The Yaris probably won't fit most of your preconceived notions of what an official Turbo magazine project vehicle should be. It's not fast. The Yaris wasn't designed to be fast, take hairpin turns or stop like a race car. When you buy one, there's no sort of turbocharger bolted to the 1.5L's four exhaust ports, no limited slip differential, no rear disc brakes, no all-wheel-drive gearbox. No, instead the Yaris is Toyota's answer to high gas prices and the sour after effects of combining that with a big, dumb SUV.
For those who think this might not be the smartest choice for a project vehicle of Turbo proportions, we're guessing you have not seen nor heard of Toyota's Vitz. Essentially a Japanese Yaris, the Vitz has been taken apart, turbocharged, tweaked and tuned with success by more than a few big-name Japanese tuning facilities since its birth at the beginning of the millennium. We thought we would do the same.
The Yaris will never produce 2JZ-GTE horsepower. For that matter, it will never produce Honda B-series horsepower. Once you set aside your machismo and get over this simple fact, building a Yaris of your own can be quite rewarding. Our initial chassis dyno test results at Skunk2 yielded a paltry, yet unsurprising, 98 hp. While we were smart enough to know that this little Toyota DOHC, VVT-i powerplant wouldn't be producing the 200 or so pounds of torque that we'd be able to appreciate, we still needed to do something to point and motivate the little hatchback into the flow of traffic. On the rare occasion that the freeways in our vicinity do actually move, accelerating and merging with the flow of traffic can be quite challenging if you haven't the power to back it up. Having a soccer mom in a loaded Yukon bone out past you with your foot pressed down against the Yaris' floor mat can be less than encouraging.
Blitz fixes this. We subbed out grunt-making duties to Blitz, who incidentally has been tuning the Japanese Vitz, European Yaris and the more familiar Scion xA and xB for some time. Their existing Compressor System supercharger kit bolts right up to the Yaris' 1NZ-FE, sort of, and gives us the extra power we're looking for, kind of. The twin-screw, clutch-driven supercharger mounts to a custom aluminum intake manifold also supplied by Blitz and includes fuel management and bags of gaskets, hardware and other stuff to get the job done the way we like. The supercharger's clutch engagement is controlled electronically by a throttle switch and is adjustable by an in-car controller with positions netting everything from fuel efficiency to full blown performance-well, as much full-blown performance as you could hope to get out of a Yaris. But ours is respectable. With the supercharger installed, the Yaris posted 119 hp and 119 lb-ft. This doesn't suck when you consider the Yaris weighs only 2,300 pounds. And this is more than enough to keep the Yukon from passing us. The supercharger builds its 7 psi of pressure, and after allowing this to compress and burn inside the combustion chamber, exhaust gases are expelled through a Blitz NUR-Spec universal muffler. Also from Blitz are three Mirror Drive Meters: one each for boost, water temperature and exhaust gas " temperature that we fabricated into the interior's original climate control location.
We debuted Project Yaris at last year's SEMA show in the Kumho Tires booth. Once the supercharger was installed, only two weeks were left to do everything else. Underneath we fitted the Toyota with Tein Basic coilovers and a huge front brake kit from Wilwood featuring forged Dynalite four-piston calipers and slotted rotors. Color matched side skirts from Seibon and a carbon-fiber hood were also added. Motegi Racing TRAKLITE 2.0's are fitted around the Wilwoods and are, of course, wrapped with Kumho tires. The combination barely fits, but these 215/40-17 tires are one of the biggest improvements we've made to the car as far as handling is concerned.
Inside, the Yaris received help from a few different sources, including us. We tossed the Toyota's stock front seats in favor of a couple of Sparco Pro S2000's and complemented those with a Sparco steering wheel and hub adapter. The rear seats and door panels were re-stitched in matching Sparco fabric. Stuffed behind the front seats is a bolt-in, four-point, chromoly rollbar engineered and built by Design Craft Engineering in nearby Lake Forest. With the rollbar finished we doused it, " along with the Motegis and several interior components, with paint matching our Yaris' exterior. Al and Ed's Autosound in Costa Mesa also tackled the interior and fit our Yaris with tons of goods from Alpine, including a 6.5-inch screen in-dash DVD player, speakers, a 10-inch sub and amp. A couple of two-pound NOS bottles with MINI Hi-Flo valves were also mounted out back should we feel the need to step up the Yaris' performance potential in the future.
The Yaris is still not fast and probably never will be. And that's OK. Opportunities for going fast on Southern California freeways are rare anyway. But the extra power from the Blitz compressor is welcomed, as is the added handling prowess realized from the wider Kumhos and Tein coilovers. Project Yaris is not a race car or a full-blown track rat. Yet. But it is, without a doubt, the best one we've seen and driven so far this side of the Vitz.