Doubt and Disbelief

There’s little doubt. Toyota have a hit on their hands in the C-HR crossover. But what are the implications for its more reserved hatch sibling?

‘Fierce ugly’? C-HR. Image credit:

As even the dogs in the street know by now, the way of the Crossover is the path the European industry is hell-bent on pursuing. Decry it all we wish, the buying public appear to prefer the cut of its jib, its loftier driving position, its faint (if somewhat fraudulent) air of go-anywhere capability.

The automotive equivalent perhaps of a pair of Sketchers* trekking shoes, the marketing message exudes that ‘I’ve just emerged from my mindfulness class and now I’ll probably do a spot of kitesurfing’ vibe that chimes so well with the target market.

The crossover-by-numbers styling template consists largely of a silhouette redolent of more prosaic hatchbacks, with a little added dynamism (since crossing over is officially a sports activity), some judicious bi-colour lower-body addenda (matt-black is good as it suggests toughness and is cheap to apply), big wheels and a raised stance. But even by those standards, Toyota’s C-HR seems to have forged a defiantly outré stylistic route.

Manufacturers are not generally in the habit of being rewarded for bold statements, and it’s quite possible if it hadn’t been the mighty Toyota doing it they might not have been. Equally though, the idea that the once conservative Japanese car giant sanctioned such a vehicle for production in the first place requires a certain degree of mental recalibration. Blame it on the Waku-Doki.

A visual cross between a stealth weapon and some previously unrecorded form of invertebrate, the C-HR is about as uncompromising a vehicle (in a sector defined by utter conformity) as can be realistically imagined. Attractive? To its own mother perhaps, but say what you will, the C-HR is striking. Mind you, so is being slapped very hard across the face, but we wouldn’t necessarily advocate that either.

Image credit:

C-sector crossovers are big news here in the Republic of Ireland, as indeed they appear to be everywhere else. With a high proportion of poorly surfaced, undulating and serpentine country roads, the perceived requirement for the attributes they offer has seen sales swell to represent close to 25% of the Irish car market, according to some sources.

The Irish are typically rather conservative in their motoring choices, but given the numbers of C-HRs on the roads here, they appear in this case at least to have cast aside their reserve. In doing so, they’ve obviously cast aside any consideration for back seat occupants, since the rear pews appear to offer a distinctly isolation-chamber ambience. Bring sick bags.

Aiding Toyota’s cause is the good press the C-HR has been receiving, amongst which was this glowing report from The Irish Times’ Neil Briscoe, who viewed the car as a potential ‘turning point’ for a car maker who, in his words, had previously been in the practice of erecting stylistic bushels under which to hide their engineering prowess.

Image credit: Toyota C-HR forum

But not only is the C-HR garnering decent reviews, its European sales figures are also noteworthy. While it may not be troubling the top sellers in terms of overall crossover sales, its 108,170 deliveries across the region in 2017 have come bracingly close to eclipsing its C-sector hatchback Auris sibling, which posted 114,105 examples over the same period. Who’d bet against those figures being reversed in 2018?

In a further reversal, the Auris nameplate is reported to be reverting back to the more familiar Corolla designation for its forthcoming iteration, which will employ the same Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform shared by the C-HR and current Prius. You may be interested to learn that ‘Auris’ sounds phonetically similar to the Irish language word ‘amhras’, which translates into English as ‘doubt’.

Certainly, with the direction of travel as is, the situation for the Auris in the medium to long-term looks more than a little doubtful. As indeed does the Irish car market which has lost 10% of its overall volume owing to the immediate effects of the UK’s Brexit decision. The prognosis for the C-HR on the other hand appears a good deal more assured.

Europe car sales data:

*Other footwear brands are available.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

23 thoughts on “Doubt and Disbelief”

    1. It might have emerged later. The Juke raised the bar for expressive design, much like the Focus Mk1. The C-HR radically challenges conventions and gets away with it because the other parameters are handled quite conventionally. I rather like it. It’s not the style for some other classes of car; here it is appropriate.

  1. I may not be a fan of the C-3PO, but even I have to admit that it’s far more consistent and even striking a piece of styling than the utterly lamentable Lamborghini Urus. That car’s main achievement is that it challenged perennial winners, Mercedes-Benz for the title of ‘most incongruously placed rear door handle’.

    1. It’s going some is it not when Toyota City can create a more convincing Lamborghini-esque crossover than Sant’Agata Bolognese. Perhaps Mitja Borkert ought to give the Japanese a call and politely request a little Waku Doki on their spuds. Heaven knows, they need the help…

  2. I’ve driven this car in the US a few weeks ago. It really is a striking car; lots of angles and lines, and unlike many overstyled, tacked on designs – the CH-R has a wide and planted stance.

    Toyota was also offering an attractive lease deal too; only about $20 more a month than a Corolla, and you get more standard equipment.

