Before his untimely death testing the Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition, Hiromu Naruse, Toyota’s senior test driver, had a favorite project. Naruse’s idea behind the project was simple: build a modestly powered, front-engine, rear-drive hatchback that younger driving enthusiasts with limited incomes could afford. Toyota executives weren’t convinced; after all, the FT-86 was designed to be an inexpensive sports coupe, also using a front engine, rear drive layout. Building another inexpensive sports car was seen as redundant and a waste of Toyota’s resources.
In a sad bit of irony, Naruse’s death may have been the catalyst required to move the project forward. RPMgo, citing Britain’s Autocar, tells us that the hot hatch project has been given a green light by Toyota, partly in tribute to Naruse. It’s way too early for specific details, but an early concept called the GRMN Hot Hatch used a 1.5 liter four from Daihatsu to power the 2,200 pound prototype. Like Mazda’s Miata, it wasn’t particularly fast on the straights, but offered up exceptional handling and balance in the corners.
Assuming the project goes all the way to market, the new hatch will hit dealer showrooms about a year after the FT-86. Given the FT-86’s upward-creeping price, Toyota would need to keep the hatch priced below $25,000, roughly on par with a base VW GTI.