Coming from the manufacturer who sells more vehicles in Australia than anyone else, thanks in no small part to the enduring success of everyone's favourite ute, the Hilux, it's little surprise that Toyota's latest smaller-sized SUV, the C-HR, is likely to attract attention.
With six different variants to choose from, inventive styling and a wealth of intriguing tech innovations, the C-HR is packed full of features that together create a fun, zippy driving experience that's also safe and scores well in terms of fuel economy.
Green driving enthusiasts will be pleased to note that the two higher-spec models, the Koba and the GR sport, are available in hybrid format.
Whilst at first sight the C-HR has plenty to offer, appearances can often be deceptive! For some motorists, what lies under the bonnet may not deliver sufficient performance to justify a purchase.
The C-HR's styling is one of the first things people notice about the 2021 model. As you would expect from an SUV, a higher chassis, funky front end and some cheeky lines in the rear mean that this car is a looker. Its exterior styling makes it stand out from the crowd, albeit in somewhat of a Vegemite manner - drivers tend to either love or hate the distinctive look of the C-HR.
Fuel economy is perhaps the most favourable feature of performance: with the hybrid using just 4.3l petrol/100km and the petrol version using a respectable 6.5l/100km, this is a car that's one of the most economical to run in its class.
Safety features are another area where the C-HR doesn't disappoint: scoring a convincing 5 stars on the ANCAP safety rating scale, the C-HR boasts a wealth of technology intended to make driving as risk-free as possible. Features include emergency braking with an added feature to detect pedestrians; lane-keeping assist; lane departure warning; lane-tracing assist technology; and adaptive cruise control.
It's worth noting that the C-HR's interior offers exceptional value for money. The use of high-grade materials throughout, along with a well-equipped, easy-to-use infotainment feature, results in a car that's an absolute joy to spend time in.
Interior and Exterior Design
As mentioned earlier, the exterior design of the C-HR is one of its most distinctive features. Toyota has toned down the styling in the last two or three years, after mixed reviews of the 2018 C-HR incarnation. That said, the fusion of sporty styling alongside the traditional chunky, hi-body nature of an SUV creates a unique, striking impression that's not easily forgotten.
Although the Toyota sport version, the GR sport, is slightly lower and longer than the GXL and the Koba, the differences between the three bodywork options relate more to the available add-ons: for example, the GR benefits from 19" alloys, whilst the Koba and the GXL come with 18" and 17" respectively.
Toyota have made a good job of the interior, with features such as the black leather trim on the higher-spec models adding an engaging touch of class. Little extras, such as the unexpected metallic sheen to the matt black dash in certain lights, transform the interior from good to great. If you're a fan of lighthearted, fun styling, the interior is going to work for you. It's got everything in it that you need, but if you're looking for understated luxury or an ambience of opulence, you're probably going to have to look elsewhere.
A 1.2l 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine is the base model for the C-HR. The hybrid options benefit from a 1.8l 4-cylinder turbo. The GXL is available in a 2-wheel or AWD; the Koba benefits from an AWD option and a hybrid option, whilst the sport is a 2WD hybrid.
As already indicated, fuel economy is good. The hybrid versions especially score highly when it comes to keeping fuel economy high and carbon footprint low, making them a perfect choice for a corporate car. Drivers report that around town, the C-HR is nippy, responsive and lively around the corners.
Unfortunately, this favourable impression doesn't seem to be maintained once the vehicle hits the open road. With 0-100 in somewhere between 7.9 to 11 seconds, depending on the version, the C-HR just hasn't got the speed and power needed to really make progress. There is a clear trade-off here between economy and performance: compared with other vehicles in its class, the C-HR just doesn't have the acceleration needed to wow.
Toyota has ensured that the C-HR has a good array of tech, providing plenty of opportunities for connectivity and providing a smooth interface between vehicle autonomy and driver control.
Features such as a steering wheel with phone, audio, and Safe Sense controls; dual-zone A/C; an 8" colour touchscreen display with compatibility with Android Auto and Apple Car Play; voice recognition; an audio system; satnav; and Bluetooth result in a cabin that contains everything necessary for a modern drive.
Although Toyota hasn't skimped, there isn't much in terms of the technology that grabs the attention. These are all fairly standard features that are an integral part of most modern vehicles.
Safety is something that Toyota does well, and the C-HR is no exception to this rule. The Toyota SafeSense is a driver-assist feature that contains a wealth of options to pre-empt a collision. The features that are integral to SafeSense include lane Trace Assist; automatic high beam; ll-Speed active cruise control; and pre-collision safety system with pedestrian detection.
Front and rear parking sensors, vehicle stability control, reversing camera, rear crossing traffic alert, and ABS with EBD and brake assist all add to the impressive selection of safety features that define this vehicle.
If you want a vehicle you can depend on to provide a high level of safety, the C-HR is definitely one to take a closer look at.
The entry-level version of the C-HR, the GXL 2WD, starts at around $30,915. At the other end of the price range, the GR Sport Hybrid and the Koba Hybrid 2WD retail for about $37,665.
Pros and Cons
When it comes to the C-HR, whether it's going to be right for you depends on what your motoring priorities are. This is first and foremost a vehicle with exceptional exterior styling and enviably low running costs: petrol consumption is competitive, particularly if you opt for a hybrid model.
Economy is also built into the driving experience: the features are adequate, but not exceptional compared with other vehicles in its class. For shorter drives, tootling around town or completing a short commute, it works well. The excellent range of safety features is also a powerful draw, particularly if this is to be a family car.
The two main issues with the C-HR are its less-than-powerful engine and the mediocre amount of storage space. This is never going to be a vehicle that rips up the road, and given that one of the selling points of an SUV is meant to be its luggage space, the C-HR has noticeably less room than others in its class.
Ultimately, for shorter journeys, it's safe, practical, and economical. If you're a driver who likes to drive, or who is looking for a vehicle that's going to work well for longer journeys, the C-HR may not tick your boxes.