We take a look at Toyota's hotly-anticipated new crossover.
Toyota. The very mention of the brand will inspire images of cars that are as unremarkable and forgettable as the colour beige. Although it’s taken almost two decades, Toyota’s finally gotten the message, and so they’re turning a new leaf. And looking at the C-HR, it certainly looks like no Toyota before it.
Compact crossovers are the in thing right now, and Toyota is relatively late to the game. The Honda HR-V dominates all it sees, while the Mazda CX-3 nips at its heels. So where exactly does the C-HR slot in? It promises the driver involvement of the Mazda, without the compromises it entails. It also has practicality to rival the Honda, without being outwardly boring (or so it claims). Is it all it says it is, or just a beautiful pretender?
“Toyota’s had enough. Enough of being ‘the dull one’ of the group, enough of being the one everyone else expects to drive them home at the end of the night, the one who turns up on time, unflinchingly exact, unremittingly reliable, slightly badly dressed…” - Car Magazine
Where Toyota’s in the past could be accused of trying to be a wallflower’s wallflower, the C-HR is certainly no shrinking violet. It has a gaze that could kill, displaying the latest iteration of Toyota’s ‘Keen Look’ design. Swept-back LED headlights are connected by a slim upper grille, while the bottom half of the fascia communicates aggression by the bucketload.
It isn’t all constrained to the front, either. The profile of the C-HR has a very distinctive line that starts at the trailing edge of the headlight, following the contours of the crossover before disappearing into the taillights. In white especially, it makes the C-HR almost seem like it’s floating. Speaking of which, the sloping roofline really looks the business, especially when finished in a contrasting colour. Overall, it’s an athletic thing, no matter how you look at it. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s certainly making itself known.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Like a colleague who tells you about their awkward 12-month ordeal with tinea, [the CVT] does tend to drone.” - Motoring
During an international press drive, it was confirmed that the Toyota C-HR will be offered in Australia exclusively with a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, capable of 85kW and 185Nm. This will hurtle the car to 100km/h from rest in a rather unremarkable 11.4 seconds. All of this will be channeled through a continuously-variable (CVT) transmission, with power either going to all four wheels, or just the two in the front. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.3l/100km.
Although it might seem boring on paper, it really isn’t. The CVT is more responsive than you might expect, and the whole package just seems incredibly well sorted. Shame we won’t get the hybrid, though.
“There's a real sense of more Lexus-like quality in what Toyota calls the C-HR's Me Zone, with mostly nice soft-touch materials and shiny piano-blackness, but some money was definitely saved on the roof lining, which feels like the inside of one of those boxes that avocados arrive at fruit shops in.” - Drive
Back to more radical things. The most striking thing about the interior, we think, is the contrast-coloured trim surround, that stretches across the entire front half of the cabin. In range-topping Dynamic trim, this is finished in an electric blue. The centre console and relevant controls are all angled toward the driver, in an almost-BMW effect.
Despite what its sloping roofline might suggest, the C-HR has more than adequate headroom for all but the lankiest of passengers. Occupants in the rear, however, will be left wanting for visibility. The C-pillars on the C-HR are nothing short of massive, and this impedes driver visibility, and induces mild claustrophobia for passengers. Hm.
Behind the Wheel
“For a crossover the C-HR rolls little and steers with consistent alacrity. It’s very easy to place accurately on the road, and at the limit doesn’t understeer much. It feels secure but will adjust its angle a little on the throttle.” - TopGear
In handling terms, at least, the C-HR delivers on the promise of its edgy, sporty styling.
The Toyota C-HR is not just a breath of fresh air in the way it looks, but in the way it steers too. The 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is definitely the drivers’ choice, as the 60kg it saves over the hybrid really pays dividends here. The turn in is immediate, the steering is relatively communicative, and you’re rewarded with very little body roll through bends. Of particular note is the ride, which is decidedly European in the way it goes about things. It’s pliant enough, while not being overly so. It always feels connected, agile, and to some extent, fun.
The upmarket Euro-flair that the C-HR tries to emulate is flawed in only one real way: the automatic transmission. The continuously-variable (CVT) automatic drones under heavy acceleration, and this is particularly emphasised in the hybrid; the lack of low-end grunt from a turbocharger means you’ll be hearing a lot of the transmission a lot of the time.
Safety & Technology
“What impresses us the most about the new C-HR, apart from the interior, is the array of standard active safety systems.” - CarAdvice
Australian specifications have been confirmed, and standard safety kit is generous. There are things like adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, hill-start assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beam and automatic wipers.
The top-spec Koba model adds to this LED headlights, LED tail-lights, and keyless entry and go.
The Toyota C-HR is a remarkable thing, no matter how you cut it. Its impressive looks, surprising handling, and largely-uncompromised practicality means that this might just be the chosen one to unseat the Mazda CX-3 as the class favourite. Its ability to satisfy all the basic criteria for a car in this segment while carrying that concept-car-like body will definitely sway some buyers from the more established competitors.
We can't comment on a pick of the range at present, with prices being far from concrete at the time of writing. But considering the generous kit being thrown at the entry-level C-HR, the higher-end 'Koba' variant might be difficult to justify.
CarAdvice - 80/100 - “We are very impressed by what the Toyota C-HR has turned out to be. Offering a fantastic interior with a well sorted ride and remarkable number of standard features, if Toyota can get the pricing right, it’s on to a winner. Overall, it’s a bloody good little thing, and if you can learn to love the styling, you certainly won’t regret the ownership experience.”
WhatCar? - 60/100 - “Decent to drive, generously equipped and the hybrid version makes a lot of sense as a company car. It's just a shame the Toyota C-HR isn’t cheaper to buy and bigger in the back.”
CarMagazine - 80/100 - “Toyota has built a genuinely interesting and engaging vehicle here – and while the Qashqai will hardly be quaking in its boots, the C-HR is certainly a breath of fresh air in the rather staid family crossover segment. Toyota took a risk, and it’s paid off.”
AutoExpress - 80/100 - “Bold Toyota brings daring coupe styling and hybrid power to the popular compact SUV class with the C-HR.”
Motoring - 81/100 - “Words like tedious, conformist and lacklustre are normally associated with Toyota, not words like attractive, edgy and cool. But that’s exactly what the Toyota C-HR is. It’s very un-Toyota. And by Jove it’s refreshing!”
HonestJohn - 80/100 - “The verdict is for town work, suburbs, and motorway journeys, get the C-HR hybrid. For fun, get the 1.2 manual.”
The Express - 80/100 - “Although it suffers from some shortcomings, the low running costs go a long way to make up for them. Add in the high level of standard equipment and those striking looks and the C-HR is a compelling alternative to those who want the economic benefits of the Prius, but not its image.”
Carwow - 73/100 - “Toyota might be late to the small, stylish crossover party but the C-HR has a lot going for it – it’s a small, stylish crossover that’s also good fun to drive, a lot like the original RAV4 was back in 1994. It’s just about practical enough to meet the needs of a young family and it has a classy cabin that’s up there with any of its rivals. It may be an alternative to mainstream models but it should also definitely be near the top of your shortlist.”