We think this might be the next generation C-HR.
Toyota has filed a design patent for a new small crossover with the Australian Government's Intellectual Property department.
If the face seems familiar, it's because you've likely seen it before. It has the same basic design DNA as the Toyota Crown, which will be available in several flavors. We've already seen the Crown-based SUV, and this is not it. Besides, it's too small. Instead, it looks almost identical to the Toyota Small SU EV concept that was shown as part of 16 electric vehicles for the future in 2021. The only problem is that this new design isn't for an EV, as it features a traditional grille behind which it'll hide a combustion powertrain.
Hiding exhaust outlets is all the rage in design circles, as they're seen as evil. It's the exterior equivalent of vegan leather, so that's not a telltale sign in this instance.
But if you look at the side profile, you soon notice that it has two fuel filler flaps - one on the left and another on the right. Now while that could simply be a way to make sure you can charge no matter how you park, the grille leads us to believe this is a plug-in hybrid, which makes more sense.
Toyota has been notoriously slow in the EV department but has also been very vocal that EVs don't suit everyone and that different options are required until EVs become fully viable. It's likely that once charging infrastructure improves and solid-state batteries become reality, we'll see more EVs, but for now, Toyota is planning on using EV designs with PHEV powertrains. Hence the radiator grille.
As for where this will fit into the Toyota lineup, there are two options. One is that the Toyota C-HR is could make way for this. While the CH-R is a lovely little sub-compact SUV, it has struggled to find success in the USA. The main reason for its lack of success is not its zany styling or cramped rear seating but rather the terrible 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, which is only available in combination with a CVT transmission.
Toyota Japan filed the design patent on behalf of three designers. Ken Billes is a senior designer for the Toyota Motor Corporation in the UK, where the CH-R has been doing exceptionally well, especially in the current hybrid guise.
It, therefore, makes sense to give the job of designing the new model to the European design office.
The big question is whether Toyota needs another car in that particular bracket. Since the Corolla Cross came along, the C-HR seems slightly irrelevant. The Corolla Cross is dreadfully dull on the outside, however. Great car, but not much to look at. We think there's still room left for a funky sub-compact PHEV SUV to sit alongside the Corolla Cross and standard Corolla Hybrid models.
The other alternative is that this is something smaller. Judging by the proportions of the original EV concept (below), this could be even smaller than the C-HR, in which case it's unlikely to come to America at all. Without dimensions to accompany the design patent, we'll have to wait for more information to come along and confirm its size.