All zip, no zap for C-HR here?

It’s the little things that count, right? That’s Toyota New Zealand’s thinking with a new small crossover.


THE C-HR, Toyota’s entry into the small fastest growing vehicle class in New Zealand, will be electrifying in its looks only when it arrives in early 2017.

That’s the initial indication from Toyota New Zealand in respect to the C-HR, a compact five-door compact crossover unveiled last week at the Geneva motor show.

The Palmerston North distributor has been sparing in its comment about the new model, which shares a brand new platform shared so far with the Prius, save to say that it will arrive with a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, in front and four-wheel-drive, in either format in marriage with a constantly variable transmission.

That would suggest that TNZ is not yet able, or prepared, to take the car with the hybrid drivetrain that featured in the car as displayed at Geneva. The battery-assist system is the same one that has gone into the latest Prius, where it generates 72kW power and 142Nm torque and Toyota head office has suggested this version will be as important, in the long run, as the two petrol editions – the 1.2 and a 2.0-litre – that are also confirmed for production.

TNZ made no mention of powertrains other than the 1.2 when it issued brief comment about C-HR, a surprise given that it has recently been hinting in the media that there’s potential for its hybrid technology to spread into Toyota sports utilities, as it has already with the Lexus NX and RX product. One media outlet attending the recent Prius media event was left in no doubt that the RAV4 will be a future candidate.

The 1.2 is set to raise interest, of course. It is claimed to create 85kW of power and 185Nm of torque, with the latter peaking at just 1500rpm and running to 4000rpm. It is a new engine for New Zealand but has history in Europe, as a Auris/Corolla powerplant.

"Strong low-end torque enables the driver to achieve intended dynamic performance at the same time as Toyota's latest combustion and other engine technologies ensure excellent fuel efficiency," the brand said in comment out of Japan.

While TNZ says the final local market specification will not be announced until much closer to launch – and that timing is also under wraps at the moment – Japan has indicated one thing.

It says the C-HR will stand almost alone in its category in being equipped with autonomous braking and reversing camera as standard.

The new model has been a long time coming, having first been seen in three-door concept guise at the 2014 Paris motor show. A five-door study that appeared at last September's Frankfurt show set the tone for the production example.

TNZ says it has recognized that an increase in demand for go-anywhere capability and high-riding vehicles in an urban market means SUVs are often purchased as alternatives to passenger cars.

It already sells more SUVs in New Zealand than any other brand with the RAV4 being the type top-seller in 2015. However, it has lacked an entrant in the highly competitive small SUV category, which has almost tripled in size during the past four years.

TNZ’s general manager of product, Spencer Morris, has talked up C-HR’s prospects, saying it heralds an exciting addition to the company’s already comprehensive SUV line-up.

“The C-HR combines impressive handling with an exceptional drive and compact packaging for Toyota New Zealand’s first player in the highly competitive compact SUV category,” said Morris.

He says Toyota’s New Generation Architecture program (TNGA) gives C-HR ability to deliver responsive driving dynamics supported by a highly rigid body structure and low centre of gravity.

According to the market leader, the model “provides remarkable handling and agility with effortless control through turns, a superb drive quality and performance while maintaining excellent fuel efficiency, and arrives well equipped with advanced safety specification.”  

Sitting on Toyota's new compact vehicle family architecture, the Corolla-sized five-door wagon – 4350mm long and 1795mm wide – will go head to head with Mazda's CX-3, Mitsubishi's ASX, Honda's HR-V, Nissan's Qashqai and others.

TNZ offered that the CH-R will appeal for its “class-leading sensory quality” and its “strong styling”. The first comment is not as easy to quantify as the second: With its angular lines and large wheel arches, this is a very striking shape.

Those body headlight clusters wrap around the car and incorporate full LED lighting and sequential turn signals. The rear door handles have been disguised by their integration into the C-pillar, which flows into the rear spoiler design, adding to its coupe feel.

 The design was originally created by Calty, Toyota’s California-based studio.