Toyota is poised to unleash a radical re-think of the classic supermini. Senior company sources have admitted that several radical new models are on the drawing board.
The company plans to use the new platform and space-saving technology that underpin the radical Toyota IQ city car, which could even form the basis for a seven-seat vehicle no longer than today's Yaris supermini.
The move has been triggered by the company's New Small Car (NSC) strategy 'which aims to revolutionise vehicle packaging'.
The first product of the NSC is the four-seat Toyota IQ city car, which is 768mm shorter than the Yaris, but a similar width and height. However within three years, the Yaris could itself be replaced by a similarly sized model, based on the IQ technology.
Sources say this vehicle would have unrivalled leg and luggage room, a cabin effectively as wide as that of a Golf-class machine and a 3.9m turning circle, the tightest of any car, Toyota IQ aside.
Other benefits of the wide-track layout include much greater stability at motorway speeds. Refinement is also claimed to be strong point of this platform, a claim backed up by our first drive of the Toyota IQ.
Toyota says that the key to IQ's space efficiency is the layout of the transmission. By placing the engine's differential in front of the engine, the front wheels can be moved ahead of the engine's crankshaft centre line, a major break with engineering convention.
This also allows the accelerator pedal pivot point to be moved forward, freeing up as much as an extra 12cm of space in the cabin. A narrower transmission also allows the front chassis legs to sit closer together, allowing the front wheels greater articulation and a very tight turning circle.
The IQ will also donate other space-saving technology, including a new 'centre take-off' steering rack design, an ultra thin fuel tank, which sits under the floorpan and a heating and ventilation unit which is 25 percent smaller than normal, but still meets Toyota's cooling standards for the Middle East market.
The New Car Strategy will come as a major boost to Toyota, whose reputation for innovation is becoming threadbare. Last year the company was rumoured to have set up internal committee dedicated to producing 'more interesting cars'.
Dan Stevens/ Hilton Holloway