The new-look, five-door Toyota C-HR concept SUV may not look like a production-ready car, but it’s a precursor to a sub-RAV4 model that will be on sale in Australia by the end of 2016.
Following on from the three-door C-HR concept revealed earlier this year, the five-door model – with its almost-hidden rear door and even more hidden rear door handles – is said to give plenty away about a new small production SUV – the actual name of which is yet to be revealed.
That new model is set to be vital one for the brand – it will compete in the booming small SUV segment alongside the exceedingly popular newcomers, the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, among others.
Toyota Australia product public relations manager Steve Coughlan suggested that while the new model isn’t 100 per cent confirmed for our market, that there has been an enormous amount of work put in to make sure it makes it on sale in 2016.
“The effort being put in is substantial – that’s more in terms of specification and pricing and making sure everything is right for our market before we throw our complete weight behind it,” Coughlan said.
“But there’s certainly a very strong interest, and obviously a very strong opportunity there for the car.
“We haven’t confirmed the model for Australia just yet. The production car will be displayed at Geneva show. It will be on stand, so we are not far off.”
When asked if the Toyota brand is at a disadvantage because buyers don’t yet have a small SUV option, Coughlan suggested there are potential buyers out there who are otherwise ending up in a larger model.
“There’s certainly an interest – when people come in to the Toyota dealerships they ask for a small SUV, and the RAV4 is, to a large extent, playing that role,” he said.
“But we would certainly benefit from having something like this – something that has such a visual impact as this would be well received in dealerships as well.”
In terms of just how much of that extroverted styling will make it to the market-ready version remains a mystery – at least until the Geneva motor show in March 2016.
Coughlan said he thought the brand’s recent concept-to-reality turnstile had shown the company can push the boundaries in terms of what is made available to buyers.
“Obviously there will be some motor show concept-style elements, but I think a large component of it looks fairly production ready,” he said.
As for the sale potential for such a model, Coughlan wasn’t jumping to conclusions about the new production model. In its future segment, the current breadwinners include the aforementioned Honda HR-V (7297 sales to the end of August 2015) and Mazda CX-3 (7130 sales year-to-date), not to mention the Mitsubishi ASX (7878 sales YTD). Overall, small SUV sales are up 27.1 per cent this year.
“I don’t think initially, if we were to introduce it, that it would leapfrog Corolla. But years ago who would have thought that SUVs would be as popular as they are today?
“I think people are migrating to smaller cars, and that segment itself is red hot – as is where RAV4 sits as well. Time will tell,” he said of the potential for the new model to be the brand’s best-selling car.
“Nothing is impossible. RAV4 did 18,000 last year – that’s a substantial head start, I would say. But give it a few years and maybe a couple of generations under its belt and anything is possible.”
As for what powers the new model, the concept is said to be powered by a petrol-electric drivetrain – presumably the same battery-backed system offered in the new-generation Toyota Prius.
When the production version comes to reality, a hybrid variant is likely, but the majority of sales are expected to be of a conventional four-cylinder petrol engine – possibly the same 1.8-litre seen in the Corolla, which is teamed to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic gearbox. Front-wheel drive is likely to be standard, though there are reports suggesting an all-wheel drive version is likely.
The fact a hybrid is already on the cards means a diesel is unlikely. Hybrids – in the European market, where this car has been designed in part – account for 30 per cent of Toyota’s overall sales.
The car is built off the all-new TNGA – Toyota New Generation Architecture – platform, which is designed to lower the centre of gravity for better handling, and also makes a more uniform location for the steering position, and the seating height and hip-entry point.
It’s currently unclear where the model will be built and sourced for Australia.
Stay tuned for more on the new Toyota small SUV.
*Note: Blue, three-door Toyota C-HR concept was shown at the Geneva motor show.