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Geneva show: Toyota’s smallest SUV to finally debut

Line up: Toyota is not giving much away with this teaser sketch of its upcoming compact SUV, but expect it to be based on the 2014 C-HR concept.

SUV No. 7 for Toyota set for global launch as Japanese giant plugs hole in range


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23 Feb 2016

TOYOTA’S all-important new compact SUV will be unveiled in its production guise at next week’s Geneva motor show, triggering the countdown to its launch on global markets, including Australia, later this year.

The long-awaited vehicle – built on the new Toyota New Global Architecture that will underpin a raft of Toyota and Lexus compact models, starting with the new-generation Prius – is set to mark the debut of the Japanese giant’s new design language.

It will take the fight up to the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Mitsubishi ASX and Subaru XV in the fast-growing small SUV segment.

Based on the C-HR concept that broke cover at the 2014 Paris motor show, the yet-to-be-named production version has been teased in a sketch showing similar lines to the show car.

Toyota says in a brief press release that the vehicle’s styling represents a breakthrough in the segment, and shows the new face of Toyota.

“It matches a stunning five-door coupe design to an elevated SUV-style cabin combined with a contemporary high-riding driving position,” the company says.

If it remains faithful to the concept, the vehicle will be more of a 2+2 crossover than a true SUV, with a claustrophobic rear seat and little luggage space.

Clearly, the vehicle’s sportiness will be the big selling point, with Toyota promising “an engaging drive experience”. Nissan’s Juke appears to be the most similar competitor.

Toyota Australia and its dealer network have long been waiting for a sub-RAV4 entrant, with sales and marketing executive director Tony Cramb stating on numerous occasions that he has his hand up for the new model.

Most of Toyota’s rivals have already climbed aboard the small SUV bandwagon that has been a runaway success in recent years.

In 2015, Australian small SUV sales jumped a whopping 28.1 per cent – the biggest rise of any segment.

The new vehicle will become Toyota’s seventh SUV offering in Australia, joining the RAV4, FJ Cruiser, Kluger, Fortuner, Prado and LandCruiser in local showrooms.

Toyota is the number-one SUV supplier in Australia with 53,783 sales last year, dominating some segments such as large SUVs.

However, its SUV market share has been eroded in recent times, from 15.9 per cent in 2014 to 14.4 per cent last year, because it has no entry-level contender to take advantage of the baby SUV boom.

Exact timing and specification of the production car is yet to be confirmed, but expect Toyota not to waste time getting it to market.

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