The C-HR shows Toyota’s strange relationship to design


Toyota’s crossover car looks like a folded jacket

The C-HR shows Toyota's strange relationship to design-strange

The 4.35 meter long Toyota C-HR is a crossover of a compact car, SUV and coupe

Source: Jakob Hoff

A common criticism of Toyota is: too little courage in design. For the CH-R, they took this to heart – and still got a few things wrong. Nevertheless, the car surprised in the test.

D.u notice that you get old when you no longer understand the boys. When they call their car “Coupe High Rider” to feel “the flow of the city”. But the boys may not really speak like that at all. This is only how they are addressed, namely by Toyota.

And when I look at the car like that, I have a certain understanding of the slightly over-the-top advertising vocabulary. For decades, copywriters had to gloss over faceless non-design – came a Toyota over, you immediately forgot what he looked like. That cannot happen with the C-HR, which is why we have to speak of a successful design here.

The C-HR shows Toyota's strange relationship to design-relationship

Long lights for LED daytime running lights (below) and indicators frame the headlights of the Toyota C-HR

Source: Jakob Hoff

Oh well. I remember a story from the IAA in Frankfurt, I visited the 2013 fair with Paolo Tumminelli, professor at the Cologne International School for Design. Tumminelli is not only a proven expert on design issues, but also a real car guy.

And he has written books that for me are standard works: “Car Design Europe” (2011), “Car Design America” (2013) and “Car Design Asia” (2014). Who always knows about the design of automobiles want to know, take a look at these books (all at teNeues, 49 euros each) – they bring together the most important models in a picture and concisely explain the idea behind them and the historical context.

There is no room for the eye to rest

When Tumminelli and I roamed the IAA, we also took a look at the booth of Toyota‘s luxury brand Lexus. There was the study of the now available SUV NX, to which Tumminelli came up with a nice sentence: "The car looks like a folded jacket, you no longer expect any substance."

I feel the same way about the Toyota C-HR. Many shapes and lines leave little room for your own interpretation, the car gives the eye no room to rest because it is neither clear nor simple, not even on the headlights. I’m afraid that after three or four years you will no longer like to look at the C-HR. That’s a shame because cars can furnish the streets for up to 20 years.

The C-HR shows Toyota's strange relationship to design-relationship

Extremely restless design language at the rear of the C-HR

Source: Jakob Hoff

You may be thinking now that I am mean and that I have no heart for Toyota. But that impression is wrong. I admire the brand for flooding the world with completely normal cars, all of which do their job as normal and at least used to be very robust. Cars for people who are not car guys must first be made with as much passion as the Toyota developers do.

The insistence on hybrid technology, which I find unattractive, also forces me to respect it. If I’m unlucky enough to be in a Toyota Prius taxi (I could drive a Mercedes for the same price), I always ask the chauffeur how satisfied he is. And the answer is always the same: uses little, lasts forever.

Toyota does not offer a diesel engine

Nevertheless, I am glad that the test car from the C-HR does not have a hybrid drive equipped, although Toyota expects a 70 percent share of sales here. Among other things, this is due to the fact that there is no diesel engine in addition to the 122 hp hybrid, but only a basic gasoline engine with 116 hp. I drive it and I am impressed.

How can it be that a plain 1.2-liter four-cylinder depends so well on the gas? A look at the data sheet helps: The engine provides 185 Newton meters of torque – not the world, but thanks to the turbocharger and careful coordination, this power is stable between 1500 and 4000 revolutions, and the six-speed gearbox fits the engine perfectly. Test consumption: 7.3 liters (norm: 5.9). The C-HR is also available with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) – but this technology, which costs € 1,300, is only for people who don’t care at all about the power delivery of their machine. CVT brakes cars, period.

