Toyota are continuing to expand their performance lineup in Australia, with a new GR Sport tier sitting beneath full-fat GR cars like the GR Yaris and GR Supra.
With Australians buying the GR Yaris hot hatch like it’s going out of fashion, Toyota has leapt to expand the GR brand. That is how we’ve arrived with the C-HR GR Sport, which is mostly an exterior styling package that builds on the spec of the front-wheel-drive C-HR GXL.
We’ve written about Toyota’s emerging ‘GR’ strategy in the past: there will be full-fat ‘GR’ models like the GR Yaris and Supra, but Toyota will bolster the twin-lettered badge with a lower tier of ‘GR Sport’ grades with sportier suspensions and body kits.
There will likely be more ‘GRMN’ models – Gazoo Racing Meisters of the Nurburgring – sitting above the GR Yaris and GR Supra, while the GR Super Sport class will sit at the very highest level of the GR sub-brand, filled exclusively by Toyota’s future road-going hypercar that will pack around 735kW of power.
Much like Volkswagen’s R-Line or Ford’s ST-Line badging, we would wager that affordable GR Sport variants will be integral to the success of the GR brand.
Orlando Rodriguez, product public relations manager at Toyota Australia, said the C-HR GR Sport could be considered akin to the Ford Puma ST-Line. “[It] gets nicer interior trimmings and materials, bigger wheels, upgraded suspension – but no power upgrades,” said Rodriguez.
The C-HR GR Sport is the first of this flavour of Toyota to arrive in Australia. Mr Rodriguez confirmed to Chasing Cars that “this [GR Sport] range will grow significantly in the future.”
Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing said the C-HR GR Sport was for those who “may not want a high-performance race-bred sports car, but still desire a car with sporty styling and a degree of performance modifications to set it apart from the standard Toyota line-up”.
Don’t expect the warmed-up C-HR to challenge the pace of a true sports cars, then. Aesthetically, the new front bumper works wonders for the C-HR’s appearance. The broad grille opening is much squarer than the mainstream GXL’s item, and the way the lower valance juts out adds severe aggression to the light SUV.
None of the sheet metal is new, and we’re yet to see the GR Sport treatment for the rear bumper, but with those large, motorsport-inspired 19-inch alloy wheels the treatment is convincing. The headlights are also bespoke items for this GR Sport vehicle.
Despite our research suggesting otherwise, Toyota has confirmed that this GR Sport C-HR will be equipped with some tweaks, limited to lowered springs and re-tuned suspension to add just a hair more crispness to the C-HR’s driving experience.
The GR Sport will be based on the GXL grade, rather than the up-spec Koba trim that was previously the sole hybrid option in the C-HR lineup.
Inside things are also sportier, with metal pedals that and a sporty steering wheel that looks conspicuously like that from a Toyota 86 coupe. In the images supplied to Chasing Cars, the C-HR appears to use a manual transmission, which runs contrary to the information it is otherwise a GXL hybrid underneath.
The seats, too, are sportier with contrasting white bolster inserts and Alcantara in the middle to stop you sliding around in the seats – something the C-HR can, surprisingly, accomplish.
Under the bonnet, Toyota is keeping everything the same, which means combined outputs of 90kW from a series-parallel hybrid powertrain with a single electric motor and 1.8-litre petrol engine. Torque figures are not quoted for the system, but it has always felt to be around 250Nm when electric boost is factored in.
If Toyota opt to build a production version with a manual gearbox, the engine would likely be the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder offered in non-hybrid C-HR grades. The turbo four produces 85kW/185Nm and is normally paired with a CVT automatic, though when the C-HR launched in Australia, you could opt for a 1.2-litre turbo with a sweet six-speed manual.
Toyota will offer the GR Sport C-HR with the same choice of colours on the regular car, notably with Hornet Yellow, Feverish Red and Crystal Pearl available with a contrasting black roof.
Sales of the GR Sport C-HR will begin in Australia shortly, with pricing and detailed specifications to come closer to that date. Although some may not be as excited by this as the GR Yaris, the GR Sport brand marks the start of another new era for Toyota performance products.
This story was updated with comments from Toyota public relations confirming the future growth of the GR Sport product line.
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