By on December 14, 2016


The upcoming Toyota C-HR, which never had a chance to officially wear its former Scion badge, is on a mission.

Toyota is treating its strategically edgy subcompact crossover as something of a canary in the marketplace coal mine, betting on a big consumer response based solely on its styling. The company that built its reputation on staid, reliable, beige cars wants to know what happens when it lets its hair down.

And no, it doesn’t care if you’re offended. Toyota wants to push your buttons, turkey.

Speaking at the Japanese launch of the funky model, C-HR general manager Hiroyuki Koba said the automaker desperately needed a polarizing design.

“If you like it, you love it. If you don’t like it, you never will,” Koba said. “We are looking for customers who disliked Toyota before. We want to turn their heads.”

The automaker hasn’t completely abandoned its cautious nature. Toyota claims market research shows that subcompact crossover buyers place design above all else, so it designed the C-HR to lure them in. The Nissan Juke — first to show up at the funky small crossover party — can’t have all the fun.

With the model, Toyota hopes to smash its average 20-percent new-to-the-brand customer ratio. It has set a global sales target of 170,000.

While the C-HR needn’t worry about being mistaken for a RAV4, all this bold, funky design craziness seems skin-deep. Powering the little ute is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 144 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, with a continuously variable transmission as its sole transmission. However, its rival — the Juke — slathers on the special sauce, offering sport-tuned Nismo and Nismo RS variants boasting 188 and 215 horsepower, respectively.

The Juke is also offered with all-wheel drive, while the C-HR bows with only front-wheel propulsion. Still, if styling is truly what matters most to buyers, maybe the driveline doesn’t matter.

The Toyota C-HR goes on sale in North America this coming spring as a 2018 model.

[Source: Automotive News] [Image: Toyota]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

62 Comments on “Go Bold or Go Home, Toyota Says, Tentatively Ditching Its Longstanding Commitment to Boredom...”

  • avatar
    Sam Hall

    Never understood the notion of being ‘offended’ at a car’s styling. Look at it and decide it’s not me? Like it but see it as impractical/doesn’t suit my needs? Sure. But offended? Why put so much energy into the subject? Yet, I know others do. Ah well.

    • 0 avatar

      People write/say offended because it is a polite and kosher marketing way of saying ugly. Just like how you write/say affordable instead of cheap. Or write/say passed away (or other euphemisms) instead of died/dead.

      • 0 avatar

        I think people say “offended” when they really mean “ugly” because they are trying to “impress with big words.” Unfortunately, the substituted big words usually have subtly different meanings or are wildly ambiguous. Some of these substitutions become standard over time. (For example, in the computer software industry “performance” has come to mean “fast”—ruining the word “performance” for all. Yes, I’ve actually heard someone ask: “Is the software performant?”)

        In the case of this writing, I suppose the author meant: “I believe the over-the-top styling of this vehicle is ugly.”

        However, we have an “offensive” vehicle. Maybe it smells like flatulence? Maybe the engine note harmonics are dissonant or loud?

        Maybe, if it has the female genitalia look of that Subaru front end, you could say you are “offended.” That would be a proper use.

  • avatar

    I say “go home” for sure! NASHTA needs to get after these idiot manufacturers for the rear door closed in windows fad. Who is supposed to see out the back window of this thing a grasshopper glued to the top portion?

  • avatar

    Thanks, Toyota, but no thanks. We’ve already been blessed with Nissan’s Juke.

    It’s difficult for me to imagine a vehicle that wastes its interior volume and appears to be more claustrophobic than this abomination.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for bold styling, but this is ‘way over the top. Toyota has succeeded in taking what should be a nice, compact hauler for four people and stuff and turning it into a 2-seat blob of a coupe!

  • avatar

    It is one thing to do this in this segment, but they have goofy styling all up and down the line, including Lexus.

  • avatar

    That’s what they are doing at Lexus and it works. You either love it or you don’t. Sales are strong so apparently this is a good strategy!

  • avatar

    Hahahaha…I’m not offended. Toyota is aiming this at somebody who ain’t me…so why would I be offended?

    I can see trading some function for styling’s sake – to make it look better…see Audi A7 vs. A6…but when you compromise function WHILE making it uglier?

    The sorority girls who dashed over to the Jeep Renegade, from the Juke, will now dash over to this, from the Renegade. What do I care?