The C-HR shows Toyota's strange relationship to design-relationship

The eight-inch color monitor is standard equipment from the middle equipment level upwards, but the navigation system on it always costs 790 euros extra

Source: Jakob Hoff

I would prefer to invest the remaining money in a higher level of equipment, although the basic version of the C-HR already brings a lot for 21,990 euros: In addition to the air conditioning and the CD radio, there is a collision warning system with emergency brake assist and pedestrian detection and even an adaptive cruise control. The next level of equipment (from 24,390 euros) includes 17-inch alloy wheels, rain sensor, traffic sign recognition, reversing camera, eight-inch touchscreen and fog lights.

Our test car was the top model Style Selection (27,940 euros), with additional 18-inch wheels, a color-contrasting roof, keyless entry and some visual improvements – the middle variant offers the best overall price-performance ratio. In any case, I would only spend another 790 euros on the navigation system.

The chassis could also use more horsepower

It drives as modern and sporty as the Toyota C-HR appears. The appearance of the chassis and steering is surprisingly confident, appears comfortable and safe, and the car even offers a touch of driving pleasure. I could even imagine a few more horsepower, at least the set-up would produce that.

The C-HR shows Toyota's strange relationship to design-toyota

The rear door handles placed as high as possible are impractical, and not just for small children

Source: Jakob Hoff

All in all, the youngest Toyota leaves an ambivalent impression. Technically, I like it a lot, but optically it is based on the equally hyperactive Nissan Juke (even if the Toyota ranks a class higher at 4.35 meters), including everyday disadvantages.

The 377 liter trunk has turned out strangely flat, and the approach to the rear is not a pleasure thanks to the unergonomic door handles and a tight interior. You sit very low on the back seat, and thanks to the body design, as the driver, I can sense more than see the traffic behind me. But I find myself in the flow of the city.

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9 thoughts on “The C-HR shows Toyota’s strange relationship to design”

  1. One of the ugliest vehicles currently available.
    The design is daring, but I think that it failed to achieve its goal and does not inspire people, but rather scares them off.
    Toyota had pretty cars in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. But since the mid-80s they have been making cars that just look boring. Reliable but boring.

  2. Two quotes from well-known designers come to mind:
    "Good design should trigger emotions. At best, joy"


    "Leaving out lines strengthens the character of a design."
    Which was completely ignored with this thing. Is probably fashion in Japan right now….

  3. CD radio ??? So pretty much the only thing my C-HR can’t do is play a CD because it just doesn’t have a CD player in it. Everything else is a matter of opinion. In any case, I’m completely happy with my hybrid.

  4. If I’m already reading "1.2 l turbo engine", The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. These lawnmower motors are absolutely no alternative for me. With a 2.5 or 3 l diesel you can drive wonderfully relaxed and, above all, economical, without becoming a moving obstacle to traffic. In addition, the life expectancy of such machines is likely to be significantly higher. Anyone who might still have a camping trailer (admittedly one exception) should put such an underpowered vehicle aside from the start.
    Otherwise, the look is very interesting and that’s why it will definitely still be an eye-catcher in 20 years’ time.

  5. "When a Toyota came by, you forgot what it looked like." Celica, Supra, Camry, RAV4, Land Cruiser, all models that have shaped the streetscape for years. You saw all these cars … if you wanted to. Because they ran 300,000, 500,000 or even more kilometers without any problems. At the same time, car owners tried desperately to drive the rust beetles out of the body of their German car with DDT. My Camry (3rd generation – 1994) ran 250,000 km without a breakdown. First exhaust, first shock absorber, first clutch. He laid another 150,000 km on the asphalt in the hands of the workshop manager. Today we can only dream of such reliability.

  6. I have already tried the C-HR (hybrid, automatic). In terms of design, it’s a bit more daring than what Toyota usually offers. But as with everything, it’s a matter of taste. Technically, you can’t complain, the equipment is also of the usual high quality. In terms of size, it is comparable to the Auris. For the city, I find the combination of hybrid and automatic very useful. You are trained to drive economically. On the autobahn, there is a bit of power missing. Since the gasoline engine switches on here, consumption also goes up. A good car all round – but in my opinion something for the city.


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