Like all automakers, Toyota is a frequent customer of various patent offices, which protect its designs, whether they deal with concepts or production vehicles. However, the latest patent has something interesting: while it clearly represents last year’s Toyota Small SU EV Concept, it incorporates some new styling cues.
Let’s start with the basics. The Small SU EV is one of numerous concept cars that Toyota and Lexus unveiled in December 2021, previewing a range of future production EV vehicles. Nearly a year later, the same vehicle shows up at the Australian Patent Office with slight changes, leading us to believe it could be a production-ready design.
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As you can see from the direct comparison, the patent drawing has a different lower bumper intake that sports a honeycomb pattern and integrated fog lights. This is different from the concept’s aluminum-style insert with small openings, though the rest of the design looks virtually identical.
Placing a larger intake on the grillless face of an EV doesn’t make sense, so it could hint at the presence of a combustion engine under the hood, as part of an electrified powertrain. This scenario is supported by the presence of identical ports in the rear fenders on both sides, as one could be intended for charging and the other for refueling. Still, patent drawings aren’t always 100 percent accurate, plus we don’t see any visible tailpipes, however, this is a common trend among electrified models.
Could this be the next generation C-HR or a smaller SUV?
The Small SU EV already appeared to be very close to production status. The model could be integrated into Toyota’s upcoming E3 architecture, which will combine elements of the GA-C (Corolla, C-HR, etc.) and the eTNGA (bZ4x), making it compatible with plug-in hybrid powertrains. This platform will reportedly underpin the next generations of the C-HR rumored for 2023, as well as the next Prius.
The Small SU EV concept bears similarities to the C-HR’s bold design language, so we can’t rule out the possibility of the concept becoming the successor to the C-HR. However, the slightly larger bZ compact SUV concept looks like a more fitting replacement for the C-HR, sharing even more styling cues like the sculpted profile.
Currently, the only model in Toyota’s SUV lineup below the C-HR is the Yaris Cross, which is offered in both ICE-powered hybrid and self-charging. Could the production version of the Small SU EV fit between the Yaris Cross and C-HR as a different model? The main points of differentiation could be the sportier styling with a coupe-like rear end and, of course, the rumored PHEV powertrain.
Only time will tell if these drawings make it onto the production line or not. In any case, Toyota expects a lot of premieres in the near future, so we will be keeping an eye on the clues.
H/T to unit