Toyota is the most thriving proof that you can go big with boring. The model names alone are the best sleeping aid since Klaas Veel. Handsome boy who can still think of rough sex with ‘Yaris’ or ‘Avensis’ and the sight of the porters.
Thanks to the proven quality of the products, the brand does not have to be ashamed of this shortcoming. The stigma, because that is what it is, has gradually become the beam in the eye of the beholder. Toyota certainly understands the art of jumping out of the band. A Prius with Citroën logos would be admired as pioneering French design art. But there the shape rationally folds to the deviant technique, so it can’t be called design, and framing Japanese people is more fun. It’s a Toyota, so there’s nothing wrong with it.
And now that brand implicitly agrees with the bashers by bringing something crazy, so crazy that instead of another stupid name it got a militant letter code: the C-HR.
The question of what the C-HR is seems easier to answer than the one it proposes to propose. It is a compact five-door hatchback in the C-segment, after that it gets difficult. Is the form the portal to a new, rebellious Toyota aesthetic or a one-off act of resistance against the power of habit? Assuming this car doesn’t become the blueprint for tomorrow’s Avensissen, there must be a psychological explanation for it.
You have to see Toyota as the most normal person on earth. A normal person can do everything well, except go crazy. He suffers, but he can only lose himself within the order and with the approval of the system. In the Dutch culture he has one escape route and that is the carnival, the certified panacea against the civilian coma, where the hesitation against unruly behavior can be taken once a year. The bourgeois destiny wants that nonsense again to produce only conformism, herd is herd. Voila, the C-HR.
A Photoshopped Honda Civic
The designer, I saw him shine in the magazines with artfully blackened Nick Cave hair, was given carte blanche. And, what spawned his taboo-breaking imagination? A photoshopped Honda Civic, the clown suit in which you also saw the neighbor whooping in the favorite bar. Nick stole the fire he didn’t dare start himself. All the features of the deformed, genius Honda found their way into the Toyota copy-paste. The sweeping roofline from which the boot and headroom for the rear passengers benefit so unexpectedly generously. Or the coupé-like side view with the small rear side windows that should make it look like a two-door. It is only slightly higher on its wheels than the Honda, so that at least at Toyota there is something new under the sun, the crossover feeling. And now say for yourself; the result is most delightful.
Toyota now has a car that fits in the list of eccentric Japanese compacts, from Nissan Juke to Civic. Cave has made full use of his mandate for weird folds and bulges. Japanese are just as committed and fanatically crazy as they normally do. It’s super carnivalesque.
In short, the puberty license is in, although I fear it will mainly be older people who believe they look younger in a C-HR. Good news for the dealers, who I hear have already been able to write a lot of orders. Ordinary people like him. I get raised thumbs from hideous lullo vehicles and people all over the world ask with delight what it is. After a week I can reassure the citizenry: a true Toyota.
Under that clown suit is a Prius with the same hybrid powertrain, although a smaller petrol engine is also available. But he steers a lot better. Apart from the Lexus IS, also a Toyota, I have not remembered a car from the group with such a lively chassis. Incidentally, the hybrid with its meager ability is not the type to lead the polonaise. You let it roll gently at cruising speeds to process the shock of your purchase in familiar Toyota peace. Then you drive 1 in 20, while the navigation screen comically misleads you with fictitious panoramas which, although they falsify the visible reality, testify to an exemplary environmental sensitivity. On the Veluwe you see mountains on the horizon that are not there (= nature), on the Amsterdam ring an imaginary skyline (= urban) that appears in exactly the same shape on the Eindhoven ring road. Jôh, it’s just decor, just like your life.