INTERVIEW: The New Toyota C-HR Turned To Audi For Inspiration

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The C-HR's chief engineer tells us why Americans should care about Toyota's new crossover.

Toyota is a bit late to the quirky looking, small crossover party with the new C-HR, but at least it's showing up. You might not have heard a lot about it's latest model for a few reasons. First off, the C-HR was designed for Europe. Secondly, it first appeared in the US as a Scion (RIP) concept. But it's coming, and to find out why Americans should even care about it we sat down with Hiroyuki Koba, Chief Engineer for the C-HR, at the 2016 Paris Motor Show.

So what's the appeal of Toyota's newest model? According to Koba-san it's the "styling and driving." That's a pretty vanilla answer, eh? Obviously the exterior has an eye-catching look that people will either love or hate. But the interior is also a topic for discussion. According to Koba-san, Toyota didn't really look at its own lineup or at its competitors for inspiration. When talking about the interior quality Audi was mentioned specifically. "When people get in the car we want them to think 'Woah, this is good quality'. These kinds of things…Audi is a good company and is doing well when it comes to interior quality," he told us. When asked if the interior was more inspired by Audi than the competition the answer was a quick "yes."

We sat inside the C-HR at Paris and it's no Audi but it's certainly sharp. There's even a nice amount of headroom in the back. The C-HR's chief engineer paid extreme attention to detail. For example: The colors used in the car are all one shade. The black in the cabin (or whatever color there is) is the same throughout with no differentiation in shade. We know that in Europe a 1.2-liter turbo engine and a 1.8-liter hybrid power plant are on offer. When pressed on what the US market will receive we were told that all would be revealed later in the year. The 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show sounds like a safe bet for the car's official US debut.

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While nothing was revealed about what was under the hood we did learn a bit about the C-HR's racing roots. "We used the Nurburgring as a test track. From 2013 we brought the prototype to the track for testing." In addition to testing at the famed German track the C-HR was also brought to Japan's Hokaido Proving Ground. The idea wasn't to race for speed, though. "We changed a lot of suspension and steering options [during testing]." The steering was described as such: "When the driver wants to go there, they go there." We'll have to wait until we have a chance behind the wheel to critique the ride but it does sound promising on paper.

One feature we hope makes it stateside is the C-HR's "Intelligent Manual Transmission (IMT)." It lets the driver go from stop to start simply by letting off the clutch pedal, no gas required. That should prevent stalls from rookies, but what we're most interested in is the automatic rev matching. Yes, Toyota's new crossover will offer rev matching. The take rate for manuals in the US isn't all that high but we're hoping that the C-HR makes it to North America with its manual intact. We expect pricing to be around $22,000 for a base model; the entry-level model in the UK comes in at about $25,000. If Toyota doesn't tone down the C-HR on its trip across the Atlantic it'll have a good shot at giving the Juke a run for its money.

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