NZ-headed Toyota compact crossover revealed

Fancy something snappier-looking than a RAV4? Toyota is ready to answer that call, with a radical compact crossover.


HERE’S the next big small thing from Toyota – that is, a compact crossover that the New Zealand distributor believes has massive sales potential.

Toyota New Zealand has previously indicated it is anticipating a 2017 release programme for the new C-HR, a sub-RAV4 five-door that will be fully unveiled at the Geneva motor show this week.

The Palmerston North-based brand reinforced its positivity about the model at the media introduction to the Fortuner on February 3.

At that function company high-ups reasserted that an upcoming compact crossover was coming to fill in one of the few gaps not addressed by the market leader’s comprehensive lineup of soft-to-serious dirt-themed wares.

The C-HR was previewed by two same-named concepts – the first, a three-door, at the Paris show two years ago and the second, in five-door format, at last September’s Frankfurt event.

Toyota Japan had apparently sought to keep the production version under wraps for a few more days – a hope blown apart when the photos here were leaked online.

An immediate plus point is that the showroom model is hardly any less radical looking than the second, well-received styling study – they’ve dumped the concept’s utterly oversized wheels, implemented conventional headlights and .. well, that’s about it, really.

Otherwise it really reinforces that Toyota really wasn’t joking when it vowed, two years ago, to forgo design conservatism and become a lot more daring. With its dramatic angles, heavily sculpted flanks and floating boomerang-shaped tail-lights that protrude like the edges of a boot spoiler, the C-HR is certainly eye-catching and utterly edgy.

It is based on Toyota’s new global architecture (TNGA) that’s also found under the latest Prius that went on sale in NZ last week, and like the latter, it will feature a full hybrid petrol-electric powertrain, the technical details of which haven’t been released yet. 

One impetus for such radical styling is that it was initially planned to be offered as a Scion in North America … an idea that has now been scuppered because Toyota killed that brand just two weeks ago.

The SUV sector is a boom area for car sales, with all sub-categories showing growth.

TNZ’s vision is for C-HR to implant into what it determines as the ‘medium compact’ sector, an area it doesn’t presently play in, already populated by the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3, Holden Trax, Suzuki S-Cross and SsangYong Tivoli.

This segment is showing huge growth potential; according to data presented by TNZ general manager of sales, Steve Prangnell, this types achieved a stupendous 97.9 percent growth in 2015. Cumulatively medium compacts claimed 5752 registrations, for 14.5 percent of the total SUV sales share.

TNZ estimates the present sales leader, ASX, achieved 59 percent growth last year. It’s 1569 registrations also gave Mitsubishi 27.3 percent market share. CX-3 was next (968 registrations for a 16.8 percent slice), then Trax (907, 15.8 percent).

The small SUV sector, occupied by the RAV4, is larger still – in 2015 it accounted for 20,774 registrations, to snare 50.2 percent of all SUV sales. Medium soft, the sector in which the Highlander sits, is also important, with 8678 registrations for a 21.9 percent share last year.

The challenge for TNZ will be to price C-HR so that it does not clash too heavily with RAV4, which presently not only holds recommended retail prices from $37,490 to $60,990 but also is one of the key models the brand thrusts into the rental sector.

Intriguingly, where C-HR has potential to imprint especially well is in a format that makes it least handy for dirty work. One point Prangnell reinforced was that Toyota 46 percent of SUV sold in 2015 were front-wheel-drive rather than four-wheel-drive. This was why TNZ has now introduced more front-wheel-drive RAV4 models – yet, on current trend, it has already found that demand for this car exceeds factory supply.