Allow me to tell you a tale.
Once upon a time, there was a practical economy hatchback. It was built by a company once known for performance, but that had lost its way over the years and wanted to recapture its youthful vigor. The company gave that hatchback an upgraded suspension, a powerful engine, a rally-inspired body, and a performance badge that called back to the brand’s racing efforts.
But that car never came to the United States. American enthusiasts begged and pleaded, but were shunned for years. Until one day, the company made an announcement: A similar, albeit slightly tweaked, car would come to our shores. Perfect, right?
At its launch, the car was a hit. Dealer markups were absurd, and they still flew off the lot like their wings were tuned for lift rather than downforce. In its first few months, it sold thousands of units, and the manufacturer stood as an example of how bringing cars to enthusiasts could be a viable business strategy.
That car was the Focus RS. Its third model year in the U.S. was its last.
I’ll admit, the RS isn’t a perfect comparison to the GR Corolla. The Focus was plagued with engine issues and recalls early on, and never quite shook the reputation for unreliability that those brought. But it served as a shining example of a truth automotive marketers have known forever: Enthusiasts, while loud, are few in number.
We all begged Toyota for the GR Yaris, and now the company has given us our own version. Will it follow in the footsteps of the RS, a star that burned so very very brightly for such a brief window of time? Or will it turn out more like the Civic Type R, with enough sales to justify a second generation? What do you think?