2023 Toyota C-HR vs the original.

The success of the C-HR crossover model for Toyota means that a Mk2 model has launched 7 years on from the original design. This car marked the step-change in philosophy from Akio Toyoda to shift away from boring cars. The design story of the original astonished even the designers at Toyota Europe when they proposed various options and the management chose the craziest wild-card that the team could come up with. None of them expected it to be chosen! The Toyota C-HR was a response to the runaway success of the Nissan Qashqai but Toyota’s bravery really showed in the way it was even more sporty, with a coupe like rear roofline compromising interior space. I was enough of a fan of that design story and the exciting design it produced, that I decided to replace my BMW 5 series with a brand new C-HR in 2017. It was pure visual extravagance that drew me to the Toyota showroom, but to drive, the C-HR was just as bold a change for the brand. Dynamically, and in perceived quality it matched my BMW. The C-HR remained our family car for over 4 years, and was only traded for a larger car. I always wanted to deep dive into the design of the car, which had so many oddities about it, but they somehow all worked together. It felt like a work of manic designers, cramming in so many trends and ideas into one car it was perhaps overwhelming for many viewers but it certainly wasn’t boring. It also drew criticism from designer friends regarding the huge fake air vents up front and diffuser at the rear. All plastic, and with no function especially for my low powered hybrid model. One of my favourite aspects were the graphics, and I made sure to buy a white/black two colour scheme that emphasised the bold graphics the design team envisioned. The graphical treatment of the C-HR always strongly reminded of the 2009 Lotus Evora. This I believe was no accident… as the brief of the C-HR was to be a crossover coupe and the sporty look was so important to the car. The graphical treatment also very cleverly broke up the rather ordinary hatchback profile of the car. Yes it had quite a nice dropping rear roof line, to distance it from other upright SUVs and crossovers but overall it was quite an ordinary profile. Crossovers must be tall, so the graphic elements on all models – such as the shut-lines, DLO and black lower body between the wheels serve to visually break up the height and emphasise movement.

The new C-HR also aims to break up its slightly more practical shape with graphics. These are something that other Toyota designs have been developing, such as the AygoX, Yaris Cross, and Bz4r. The rear section being painted black is the main idea shown in the new cars graphics, explained by design lead Elvio D’Aprile to emphasise the forward motion of the car. This reminds me of classic BMW lower bodywork, which was described to me once as a scooping hand shape that pushes the car forwards. The original design had bold panel draw, with strong shapes but not very sharp creases so it seems Toyota have been working very hard to improve their metal pressing. I wrote another post here about how VW group have patents on this crease technology, and it was going to take a long time for others to catch up. The element I do find strange on this mk2 C-HR is to not use the same trick with the lower side graphics. Toyota designers used a negative light-catcher as is standard practice now, to cast a shadow which serves a similar purpose and is a similar shape. Why not use the original black panel to really make sure the lower part of the car tucks up between the wheels? I’ve created a few mock ups of what this new model would look like if it closely followed the graphics of its predecessor. The design is certainly more sophisticated and thanks to Complete Car for their video interview that reveals the detail work, particularly around rear aerodynamics. The first model had some interesting little aero add ons, a spoiler stuck to the rear lights like a gurney flap, for example. This latest design seems to have better integration of aero-forms.

Authors own car, an early 2017 model. Very bold graphics, inspired by Lotus perhaps?

Same graphic elements used here to reduce the visual height and weight of the Lotus Evora (first released in 2009).

Blacking out that lower feature to match the original C-HR. Surely helps reduce the visual height?

The green area drew my attention….

My mock-up of the same graphic treatment that the original model displayed.

Great video here from Complete Car with design chat from Elvio D’Aprile of Toyota Design Europe.

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