Cover Story by Mike Stock
Don’t judge a book by its cover, the old saying goes – or as the late rock great Bo Diddley put it, “you can’t judge a book by looking at its cover.” Bo went on to list a raft of analogies, some of which would be regarded as misogynist in the late 2010s, but the gist remained the same: looks can deceive.
It’s a sentiment that applies perfectly to Toyota’s new compact crossover SUV, the C-HR – never mind the confusion sparked by the little four-door’s name. The way of writing those three letters falls naturally to two beats followed by one, or CH-R, and it’s easy to type it that way. After all, it seems logical.
But no, it’s the other way around and the acronym stands for Coupe – High-Riding. The Toyota is one of the most recent entries into the genre sparked by Nissan’s equally quirky-looking Juke.
The Juke itself is named after a southern US establishment that would have been familiar to Bo Diddley and his audience.
That was the neighbourhood bar-cum-dancehall known as a juke joint where blues, the music that morphed into rock and roll, roared into the night as field workers let off steam after long, hard days picking cotton.
Nissan’s Juke is a relative sales minnow here but is enormously popular in Britain and Europe, so much so that virtually every manufacturer has had to market a sub-compact crossover rival.
Toyota’s entry has been relatively late to join the market but that’s to its advantage. The looks are certainly different, just as the looks of the Nissan were very different when the Juke entered the field five or so years ago.
The Juke was a bold styling statement that still retains a degree of “shock” value.
The Toyota takes matters quite a way further with styling – the word lines doesn’t come close to describing this vehicle that sports angles reminiscent of gel-set spiked haircuts and science fiction humanoids.
There are actual lines, like the one that swoops down from the back of the front wheelarch, then runs rising along the bottom third of the doors to sweep up over the rear wheelarch and underline the signature Toyota tail-lights.
Then there are the crazily-angled spokes of the 18-inch alloy wheels (shod with 225/50 R18 tyres) which suggest motion even while the vehicle is standing still.
The rear end is all angles – from the lip that juts visor-like from the top of the rear screen to the body-colour garnish that scythes into the horizontal chevron-shaped tail-lights.
The frontal styling is another riot of harmonised angles, the downward sloping lines at either side evoking a Samurai helmet, the centrally-placed Toyota badge sending rising lines into the narrow headlights.
Where the grille would normally be, there’s a body-coloured panel, sitting atop an air intake slit; beneath that is a black-painted grille cage...
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