2020 Toyota C-HR review

The distinctively styled Toyota C-HR is big inside for a small SUV, comfortable to ride in, good to drive and comes with a choice of turbocharged petrol or hybrid powertrains

A Brook 191202 2336 1 Jpg
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Space
  •   Features
  •   Comfort
  •   Auto braking, punchy hybrid
Not so much
  •   View from rear seats, turbo needs premium unleaded

What stands out?

The distinctively styled Toyota C-HR is big inside for a small SUV, and you can get it in several bright colours. This new baby SUV – the first from Toyota – is good to drive and comfortable to ride in, and it does not use much fuel. Two-zone air-conditioning, auto cruise-control and auto braking are standard and there is a choice of turbocharged petrol or hybrid powertrains.

What might bug me?

Complaints from children that they can’t see out. That swoopy design means the sills under the rear windows rise sharply.

More complaints from small children that they can’t get in. The rear door handles are placed up high as well. Very short people will not be able to use them.

How hard it is to see where you’re going when parking. That same rising rear sill creates a substantial blind spot over the driver’s left shoulder. (A reversing camera is standard, however, as are parking sensors front and rear, and a rear cross-traffic alert.)

That the glovebox refuses to open. It's hidden deep under the dash, and to unlatch it you push a button (rather than pulling on something). Gloveboxes in three cars driven for this review unlatched only after multiple, and sometimes forceful, presses.

Paying more for petrol. Toyota recommends you fill the turbo C-HR with premium unleaded petrol, which costs more than regular unleaded or E10 (a blend of petrol and ethanol).

Not bothering to use sport mode, which you have to select by cycling through the multifunction display on the dashboard instead of simply pushing a button.

Driving at no more than 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre, until you can fix your full-sized flat.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The C-HR drives either its front wheels or all four wheels, depending on the model.

All-wheel drive C-HRs send power to the front-wheels all the time, but engage the rear wheels automatically only when a front tyre starts to slip (or when turning).

Toyota says C-HR stands for Coupe High Rider. The C-HR is classed as a small SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Toyota C-HRs have?

A reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors (which tell you how close you are to near objects).

An MP3-compatible six-speaker sound system with an AM/FM radio receiver and CD player, controllable from a 8.0-inch colour touchscreen. Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, and in-built satellite navigation.

Android Auto/Apple CarPlay which lets you operate your smartphone and some apps via the touch screen.

Dual-zone climate control, which lets you and your front passenger set different temperatures for the ventilation system.

Heated exterior mirrors (to help with demisting) that power-fold automatically after you’ve parked (to keep them out of harm’s way).

Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains. Headlamps that switch to low beam automatically, to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers at night.

Hill-start assist, which controls the brakes to help you start from rest on uphill slopes.

Active cruise control: as well as sustaining the speed you set, it will match automatically the speed of a slower car in front until you can overtake.

Alloy wheels, which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels, and a speed-limited space-saver spare wheel.

A button-operated park brake, which takes up less space than a lever handbrake.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car (all new cars must have this feature).

A suite of crash-avoidance aids that includes auto emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. (For the placement of airbags, and for more on C-HR safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The C-HR is covered by a five-year, unlimited warranty. Toyota also offers five years of capped price servicing for the C-HR.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 1.8-litre petrol hybrid is the most efficient powertrain in the C-HR range, and with an official combined fuel of 4.3 litres/100km.

Taken from the Corolla Hybrid, it features a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is tied to an electric motor with power delivered to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The performance feels slightly punchier than other engine available in a C-HR, a 1.2-litre turbo, which consumes 6.4litres/100km or 6.5L/100km for the 2WD and AWD versions respectively.

The 1.2-litre turbo versions also come with a CVT auto, which is not restricted to fixed ratios but can adjust steplessly to the driver’s demands, so that the engine spends more time in its sweet spot. You can also select a manual mode, in which the CVT mimics a seven-speed conventional auto gearbox.

Unlike the hybrid, which can consume regular unleaded petrol, the 1.2-litre turbo requires premium unleaded, which will cost you more at the pump.

