-RWD roadster, the Cappuccino. Toyota and Suzuki have seen success in rebadging each other’s models in markets across the world and this could be leveraged in this scenario as well. 

While there is no official word from the three Japanese companies yet, the new small Toyota rear-wheel-drive sports car could arrive as early as 2026 or 2027. 


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