After kicking off the Scion brand’s introduction to America and offering young car buyers a reason to love all things boxy and clever, the xB is set to retire with its swan song manifesting in the form of a one-off snowboard-ready, 686 Parklan Edition. You have to admit, it’s had a pretty good run, and even though Scion has seen sales sag in recent years, there is no denying the importance of that brave little toaster’s place in molding America’s love affair with compact cars that offer gratuitous amounts of interior space and practicality in a small footprint.
So when the designers at Scion were tasked with drafting a replacement, they opted to go in a little bit of a different direction; dropping the boxy-look in favor of something that is streamlined from the wheels up. As research for the C-HR Concept began, young urban creative customers (or, as otherwise known, hipsters) told research groups that “Polarizing is OK. Boring is not.” Scion listened, because when its latest concept rolled out at the Los Angeles Auto Show the other week, members of the media and Japanese car nuts alike were atwitter over the fresh design in front of their eyes: Toyota’s quirkiest entity to date looks like it is ready to “incorporate functionality and sporty performance” in a vehicle that mirrors its driver, both striving to stand out from the crowd.
“Scion is known for doing things differently, and maybe even being a little weird,” says Scion Vice President Andrew Gilleland. “This C-HR Concept embraces that idea and wears it like a badge of honor. We couldn’t be more excited to add the production version to our lineup.” Aptly named for its “Compact size” and “High Ride height,” the C-HR looks to go toe-to-toe with the Nissan Gripz Concept we reported on early this year, tussling for the crown of being the most ostentatious entity in the segment. Scion wants to attract what it calls “yuccies,” the young urban creatives who inspired this vehicle’s design, and just by looking at both the C-HR and Gripz side by side, you can see what the market wants when it comes to versatility and design.
Emphasize futuristic-looking design cues and keep it from looking overly boring, now give it a ton of tech, some noticeable ground clearance, and a small footprint that befits an urban lifestyle. Participation during the research process was so involved that Scion’s image identification testing found that sleek chopsticks made from recycled materials, an “earthy but modern terrarium,” and a cutting board with grid lines for precise slicing all made the cut for design influences. Something that according to Toyota became the international design team’s unorthodox quest, as it looked for ways in which to forge a design that not only makes a statement, but “reinforces the C-HR’s purpose as an urban lifestyle vehicle.”
Originally inspired by a diamond with sheered sides, the C-HR cabin is built around the idea of emulating a “precision-cut gemstone.” From an overhead view, the diamond points have been sharply cut in the front, rear and sides as well. This design choice exposes the rounded fender flares, as graphite black accents on the grille, rear bumper, fender flares, and lower side panels all reflect the fact that unpainted plastic trim pieces are unfortunately still en vogue years even after the death of the Honda Element and Pontiac Aztek. At least there’a a piano black roof in place to give it a two-tone appearance, which does somewhat balance out the graphite encrusted fender flares.
Not shying away from attention, the C-HR sports 21-inch wheels with chiseled cutouts mirroring the vehicle atop them, all while Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) offers a lower center of gravity, boosts body rigidity, provides more responsive handling, and eliminates a lot of complaints regarding poor ride quality. However, with tires that boast sidewalls the size of No. 2 pencils, it’s kind of hard to imagine the C-HR receiving good scores for its ride quality on anything other than fresh asphalt.
“Even though the C-HR has a high ride height, our focus was on creating a fantastic urban driving car,” says C-HR Chief Engineer Hiro Koba. “My favorite place to be on a weekend is at a race track and I wanted to build a car that I would have just as much fun driving in the city during the week with refined driving comfort and responsive, precise steering.”
Chances are slim that the C-HR will be birthed as a performance-oriented vehicle, and Toyota is remaining pretty tight-lipped as to whether the C-HR will get some premium power and adaptive dampers like many of the Lexus models are seeing. Chances are it’s going to get the same powerplant and sporty suspension I found within the redesigned Toyota RAV4 SE, and that will be about it — Scions are typically known for being inexpensive. But who knows, maybe something wild will get thrown in the mix prior to the production version’s debuts in 2016, and we can all get excited about the brand once more.