CHANGING THE HEART OF THE YARIS
As Project Manager in Toyota Europe’s Z Division, Stijn Peeters led the R&D on the Yaris GRMN Interview by Adam Towler
What couldn’t you change that you wanted to, and why?
This platform (the Yaris) was never developed with performance cars in mind back in 2011. What many people don’t realise is that the platform dictates things like seating position, but also where the steering wheel position can be, wheel size and suspension. The steering rack ratio is also limited by the platform and to change it would mean a completely new development. If we lowered the seat any more the door crash structure would no longer be valid – even on cars of limited numbers we still have to meet that test, and to re-do that in two years is impossible.
Will these considerations go into future platforms?
Clearly there’s a requirement to bring more passion to all our cars, not just the sports ones, and emotion when driving is connected to driver controls. I would like to change things more but was restricted on this car. But this is all a learning process for future [Gazoo] models, a growing process. With regard to bespoke bodywork, if it’s considered at the planning stage, then yes. We’re looking into that. Changes later are doubtful. For these sort of volumes it does not make sense – there is no business case in the world for that.
Is this car an indication of the Gazoo Racing philosophy?
Yes. Sure, numbers are always important. It was clear from the beginning it would need over 200bhp, but I could have made it 225bhp. But we think useful power, and fun to drive, and response, these are far more useful targets than numbers. We know today everyone is below seven seconds to 100kmph. But again, we had to decide on gear ratios. In the B segment the first four gears have to be spot-on. So I chose the ratios that suited driving, sacrificing the 0-100kmph time because the car won’t do it in second gear. Maybe this is an old school way, how cars were developed 15 years ago. If we had to give up on styling changes then so be it – the Yaris GRMN is all about balance and useable performance.
If you had a DSG ’box available, would you fit it?
[Laughs]. Now that really is a tricky question. The engineer in me says it depends how the system performs. The motorsport fan in me says I might gain some seconds on the track, but it will eat away at my inputs – good or bad, but they’re my inputs.
The project manager in me says they’ll add complexity and the manual works well, so given the timeframe… As long as the systems can’t read my mind and adapt to my mood, then I’d prefer a manual.
What is the future of hot hatches such as the Yaris GRMN?
I can only speak personally, not on behalf of Toyota. I think we’re heading for an interesting future. Autonomous tech, electrification… But we always see polarising movements: the more we go towards autonomous driving, the more individualisation will be brought out for certain products. There will be a place for enthusiasts, but what it will look like is a question we all have, and there’s no single answer available.
What would you buy as your own car?
I think I’d buy a Mk3 Toyota MR2. That had a lot of the qualities in the Yaris GRMN – useable performance, balance. Money no object I’d buy a Cayman GT4. I’d rather that than a GT3, in fact. But really I am a biker – for many years. I have a Triumph 955 that I do trackdays with. It has taken me a year to learn how to ride that bike fast on a track, but that’s the reward.
For me that’s what it’s like with driving for fun: it’s the driver that makes the difference, it’s your inputs that go into the car and you want to feel the response, just like with a motorcycle. ⌧
It's the driver that makes the difference, it's your inputs that go into the car