The first time I laid eyes on the Toyota C-HR, I was confused. Much like the slice of market it’s attempting to play in, I simply fail to understand why it’s needed.
This year’s Tokyo Auto Salon was full of crossovers, with tuners jumping on any new model that’s hit the dealers for the sheer lack of anything more exciting coming to market. But then I saw what Lexon had done to Toyota’s ‘Coupe-High Rider.’
It’s amazing what slamming a car to the ground can do for the way it’s perceived. There’s definitely nothing High Rider about this C-HR anymore.
Sure, it isn’t quite as performance oriented as most of the cars we shoot for Speedhunters, but the Toyota crossover is currently sitting in a very good position and I thought a closer look at this thing was definitely in order.
So the other day, Takemi-san, the main behind Lexon, brought his new demo machine over to a cool little spot I know, so I could take a closer look. And when I say “new” I really do mean it; this C-HR has just over 500km on the odometer!
Toyota may have turned up very late to the entry-level crossover party that many manufacturers have been enjoying for years, but its new creation stands a good chance of taking over. With sales in Europe having just started and the US to follow this fall, this little 4-door hatchback brings a lot to the table for buyers looking for a fun and cheap daily commuter.
The Lexon approach has thus far been as simple as it gets, starting off with an air suspension setup.
The addition of 20-inch Vossen VFS-10 rims transform the almost innocent look of the factory-spec car and gives it a whole different character.
Design-wise, it seems a little fussy at first, but take some time to digest the multitude of lines that run across the C-HR’s profile and it ends up being pretty coherent. It all flows to towards the rear to give form to the low-raked hatch section, which I think is the most distinctive feature of the car.
It’s very design oriented, much like the Nissan Juke, but Toyota has managed to make it all look right and not awkward in any way.
The pointy front with that modern, almost grill-less face hints at the fact that this is a hybrid, but the pumped fender lines instantly have you wondering if Toyota will produce a performance version of the car. It would almost seem silly not to!
For the Japanese and European markets, the C-HR is offered with the choice of a turbocharged 1.2-liter gasoline engine or a 1.8-liter petrol electric hybrid out of the Prius, as fitted to the Lexon car. The US will only get a 144hp 2.0-liter with a CVT transmission, which kind of makes sense for the type of use the car is designed for.
I’m not suggesting that Toyota dump a twin-turbo V6 motor into the C-HR like what Nissan did with the Juke R I drove a few years back, but boy does this unassuming crossover have potential in my mind. If Toyota won’t do it, the aftermarket will surely come up with some cool visions of the car, like we’re already beginning to see.
The interior follows Toyota recent design language, with a simple and modern dash layout and everything focused towards the center console and touchscreen.
The air suspension is set-up and controlled through Air Lift Performance 3H management, and Takemi stores the handy digital controller under the arm rest cubby when not needed. Of course, he can also use the iPhone app to raise or lower the car.
While the rear of the cabin isn’t anything to write home about in terms of space and headroom, all in all the C-HR’s interior is nicely appointed for the price. If you crave a little more luxury, you should probably wait for the Lexus version of the car which will probably be out sometime next year.
While trunk space looked pretty decent, it wasn’t that I was interested in. Lifting up the floor panel/separator reveals the components of the Air Runner system.
The C-HR might be marketed as an entry-level crossover, but I just can’t help but see the potential for something a hell of a lot more exciting. Maybe it’s the lack of sporty and fun little cars from Japan that makes me crave something like this, although if Toyota Racing Development (TRD) brings out a special version of the C-HR I just hope it’s not akin to what Nismo has done with the Juke! I’m keeping my fingers crossed…
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