Ja­pa­nese gi­ant chart­ing a course to rise above bland

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

The Ja­pa­nese gi­ant’s ‘war on bor­ing’ is about to pay big div­i­dends

SAY­ING Toy­ota is on a roll is quite an un­der­state­ment. Tra­di­tion­ally, un­der­state­ment is a very Toy­ota qual­ity – but that’s chang­ing fast, and soon you won’t be able to avoid see­ing the signs of Toy­ota’s new­found flair and con­fi­dence. In its en­gi­neer­ing, styling and am­bi­tion, Toy­ota is get­ting loud and proud.

The com­pany is go­ing through fun­da­men­tal and far-reach­ing changes in what it makes and how it’s made. Fuel ef­fi­ciency con­tin­ues to be a pri­or­ity, but it’s now joined by vi­brant mo­tor­sport and per­for­mance car di­vi­sions. Its pre­vi­ously deadly dull fam­ily hatch has just had a com­plete over­haul that ramps up its de­sir­abil­ity, while its SUVS and crossovers are set to stand out from a packed field.

The brand’s lat­est plat­form – Toy­ota New Global Ar­chi­tec­ture, or TNGA – un­der­pins most of it. First de­ployed in the cur­rent Prius, TNGA’S flex­i­bil­ity means it now fea­tures in the funky C-HR and will un­der­pin the new Corolla and RAV4 SUV. It’s good enough for the Lexus UX baby SUV too. Toy­ota claims a 65 per­cent rigid­ity boost com­pared with its pre­vi­ous plat­form, and TNGA al­lows en­gine bay com­po­nents and sus­pen­sion mounts to be po­si­tioned lower, in turn low­er­ing the cen­tre of grav­ity for bet­ter han­dling.

The de­sign of mid-size Toy­otas has de­liv­ered equally rad­i­cal changes. The quirky C-HR is mak­ing re­spectable num­bers in Aus­tralia and the boldly styled Prius and Camry are any­thing but safe de­signs. The new Corolla hatch, due here in Au­gust, has drawn ac­claim for its eye-catch­ing lines. Toy­ota’s global de­sign gen­eral man­ager, Si­mon Humphries: “Our pri­mary goal was to create the most bold and dy­namic hatch­back on the mar­ket, with­out com­pro­mis­ing in­te­rior us­abil­ity.”

The RAV4, mean­while, was North Amer­ica’s best-sell­ing car in 2017. That sort of suc­cess might once have made Toy­ota play safe with its suc­ces­sor, but not this time around. De­sign-wise, it’s clearly in­spired by last year’s max­i­mum-life­style FT-AC con­cept, and it’ll come to mar­ket with petrol or hy­brid power and all­wheel drive in early 2019.

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