It’s rude to stare, but with the Toyota C-HR it’s almost impossible not to. Bold from every angle, the C-HR is about as close as you’ll come to a surrealist sculpture on wheels.
In Australia the C-HR arrives with the small SUV segment in full swing. These little guys pack in raised ride height and chunky styling, but not necessarily the go-anywhere ability of some bigger SUVs (although that’s not necessarily a given anymore).
You can personalise a C-HR with a variety of bright colours and contrasting roof finishes, not to mention accessories and alloy wheels - so we’re a little lost as to why Toyota even bothered to give us one in basic white. The plain packaging of this example aside, the C-HR could be one of the best cars from Brand-T in decades.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $33,290 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 85kW/185Nm 1.2-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | CVT Automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.4 l/100km | Tested: 7.6 l/100km
Toyota has kept the model range simple with just two variants: C-HR and C-HR Koba. There’s only one engine, an 85kW 1.2-litre turbo petrol, but then there’s manual (on the base model only) and automatic transmissions, plus front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, so there’s quite a few variations to work through.
The C-HR Koba tested here is the front-wheel drive version. If you want all-wheel drive that’s an extra $3000, but after a week behind the wheel of this model it’s hard to see why you’d spend the extra money as theres no change in equipment levels.
The Koba comes fully-stocked with flashy interior, heated seats, leather, sat-nav, 18-inch alloys, and a huge list of safety features. It may not be all things to all people (like a Corolla for instance) but this funky crossover hits all the rights notes for its target demographic.
- Standard Equipment: Leather-appointed seat trim, heated front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, leather-look steering wheel and gear knob, rain-sensing wipers, auto LED headlights, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.1-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, six-speaker audio, CD-player, AM/FM radio, USB input, Bluetooth connectivity
- Cargo Volume: 377 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
It’s pretty cool in here. The narrow window line makes it feel a bit like you’re in a coupe yet you still hit nice and high with a good view of the road ahead.
Toyota’s interior decorators have selected a black and brown theme (you’ll find chocolate-coloured inserts on the dash-top and doors) with sparkly gloss black trim fittings around the climate controls and through the centre console.
Overall it’s fun and fresh, but the brown is a little too much like your gran’s Cressida. Where’s the electric blue, eye-searing yellow, and racy red Toyota? Even the two-tone (brown and black) seats available in Japan haven’t made it to Australia, which is a shame.
The C-HR’s interior is a good place to be if you’re up front, as it’s comfy and there’s a logical layout to the controls.
Unfortunately Toyota’s infotainment system is a mess of slow-loading and small menu screens that makes it hard to operate on the move. A lack of native smartphone connectivity puts it out of step with the buyers its targeting, and the lack of integration with the interior makes it look cheesily aftermarket.
Rear seat accommodation isn’t so bad, but it’s no limo and useful on short occasions. Your claustrophobic friends won’t enjoy it owing to tiny rear door windows that make seeing out difficult and the sweeping roofline that reduces headroom.
Compulsive hoarders may not love it either, as the door pockets up front are small and there seems to be a lot of wasted space that could’ve been used for storage solutions in the centre console, but the cup holders work well at least. For some reason the glovebox opening is a long way down, however it, and the space beneath the centre armrest, are more generous.
At 377 litres the boot isn’t badly proportioned for its class, with bag hooks and side bins for added functionality, plus 60:40 folding rear seats to free up more room for long or bulky items.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 85kW @5600rpm, 185Nm @1500-4000rpm
- Transmission: CVT automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 298mm vented front discs, 281mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
- Towing Capacity: 600kg braked, 600kg unbraked
Although they may not sound too exciting as a set of spec-sheet figures, the 85kW and and 185Nm available from Toyota’s first new turbo petrol engine to reach Australia in almost 20 years are actually rather handy in day-to-day driving.
Here’s the clincher though, if you opt for the all wheel drive C-HR you’ll never know it, with the all-paw system draining the life out of an otherwise decent package (we’ve reviewed it previously, read all about it).
In fairness, the tiny 1.2-litre motor isn’t going to set any world speed records, but it’s a nice little drive, low on noise unless you run it to the redline, smooth and flexible enough to zip in and out of city traffic with ease.
Because of its turbocharger, the C-HR generates torque nice and low in the rev range, something a naturally aspirated engine can’t always do - that means it feels more lively in city driving without the need to push it hard.
There is a fly in the ointment, and it’s the CVT automatic With no manual option for the top-spec Koba there’s no way to avoid it, and at times it seems to work against the driver, unable to cope with low-speed crawling traffic - precisely where it should be at its best.
Then there’s the ride quality. The 18-inch wheels on a car this size are huge and usually bring a rough ride, but in the case of the C-HR the suspension absorbs potholes, rutted roads and expansion joints readily.
Tip the C-HR into a corner and it responds positively, with none of the remote steering feel and floppy roll control that afflicts cars like the Corolla and RAV4. The C-HR is about as close as you can get to Toyota’s fun-to-fling 86 Coupe even though the two couldn’t be more philosophically different.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - The Toyota C-HR scored the maximum available rating when tested in 2017 using crash data obtained by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: Seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, lane departure warning with passive steering assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear park sensors, rear view camera, front seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Toyota Service Advantage capped-price servicing covers the C-HR for five years or 75,000km (whichever comes first) with intervals set at 12 month/15,000km priced at $195 each. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply, and your Toyota dealer can provide more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Renault Captur combines funky styling with cool personalisation options and even zip-off machine washable seat covers. Being based on Renault’s excellent Clio, the Captur should be a great little drive, but somehow the experience doesn’t translate as well to Renault’s small SUV.
The name itself may an old one, but the latest Suzuki Vitara is as fresh as its rivals - and in Turbo guise the Vitara is a lot of fun to drive. Suzuki offers mix and match accessories to dress the Vitara up with, but unfortunately the basic interior can't match the opulence of the C-HR.
Australia’s favorite small SUV, the Mazda CX-3, has just been upgraded with added safety across the range and handling tweaks to make it an even nicer drive. Like the Vitara, all-wheel drive is optional as is a diesel engine for a much wider model range.
Although the first version missed the mark, Holden’s newest Trax rights the wrongs of its predecessor with a much better interior and user-friendly infotainment and connectivity. The turbo/auto versions are the pick of the bunch, and Holden’s locally-tuned suspension feels right at home on Aussie tarmac.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although it might not be the beachcombing, muddy-road conquering, adventure-seeking SUV for wild weekends away, the two-wheel drive C-HR is exactly what small SUVs need to be, with a unique identity and excellent city driveability.
Forget the all-wheel drive model, and save yourself the money, as there’s no need for the added traction. The C-HR won’t overpower its front tyres in most situations, and you’ll enjoy the lighter, more fuel efficient payoff over the longer term.
As an indicator of products to come from Toyota, the C-HR is a promising sign that things are changing, and as a stand-alone model the funky C-HR should attract a lot of attention from buyers who might have considered a Toyota too daggy for them.
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