  • avatar

    This is a young persons CUV and since I just got my AARP card I can not comment ( but they said the same thing about the scion xb) I think the success of the Sol says folks like skin deep design, I am seeing this being a hit on collage campus across the country.

  • avatar

    You’ve had a good run, Toyota.

    Omedetou gozaimasu and sayonara.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota is feeling like GM circa 1970.

      Oh look at me, I’m exciting, I’m not the boring leviathan in the room – I’m not the just the market place leader that your parents buy without thinking.


      • 0 avatar

        The difference being Toyota doesn’t build junk.

        • 0 avatar

          GM wasn’t really “junk” circa 1970 either. But Toyota is leaning on and squeezing its suppliers and driving down the quality of the components they build cars with. I have a 7 year warranty on the sunvisors on my Highlander to show that a supplier got squeezed until they couldn’t deliver.

          Definitely a WTF moment when a sunvisor on a 6 year old vehicle is hanging limp and useless, refusing to go back up against the headliner.

          • 0 avatar

            Can I interest you in a ’71 Vega, Dan?

            Seriously, at least a fair percentage of GM’s product base in the early ’70s was crap. Ask me about my dad’s ’70s Caddies sometime.

          • 0 avatar

            Should have got the 4Runner.

          • 0 avatar

            Hah, if I had used 4Runner money I would have bought a new something else.

            (Seriously, look at the resale values on a freaking 4Runner.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Instead, I’m still waiting for the Kia Niro:

  • avatar

    In this segment, AWD DOES matter, Toyota is about to find that out.

    Toyota may have the styling to draw customers in, but when they get there the drive is gonna put them to sleep.

  • avatar

    I think Toyota is totally missing the boat with what makes cars “exciting.” You can have cool hardware and give consumers powertrain choices and make things exciting that way. Making overstyled tremendously ugly cars does not constitute ‘exciting’ cars in my mind.

    In the mid 90s you could buy a globe-trotting Land Cruiser with locking rear axles front and rear, a Land Cruiser-lite 4Runner with awesome capabilities at a lower price, a super-car crushing Supra Turbo or slightly more attainable MR2 Turbo that could (sort of) be mistaken for a mid-engined Italian, a Supercharged AWD Previa, and in the early 90s they still had hot-rod Corollas with zippy engines and fun handling. Most of these cars aside from the Supra and Previa were styled fairly ‘plainly’ but handsomely.

    The current 4Runner Trail/Pro would be every bit as exciting for its capabilities without its gaping maw.

    • 0 avatar

      That was before they sold their souls for world dominance.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point.

      When it was making its’ bones, Toyota was able to “excite” buyers with superior quality and durability. Problem is, the competition has largely caught up.

      • 0 avatar

        Freedmike, not only that but genuinely interesting stuff that stood out on the basis of performance/capability. Outside of the 4Runner with its sort of comfy DD+BOF legit offroader niche, where does Toyota have a true standout in terms of performance? Lexus LFA aside, that’s very far outside the realm of the attainable. Corolla “S” is kind of a bad joke and has been since the ’98 version. Celica/MR2/Supra all dead. No funky stick shift all-trac wagons. All pretty niche stuff admittedly that sold in fairly small numbers relative to plain jane camrys, but it gave the brand an overall well rounded and “cool/exciting” image. Nowadays Toyota is universally known for being stodgy. Some cool tech in the Prius no doubt, but nothing truly “desirable” aside from the Taco/4Runners with the offroad crowd.

  • avatar

    Toyota, if C-HR is you attempting to drop boredom you’ve actually succeeded in becoming more boring.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I am currently strongly considering a 2014+ Lexus IS350. I am actively repulsed by the front styling of the Lexus brand but I am willing to overlook the spindle grille in order to get the rest of the car.

    So, we’re at the point where instead of buying a car because of the styling we’re buying cars in spite of the styling.

  • avatar

    Not boring = Good
    Ugly = Bad (see latest Prius restyle)

  • avatar

    Toyota has to figure out that “creases” don’t mean exciting. Design trends in general (not just cars) has been more “minimal,” cleaner, flatter, less ostentatious. Even in stuff like computers/mobile devices; the shiny/glassy/bubbly look of e.g. iOS and Windows has been replaced by a flattened and muted aesthetic.

    Toyota and Lexus are going the wrong way.

