Car reviews - Toyota - C-HR - range
Stand-out looks, generous equipment, ride quality, sweet engine, vibrant colour palette
Room for improvement
Off-the-line performance, AWD weight penalty
24 Feb 2017
TOYOTA has received justified criticism in recent years for lacking the flair, passion, and, let’s say the pizazz of some of its competitors, but while that certainly doesn’t appear to have harmed its sales for now, the company has identified a potential problem that may manifest itself in the future.
Initiated Toyota fans are a loyal breed and unlikely to defect to other brands during an entire lifetime of Big T ownership, but as the pool ages, who is coming in to fill the gap at the entry level?Toyota has recognised that to attract a new, younger customer that will keep the cash register ringing across all model lines, it has to inject some fun into its brand and this is the model to do it, it says.
You certainly can’t deny that the C-HR is, as its maker describes it, ‘disruptive’ with conspicuous styling the likes of which has not been seen before in the company’s long history. All those angles and interconnecting lines are ordinarily the preserve of concepts, but in this case are a direct line from the C-HR’s first sketches to a production model.
From the front, the little high-rider has a handsome snout with a proud stance that flows through to the coupe profile, while more sharp expressions continue at the back end with more than a hint of Honda Civic.
Throw another $450 at Toyota and they will turn the roof contrasting black or white depending on the body colour and we recommend it because the effect brings out the pretty roofline like a reversed baseball cap.
We are also a fan of the vibrant colour palette that adds some excitement to both the model and brand. In particular, Electric Teal, Hornet Yellow and Tidal Blue really enhance the C-HR’s excellent details including the rear door handle at the top of the door, which other brands have tried to hide but Toyota has celebrated.
Chuck a bit more cash at your C-HR and Toyota will add some brightly coloured mirror caps, side skirts and lower front spoiler which work fantastically with the darker colours. The comprehensive set of customisations will doubtless appeal to a less stuffy Toyota customer.
Another break from tradition can be found under the bonnet where a four-cylinder petrol engine has been slotted. In previous years the Japanese car-maker might have been tempted to squeeze in a large capacity naturally aspirated lump, but this is 2017 and the car-maker is finally coming to the realisation that turbo power is the way.
It may only displace 1.2 litres but thanks to charge-cooling, direct injection and a single-scroll turbo, the C-HR has 85kW and 185Nm. That’s not enough for a TRD badge just yet but it is adequate for nipping about town or cruising the B-roads.
One downside to the sophisticated engine is its diet. With a compression ratio of 10:1, 95 RON is the minimum requirement, but the cheapest fuel at the bowser can often be a false economy, returning fewer kilometres per drop compared with 95 and 98 octane, so it’s not that big a deal.
With the $2000 automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), off the mark acceleration is not tyre-shredding but when up and about, the little engine did well to spirit us around.
The extra weight of the optional all-paw system (another $2000 extra and up to 75kg more) has a marked effect on performance and given how often the average C-HR owner will need mountain-climbing traction, we recommend the front-drive version for its reduced fuel consumption, price and weight.
Performance in the two-wheel drive was noticeably livelier and has a far more playful nature on twisty roads.
On a very slippery gravel section the four-wheel-drive system was a plus, offering good levels of straight line traction and a balanced chassis thanks to the standard torque vectoring, but a majority of owners will appreciate the benefits when hauling a load of camping equipment out of a damp field rather than during rally stages.
In both the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drives, its road manner is impeccable with light but precise steering, good body control and a settled body even in enthusiastic sections. A majority of the good behaviour is thanks to a sophisticated chassis tune and double wishbones at the back end – unique to the compact SUV segment.
We still need some convincing when it comes to CVT autos but their application makes sense in point-and-shoot compact cars that benefit from ease of use. We liked the switchable driving modes which simulates seven gear ratios when in the Sport setting rather than the droning single speed when in the Normal and Eco modes.
Supportive narrow seats for slender figures, chunky steering wheel, cool dash layout with colourful touchscreen, bright interior design and features, combined with the prevailing diamond theme and contrasting dark hues are all highlights of the interior that are profoundly un-Toyota.
Cabin space is also commendable, particularly given its exterior dimensions are about the same as the previous-gen RAV-4. Headroom will keep all but basketball players happy, although the top edge of the window frame is significantly lower and could obscure the view of taller occupants.
The C-HR price rises to $35,290 for the top-spec Koba and while the entry ticket is not the most affordable in the class, the entire range does offer excellent value for money.
How does standard pre-collision with autonomous braking, active cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a reversing camera, trailer sway control for towing, hill hold, EBD, front and rear parking radar, seven airbags and rain-sensing wipers sound?Koba versions add a number of posh additions including keyless entry and start, part-leather upholstery with heaters for the front seats, privacy glass, illumination for the sun visors and door trims, as well as a number of customisation options.
In terms of ride comfort and cabin serenity, the C-HR is on an equal pegging with excellent Honda HR-V and while it can’t quite match the performance proposition of the Mazda CX-3 it has a chassis that is playful enough to hold its own among young and enthusiastic drivers.
But from a styling perspective, the Toyota really only has one rival in the Nissan Juke. Styling is subjective but we think the C-HR has the aesthetic edge in the compact SUV segment and there is certainly nothing else like it in the Toyota ranks.
Combine that with the welcome introduction of turbocharged power, fantastic customisation options and a focus on fun not seen to this extent from the car-maker since the 86 sportscar, and the C-HR really could be the start of an era Toyota is calling a “revolution”.
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