Toyota has started work on turning a hot hatch concept into a low-cost, rear-wheel-drive coupé.
The car is being made in tribute to the firm’s chief test driver, Hiromu Naruse, who was killed recently in a road accident near the Nürburgring.
The new model, based on the GRMN Hot Hatch Concept, revealed at the Tokyo Auto Salon at the start of this year, is designed to offer more affordable performance and desirability than the FT-86, which has been delayed and given an inflated price since being approved for production.
The idea of a front-engined, rear-drive model for young enthusiasts was said to be a pet project of Hiromu Naruse, who died at the wheel of a Lexus LFA he’d been testing.
When asked at the Auto Salon what his young engineers wanted to build, he said, “A car that is a blast to drive and rear-wheel drive. And priced low enough to get younger buyers into it."
The Hot Hatch Concept was developed on existing platforms and engines, in a bid to keep down its costs.
Based on the Aygo, it features a Daihatsu-sourced 1.5-litre engine that drives the rear wheels, and it weighs less than 1000kg.
It has relatively sophisticated double wishbone rear suspension but is expected to sell for less than 1.4 million yen (£10,250).
Toyota has now decided to slot a model based on these principles into its range beneath the FT-86.
The GRMN team has been given the brief of ‘fun to drive’ and ‘cheap’ for the car, which could be built at the same factory in Osaka that makes the 660cc Daihatsu Copen.
It could well beat the FT-86 to market, too. Insiders suggest it will go on sale in 2012, priced £8000-£10,000 less than its bigger brother.