This is very likely the most striking car on sale today, the Toyota C-HR.
Inside and out, the car uses extremely expressive forms, taking the deconstructed appearance seen on some front-ends and bringing them around the sides. The exterior is conceived of in a rather different way compared to what, up until now, we have considered standard. It is available as normal petrol-engined car or as a hybrid but that’s not where the interest lies. No, madam.
The way I understand automotive design, cars have been shaped in terms of a primary volume (silhouette) with details added or subtracted. The tail-fin theme depended on additions. The current crinkle and crease era is also mostly additional. Most cars fit this schema of a shape, plus some. To draw such a car one sketches the outline and wheels and adds the graphics and lines. Then one adds lines to indicate how the light and shade will appear from that view. Key to this is that the sculpting of the main surfaces is composed one or two main elements with smaller ones added later.
To draw a car like the C-HR it seems to me, based on some sketches I made, that this procedure won´t work. Instead one draws seemingly disjointed graphic elements which are then, later, joined up with secondary surfaces that take the lead from the first set of lines.
The main thrust of what I must call traditional car forms is to have clean, simple primary surfaces joined by secondary ones of a similar character. Further, design discipline could be maintained by anchoring them to underlying planes associated with major feature lines and principle graphic elements. The result is a concert of flowing highlights. The first slide show (below) shows a simple, standard sketch based on flowing forms.
The C-HR’s secondary surfaces are quite forced compared to anything from the European brands. To be sure, they aren’t wobbly or wavy but they do have the character of cling film stretched over several disparate masses. Take a look at the slide show which uses the same wheel base and wheel size as car “A” above: (smart ‘phone users should turn the unit sideways to get a better view)
I am sure you will agree that the two vehicles have a different character. I notice that the shutlines and some other details are added piecemeal in a dialogue with the forms as they build up. On car “A” the door apertures appeared early, governing the later shapes. In car B, everything is subordinate to the way the volumes as graphic elements appear.
At the detail level, the rear lamps of the C.HR stand proud of their landing surface (the last Civic tried this). The lamp and grille graphics are vastly wide. The rear bumper is confidently developed, creating a secure stance. Wild as it is, it is internally consistent.
The resultant car expresses a distinct coccoon of a body suspended between the wheelarch masses. Adding to this drama is the low canopy and the semi-floating roof. In a way, it would be fitting if the engineering under this tour de force was more interesting: Tesla should try some of whatever Toyota is drinking. A bit of waku doki doesn’t work slathered on an Avensis snout: as an overall theme it is remarkable as here. I want to see this applied to the Auris.