  • avatar

    Remember that Muppets/Terry Crews ad for the Highlander, about how they don’t have room for boring? I drove one of those Highlanders last week. It’s huge. It used that room to be filled with all the boring. That’s what their customers really want. That’s fine. Embrace it.

  • avatar

    I actually kind of dig this design.

  • avatar

    …saw it at the LA Auto Show. Styling was pretty cool… powertrain… not so much. If this is just the proverbial “shot across the bow” of the competition, & portends of better things to come… fine. Both Hyundai and Nissan eventually stepped up their games after the introduction of the weak sauce Veloster & Juke. Hoping Toyota does the same (doubt it). A hotter engine, & the option for a manual trans would be nice… but I’m not holding my breath. And yes, I’m waiting on my AARP card as well, but I’m not ready for the rocking chair just yet.

    • 0 avatar

      Mind you, there is a manual… In Europe. And it’s the opposite of a hot engine, it’s a 1.2T. Interestingly, you can also get that engine with AWD in Europe, although with a mandatory CVT.

      The other engine choice that Europe gets is the Gen 4 Prius powertrain.

      The 2.0 is what’s for developing and post-developed markets like Russia and the US, that have poor fuel quality.

      I’m thinking they could go for the new 202 hp 2.5 liter as a hot engine option, though…

  • avatar

    Hey Toyota, how bout’ a Corolla Im with the 2.0T and a 6 speed? I’ll buy one, seriously.

    Come on. Everybody’s doing it. (the turbo hatchback thing).

  • avatar

    I miss the old Italian design houses. They could make a lousy Fiat into something beautiful. But then I’m old.

  • avatar

    No word on why its naming fits into the Honda lineup rather than with Toyota?

  • avatar

    If the C-HR is aimed at the US market they should have been asking how those ugly @$$ looks worked out for the Prius. It’s not bringing in new-to-brand buyers. It’s caused such a precipitous drop in sales TMC has decided no one wants hybrids anymore. Wrong lesson learned I guess. Maybe eventually the correlation between UGLY and sales dud will be enough to overcome the institutional authority of whoever is spreading the manure there.

  • avatar

    I’m not offended so much as appalled. That is one ugly car!

  • avatar

    Except that the C-HR is NOT a crossover. It’s an overstyled economy car, but Toyota knows that U.S. customers shy away from the economy car class, so they call this a crossover because it sounds better.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    So it’s ugly, and comes with a CVT, no AWD and a whopping 144 horsepower.

    Toyota really has no idea we people hate their products, do they?

  • avatar

    Yuck, why not just name it the Dumpmobile. Japanese “styling” is regressing to the days of the Datsun F-10.

  • avatar

    Terrible. Toyota designers still don’t know when to put the pen down—in fact, they’re probably still styling it as I write this! Is this what millennials want? Because it looks like they focus-grouped the hell out of this design.

  • avatar

    If Toyota wants to be “exciting”, bring back the MR2 or Supra. So long as it isn’t as ugly as some of their other offerings, it would be exciting. A two door CUV with a back end that reminds me vaguely of the Aztek isn’t all that exciting, unless flashbacks of one of Pontiac’s malformed coffin nails is considered “exciting”.

  • avatar

    The problem with Toyota going bold, is most Toyota owners don’t want bold. Even just a little bold is reason for the Toyota faithful to shun the thing. Witness the Venza, Toyota Dealers must have been wringing their hands when they first saw it. Basically based on the RX platform with less weight and therefore better handling and performance,It should have been a home run. It very much rides and handles like a Q5. Yet the Toyota faithful snapped up RX’s Highlanders and RAV’s like there was no tomorrow and shunned the Venza into submission where it’s final year sales were like 20,000 units. Toyota sells more Camry’s in a couple of weeks then a whole year of Venza’s. I actually purchased one because it was not like any other Toyota product. So good luck Toyota with bold. There’s lots of Venzas out there now the cheap side now that they are orphans, so check em out. Not perfect by any means, but for the price nothing even comes close

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • SCE to AUX: “For starters, many government rides (particularly those used by the USPS) boast some of the...
  • dal20402: My younger kid’s bike got a hole in the front tube right by the valve, not patchable. I didn’t...
  • slavuta: Apple missed the message from Richard Branson – if you want to be a millionaire, invest a billion of...
  • EBFlex: “But if all you ever do is complain, and if the only tone you ever take is super-negative...
  • slavuta: I know how this will endup. ok? We’re going to run out of good ICE cars and will not have anything to...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber