Will Toyota take on the Ariel Atom with an open-wheel sports car of its own?

Toyota three-seater concept
Industry rumors indicate Toyota is secretly developing a radical new concept inspired by back-to-the-basics machines like the Caterham Seven and the Ariel Atom. The yet-unnamed model will be presented to the public next October at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Likely offered as both a coupe and a roadster, the concept will cut all ties with current members of the Toyota lineup and instead adopt a striking, motorsport-inspired design characterized by a narrow front end, fully exposed suspension arms and wheels tucked under cycle fenders. The show car will offer space for three passengers in a triangular configuration, meaning the driver will sit front and center and two additional passengers will travel on a bench seat mounted just ahead of the rear axle.

The rumored concept is just as fascinating under the skin. Australian website Motoring claims it will be powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain made up of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Toyota parts bin and a compact electric motor linked to a high-capacity battery pack. Together, the two power sources will send about 100 horsepower to the rear wheels via a CVT.

100 ponies is certainly not much on paper, but it will be plenty in a car that’s expected to tip the scale at no more than 1,550 pounds thanks to the widespread use of carbon fiber. Additionally, the hybrid drivetrain will allow the concept to return up to 117 mpg in a mixed cycle.

Surprisingly, sources close to Toyota have revealed the concept will be given the green light for production if it generates a favorable response from the public and the press.

If launched, it will land in showrooms in about 2018 with a base price of roughly $25,000. It goes without saying that a wild three-seater sports car will not be a volume model, but executives believe halo cars are necessary to recruit the next generation of Toyota drivers and boost the brand’s image.

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