Toyota C-HR Prologue and bZ Compact reveal next generation of hybrid and electric SUVs

Plug-in hybrid and pure electric stablemates revealed as part of brand’s ‘multifuel’ future

Toyota has given a first look at its next generation of SUVs with concept versions of a new C-HR and the bZ Compact.

The Japanese car maker revealed both upcoming models as it outlined a multifuel approach to its next cycle of vehicles, including hybrid, electric and hydrogen. Both cars will sit in the massively important C-SUV segment, with the C-HR available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time and the bZ Compact sitting beneath the bZ4X in the brand’s EV range.

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The C-HR prologue is being presented as a “first vision” of the model’s second generation but the production car is expected to stick very closely to the concept’s look, in the same way the Aygo X did.

The first generation C-HR marked a dramatic departure for Toyota with its outlandish styling and the brand’s European design director Lance Scott said it was essential that the new model took that “provocative” design even further. He commented: “Our mission was to dig deep, to go further than we’d ever gone before. We’re really looking forward to delivering the new Toyota C-HR.”

The new model adopts the “hammerhead” front end that is being introduced across the Toyota family with the C-shaped LED light array pushed to the very edge of the front and wrapping onto the wing, sitting above a broad grille with the C-HR’s trademark diamond pattern. The body retains the wedge-like profile of the fist generation, with sharp creases along the panels continuing the diamond motif and large wheels and short overhangs emphasising its aggressive stance. Like the Aygo X, the C-HR prologue features a contrast coloured panel on the rear three-quarters which blends into the roof. It remains to be seen if the concept’s tri-tone finish, with “sulphur” spoiler, will make it to production.

The C-HR’s interior is still under wraps but Toyota says the new model will offer a more spacious and practical cabin, welcome news for anyone who ever sat in the coffin-like rear seats of the first-gen.

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Like the first generation, the new C-HR will be offered as a full hybrid but will also come with the option of a plug-in hybrid setup for the first time. Details of that drivetrain including power, performance and EV range are still to be announced but the system will use batteries built in Europe as part of Toyota’s efforts to be a carbon neutral manufacturer by 2040.

Alongside the C-HR, the bZ Compact concept made its European debut last week, showcasing the brand’s second all-electric effort. Toyota has trailed behind most rival brands in pushing electric models but the bZ Compact is the first of six new EVs that will join the bZ4X between 2023 and 2026.

The bZ Compact will be the smallest of those models, with another sub-bZ4X model due towards 2026. Early plans also reveal a second model similar in size to the bZ4X along with two larger vehicles.

Like the C-HR, the bZ Compact adopts the new hammerhead front end design but featuring a full-width light bar running between the headlight units. Without the need for traditional cooling, the bZ Compact’s grille is smaller and lower mounted than the C-HR’s, giving it an even more shark-like appearance. Although nominally in the same segment, the bZ Compact is longer and wider than the C-HR, with the wheels pushed even further to the corners, and thanks to the EV platform looks set to offer substantially more interior space.

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Toyota is using the bZ Compact to showcase its efforts to make its vehicles more sustainable. “Low-impact” materials are used around the vehicle, including seat fabrics made from a combination of plant-based materials and recycled plastic. The bZ Compact also features hints at new user interfaces with a simple, button-free interior and curved fully digital instrument and media screens. There’s also an in-vehicle voice assistant that can be “summoned” to individual seats to react to that occupant’s instructions.

Like the C-HR, drivetrain details for the bZ Compact are yet to be announced.

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