    Only thing, the US gets a 2.0L engine and CVT auto only, and no hybrid or 1.2T 6MT. The 2.0L has more HP than the other combinations the rest of the world gets, but it still manages to be very slow. 0-60MPH comes in 12 seconds almost, and there’s no AWD option. (That’s a non starter in the US, literally almost every small SUV has an AWD option)

    However, I could get a really nicely equipped Chevrolet Cruze hatchback with all the fixings on discount for a literal $10,000 USD less. Different class of car, yes, but the CH-R is expensive.

    1. I’m not sure if they’re moving many units though, the HR-V is a solid 2-3K cheaper, and can be had with AWD. Same with the Chevy Trax, and Buick Encore (Opel Mokka X). Right now, Honda is dominating this segment.

  3. I believe the C-HR is a terrific piece of showboating design, as cohesive a statement of the Japanese conception of modernity as the FK/FN era “spaceship” Civic. I seem to remember reading that the C-HR has not been as much of a hit stateside as Toyota might have hoped (and I will use my prerogative as a below the line commenter to not bother with the mundanity of substantiating that assertion). But as for my own experience, I have not been so impressed with a Japanese car in quite some time, and certainly not a crossover. Bravo Toyota.

    1. I am with you on this one and I think it and the Juke deserve a lot of credit for their imaginativ shapes. The CHR is quite unorthodox and still holds together. It looks like nothing else and looks good too. That´s a hard one to pull off well. This is a car for which Waku-Doki was meant. What was the last Japanese car that impressed me? Well, Subaru always provide something worthwhile and I am very respectful of the Mazda 6 which is a striking looking machine.

  4. I find the CH-R varies in looks tremendously by colour. A sort of red magenta makes it look elegantly expensive – I couldn’t believe how the metallic pearl paint shone in the sun.

    On the other hand, the one I saw with some sort of light green lower body and a white roof looked like a children’s art class project and inutterably cheap. Blech.

    Colour is key to how well this vehicle looks.

    Being a heavy piece of ironwork, almost 1500 kg, it is dog slow even compared to the Corolla with a slightly smaller 1.8l/CVT, and the lack of AWD hinders sales here in NA. Toyota buyers never worry about power, so the poseur aspect sells them. And in some solid colours yes it does look good.

  5. I have to confess that i am torn between admiration for Toyota´s courage and my doubts that – like the Juke – such lines won´ t look really fresh for more than a very short time. I am hoping the C-HR will prove me wrong. There are enough boring SUVs, so I hope the C-HR, the CX-3, the C3 Aircross and the 3008 will be more successful than a Kuga, Karoq or a Kadjar and especially like the brilliant, but very ordinary Honda H-RV.

    For me personally, the C-HR has a killer argument against him. Who would sit more than a few seconds here? With cheap plastic instead of a view or (at least) cloth next to the head?

    1. That is rather claustrophobic and small children will not like that. Contrast that with the Meriva Mk2 with its dropped window line.

    2. Richard! How dare you compare this to something like a Meriva? MPVs are SO 2012, didn’t you know?

    3. Simon: I can be outrageous when the red vermouth and ginger ale kick in. Sorry.

      Back in 2012 it seemed like a good idea to give kids a view out. The poor lambs now have a massive door casing to look at when they glance away from their iPads.
      Markus has ruined the C-RH for me now.
      Will it date badly? I think it might remain wierd for a long time, like a Multipla.

    4. It doesn’t have to age badly. Astonishingly, the Juke hasn’t (for my eyes at least). I guess that with such a design, chances are much more intact for a lasting impression than with a retro approach. But only time will tell.

      I doubt that vehicles like a C-HR or Juke are really bought by families with children. They might prefer some of the more upright and ‘conservative’ small CUVs, like 2008, C3 Aircross or Opel Somethingland XY (I can never remember those stupid names). The Jukes are rather commuter fodder for single occupants.

    5. Simon: that would make CUVs equivalent to the three door hatches and two-door saloons that were popular in the 60s and 70s. That explains the inadequate rear seats and lousy view out.
      Whatever happened to seats that looked comfortable?

  6. I’ve just seen that the Corolla name WILL return in the year 2019. This will mean my friend who called his Auris, “Harris,” or when drunk, “Oracle” after several squiffy attempts can finally buy a brand new worlds biggest selling automobile.
    I am to celebrate the Corolla’s return by breathing. S-l-o-w….l-y

    1. In all fairness, it´s not the world´s best selling car for nothing: honest, reliable, efficient and in tune with its customers´expectations. The current Auris is a likeable and laid-back car too. A neighbour has a hybrid in bordeaux metallic and it is very ritzy looking. Beautiful paint work. It looks like dust could not stick to it.

  7. I have to agree to disagree, Richard. The Auris and the new Corolla are boring to me. I hear what you’re saying with their honesty and not taxing to their customer base but akin to the Golf, they blend into the background with, to me, grudgingly smug annoyance. The paint effect sounds interesting, mind.
    As the Germans weaponise with unending force, perhaps we do need something that screams pacifist and unconcerned with highway aggression?
    Perhaps I need lie in opposed to a single malt?

    1. May I suggest you take succour in the soothing depths of an amontillado or oloroso? If you think you like scotch you will adore dry sherries.

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