Finding ‘white space’ between the glut of compact crossovers currently on the market has become a preoccupation for many car manufacturers of late.
Toyota, though, seems to have found some for the C-HR, a stylish crossover model that has replaced a number of more humdrum five-door offerings in the firm’s international line-up.
The disparate nature of its predecessors (which include conventional hatchbacks as well as a short-lived, oddball mini-MPV, the Urban Cruiser) helps to explain some of the thinking behind the model’s mixed-up looks, designed to combine coupé, hatchback and crossover influences.
This approach could hardly be claimed as novel – crossing over conventional vehicle norms being what ‘crossovers’ were always intended to do – and yet, on first inspection, the C-HR seems to do it with more conviction than most.
Just as it showed with the current Prius, Toyota is demonstrating a new-found fearlessness when it comes to design that is likely to lose it as many fans as it wins.
Still, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that the C-HR might meet with a warmer reception from a fashion-savvy crossover-loving crowd than the Prius does with its largely middle-aged, moderate, conservative customer base.
Underneath the skin, though, these two Toyota siblings are not so different. They share the same global architecture, and the crossover also incorporates the latest version of the petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that made the Prius so famous in the first place.
The parallel hybrid set-up is available in either 121bhp 1.8-litre or 182bhp 2.0-litre guises, which until recently looked out of step with coupé, hatchback and crossover rivals that feature downsized diesel or petrol motors. However, the current rush toward electrification has left the Toyota looking rather on-point in the powertrain department, especially when you consider that the brand has recently dropped the 1.2-litre pure petrol alternative.
The C-HR was originally conceived for Europe exclusively but has since been seized upon by a raft of other markets – most notably Japan – as an essential and presumably desirable part of the brand’s line-up over the next decade.
Is it deserving of that kind of recognition?