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?
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.
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.
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: carsalesbase.com
*Other footwear brands are available.