There are many options on the journey from point A to B and I’d like to believe that in most cases I have an element of control. I most often choose the scenic route and prefer my transport to be classic and to break down occasionally, because that’s apparently part of my story. Sometimes, however, the journey can be unpredictable, as I discovered on a recent trip to Madrid when, because of a Lufthansa pilots’ strike in Frankfurt, I was shifted to a seat on Emirates only a few minutes before midnight. I landed a day later than scheduled, missing day one of the launch of Toyota’s beastly looking C-HR (Coupé High-Rider).

The upside was I learnt about baggage tracking and the importance of investing in traceable luggage, such as Samsonite’s Track&Go system, or better insurance. I also met an interesting musician called Jaime García Soriano from the Spanish pop rock group Sexy Sadie, which was famous during the ’90s and early 2000s. He not only provided the sound track to my experience in the city — fortuitous, as sound played an important part in the launch and the C-HR in-car experience developed through a partnership with Harman’s JBL division. It also turns out that he’s probably their target audience — the “yuccies” (young urban creatives), those “self-aware young adults who value their creative autonomy, but also prestige and materialistic success” (thanks, Wikipedia).

The Emirates experience is far superior to most airlines, but Lufthansa offers more comfortable, fully reclining, air-pocketed, adjustable seats in business class, and its menu has heartwarming, nostalgic elements. If they both use the same aircraft, why does one end up with my preferred seating arrangement? It all boils down to the selections they make from the endless options, which capture their brand vision for your best experience.

The same can be said about today’s motor industry, about which I think it’s safe to say that all cars within their categories are created pretty equal. Case in point: when it comes to Japanese cars, their famed quality and reliability is a given, so what sets them apart is exceptional design and the edge they have with economies of scale. Design rules, and the Asian designers, particularly those from South Korea, are hot property, being snapped up by both US and European manufacturers.

The new generation from Toyota will also share platforms and parts, thus shifting the focus to imaginative exterior and interior design and more luxury at very competitive prices. The C-HR is constructed on the company’s TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform developed under chief engineer Hiroyuki Kobo in Japan, which is also featured on the new Prius. With its high-rigidity and low centre of gravity, you’re guaranteed a more dynamic, engaging drive with balanced handling.

The design language is based on the idea of waku-doki, a Japanese phrasemeaning to capture the feeling of anticipation for something exhilarating. Thiskind of excitement is seen in studio chief designer Alex Shen’s FT-1 concept,which we hope will become the much-anticipated Supra MK5. The C-HR is loaded with character and, with its faceted “diamond architectural” theme, has the stance of a large feline ready for the chase.

Although Toyota has made some exciting-looking performance cars in the past — the 2000GT, Supra MK4, and GT86 — it’s only through its Lexus division that we started seeing anything exciting in more recent years. Under the guidance of the group’s design chief and president of Lexus International, Tokuo Fukuichi, things have certainly shifted to making cars that are fun and dynamic. Even the latest incarnation of the solid and reliable Corolla gets a second glance in traffic these days, thanks to young stars such as Jin Won Kim (FJ Cruiser and FT-HS concept that inspired the 86) at Toyota’s Calty Design Research facility in California, where the C-HR was conceived under the project’s head designer Kazuhiko Isawa. 

Although the feeling is that Toyota may have been a little slow to this segment, it gets points for drive dynamics and leads the pack in terms of future design direction. The nearest competition, the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke, now look a little pedestrian, with the C-HR a more fitting match for the likes of the badass Rally Fighter from Transformers: Age of Extinction. Nissan’s Gripz concept would, however, make the cut.

These really are fun times for car design and finally things are looking like the futuristic dream cars of schoolboy sketchbooks. It’s also symbolic of the want-it-now generation, with the C-HR jumping from the stage to production in less than three years.

Although the C-HR is a comfortable four-seater, four-door, the rakish roofline and cleverly hidden rear door handles high up in the C-pillar give it a look that’s every bit a sports coupé on steroids. At the front end, the now-familiar Toyota design language is given a more aggressive treatment, with higher cheekbones. At the heart of the beast is a new generation hybrid powertrain featuring a super efficient 1.8l VVT-i Atkinson cycle petrol engine and the
impressive 1.2l turbo engine (for now the only option to hit our shores). With a body that is only slightly smaller than the RAV4 and notable performance figures, I suspect that when the full range of hybrid, AWD, and FWD models arrive in South Africa, we may see its older sister shifting off the floor.
The Toyota C-HR, starting at R318 500.

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