Those who have been eyeing the Toyota GR Yaris but are put off by the fact that it’s only available with a stick, fret not. Toyota is accelerating the development of a brand new eight-speed sports automatic transmission for the hot hatch, in hopes that it will appeal to a broader range of customers.

In fact, there is already a working prototype of the slushbox being tested in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge. The man behind the hundreds of hours of testing is Toyota vice chairman Shigeru Hayakawa, who serves as a development test driver for this project.

According to Japanese publication CarWatch, Hayakawa-san identified several issues with the gearbox’s performance, most notably for the lack of responsiveness when re-accelerating after downshifting from third to second gear. This has been resolved on the software side, but further testing is required before validation.

Another point of debate is the tiptronic function of the slushbox. So far, the R&D team are leaning towards a proper racing sequential gearbox-style shifter, meaning you pull the lever towards you to upshift, and push forward to downshift. The setup in the prototype has this in reverse, which has traditionally been the way for most Toyota passenger vehicles.

Again, the GR Yaris is currently only available with a six-speed manual, which transfers all of 261 PS and 360 Nm from the G16E-GTS 1.6 litre turbocharged three-cylinder to all four corners. An automatic version of the hot hatch will surely boost its appeal even further, as with the case of the i30 N when Hyundai announced the new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota GR Yaris

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota GR Yaris official images