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Toyota's 'hand up high' for C-HR

Fingers C-HRossed: Angular styling and bold lines would herald a new look for Toyota on Australian soil, but the car-maker is still holding its cards close to its chest.

C-HR would plug big gap in Toyota's Australian portfolio

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Toyota logo1 Oct 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

FOLLOWING the graduation of the RAV4 into the local mid-sized SUV segment, Toyota is still without an offering in the critical Australian compact-SUV market, but the Japanese-car maker is pushing hard to add the production version of the striking C-HR crossover concept to its line-up.

Toyota has confirmed the head-turning high-rider has progressed from the original Paris motor show concept, through a second draft at the Frankfurt show last month, and on into a production car but it is yet to be revealed in its final form.

While Toyota bides its time with a baby crossover, its rivals continue to come to market with a range of offerings in the rapidly swelling segment such as Honda's HR-V, the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan's quirky Juke.

Speaking at the launch of another critical model – the HiLux one-tonne ute – Toyota Australia executive vice president David Buttner told GoAuto the company was very keen for a compact SUV offering.

“It's not confirmed but we have our hand up very high,” he said. “That sub-RAV4 segment is the fastest growing segment at 30 per cent up.

“We haven't got an entry there and if we could get a futuristic vehicle of that nature I think it would put us in pretty good stead in that market.”

If the car was to be given the green light Down Under, Mr Buttner said the C-HR has the potential to attract a significant following, but stopped short of predicting avalanche sales.

“I don't think it would wipe the floor because there are some good products in that segment already, but when you look at the vehicle, if the production model ends up looking as futuristic, then I'd like to think we would give it a pretty good crack for some sort of market share.”

The SUV segment continues to win many fans in Australia, with particularly strong growth at the smallest end, and Mr Buttner explained the trend is likely to continue as motorists trade up from more conventional passenger cars.

“People now look at SUVs as a replacement for a passenger vehicle,” he said.

“They feel safer, they're up higher, it's got all of the safety features of any passenger car. I think people are migrating that way because it better suits their lifestyle.”

The C-HR Frankfurt show-car introduces a bold new look for Toyota and if its styling carries over to the production model, the crossover would target more playfully designed rivals such as the Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-3.

In late concept form, the C-HR wears hybrid badges, but to compete in Australia's more conventional powertrain market, a local offering would more likely have a petrol engine coupled to two- or four-wheel drive transmissions.

Greener hybrid versions would find a stronger foothold in Japanese, US and European markets if one were to be rolled out in any global region.

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