Platform has pluses for Toyota C-HR

The Toyota C-HR crossover is likely to go on sale in the U.S. next year.

GENEVA — Sales of bite-sized cross-overs are soaring, and Toyota finally is getting into the game, introducing the production C-HR last week at the Geneva auto show.

What took so long? Blame the Toyota New Global Architecture modular platform.

When Toyota started working on the C-HR six years ago, the automaker planned to put it on a small-car platform, Hiroyuki Koba, chief engineer on the C-HR, said.

But midway through the crossover’s development, Toyota shifted to the upcoming TNGA. “We were studying which [platform] was best and after looking at TNGA we said, “This is best,'” Koba said.

The C-HR is the second Toyota — behind the new Prius — to use the TNGA platform. Its use allows the automaker to package three different powertrains into the C-HR. The TNGA also reduces production cost and complexity by sharing components with its platform mates, the Prius and next-generation Corolla, expected in 2019.

But the delay means Toyota has been missing out on a hot segment in the U.S. And it’s one in which rivals such as Nissan, Honda, Subaru and Mazda have all had success.

U.S. sales of subcompact crossovers more than doubled in 2015 to 389,960 units compared with the previous year, according to the Automotive News Data Center. And this year they’re up 88 percent through February.

“They’re a bit late to the party,” Tim Urquhart, a principal analyst at IHS, told Automotive News.

But Toyota has helped its cause with a bold design on the C-HR, and its success will come down to its pricing and quality, Urquhart said.

No pricing details were announced in Geneva, which featured the debut of the European model with a 1.8-liter hybrid powertrain.

Because the C-HR was originally destined for the U.S. market as a Scion — a proposition that meant the target buyer wasn’t looking for a hybrid — only a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will come to the U.S. for now, Koba said.

The U.S. model likely will debut later this year before going on sale in 2017.

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