One reason you may not want to choose the more efficient hybrid version is because it is only available in the more expensive Koba specification grade and is the most expensive C-HR. Another is that that you prefer to have AWD traction: the hybrid only drives the front wheels. And you can’t tow anything with a Hybrid C-HR.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly C-HR is called simply the C-HR and comes standard with front-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, and the features on all C-HRs.

You can spend more for auto transmission, and more again for an auto C-HR with all-wheel drive (which adds all-weather security, and helps on gravel or muddy roads).

Spend more again and you can have a C-HR Koba, which comes standard with the CVT auto and 2WD, with AWD or 2WD hybrid costing extra again.

The Koba brings you part-leather trim on the seats, heating for the front seats, and powered adjustment to lumbar (lower back) support for the driver. You can unlock a Koba and drive away without removing its smart key from your pocket or bag. Windows are tinted against sun penetration.

The Koba’s ventilation system has a feature called nanoe (pronounced nano-e). Toyota says it adds moisture to incoming air in a sophisticated way that helps the cabin feel – and smell – fresh, and reduces dehydration of your skin and hair.

On the outside, the Koba gets 18-inch wheels, wrapped in lower-profile tyres that are slightly wider than those on the C-HR – offering more grip on dry roads.

Toyota also offers a range of accessories for the C-HR, many aimed at letting you tailor the exterior look.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 1.2-litre turbo C-HR has a braked towing capacity of 600kg, but you can’t tow anything with the more expensive hybrid.

Only one colour (Hornet Yellow) is standard – the other eight cost extra. You can get most with a contrasting white or black roof.

How comfortable is the C-HR?

The C-HR has fantastic front seats, which set the scene for a car that is easy to live with on long or short journeys. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and height, and the cabin feels roomier up front than you might expect from a small SUV.

Some interesting plastics and finishes – such as the faux leather on the dash of the Koba, and the detailed triangular patterns on the insides of the doors – spice up the cabin and are a welcome change from the plain plastics common in cars near the C-HR’s price.

Controls are laid out logically, although the central touchscreen uses small virtual buttons for the controlling the infotainment system and it is easy to press the wrong one when on the move.

There’s some notable roaring from the tyres over rough surfaces. Otherwise, the cabin is a quiet place to be. You ride comfortably on a compliant suspension.

The C-HR feels responsive and perky around town. It feels good out of town too, but acceleration from the little turbocharged engine might seem a bit leisurely when you are climbing steep hills or seeking to overtake other vehicles at highway speeds.

What about safety in a Toyota C-HR?

Every C-HR has the mandatory electronic stability control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, auto-on and auto-dipping headlights, seven airbags, and a clutch of crash avoidance aids that includes autonomous emergency braking.

It is a comprehensive safety package, and you get the whole package no matter which version you choose.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one in front of the driver at knee level; one outside each front seat to protect from side impacts at chest level; and a curtain airbag stretching down each side to protect the heads of front and rear occupants.

The C-HR’s crash avoidance aids use radar and camera sensors, and comprise a forward collision warning, auto braking, lane-departure alert, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The forward collision warning monitors the road ahead at city and highway speeds (up to the CH-R’s top speed). If it thinks you are on a crash course with something in front (typically a slower car), it will sound a warning and display a visual alert on the instrument panel.

The auto braking operates at speeds under 80km/h. If you don’t respond to the collision warning, it will apply the brakes automatically.

The lane-departure alert monitors road markings, and prods you with a buzzer and dashboard light if it detects you are drifting out of your lane on the highway (perhaps because you’re distracted). It can also apply a gentle steering correction that you will feel through the wheel. If it notices you are steering unsteadily, perhaps because you are about to fall asleep, it will sound a buzzer and suggest you take a break.

The blind-spot monitoring alerts you to vehicles near your rear corners that might not show up in your mirrors. They show a light in the relevant mirror, and if you indicate to change lanes in that direction the light flashes.

The rear cross-traffic alert works when you are reversing, alerting you to vehicles heading your way from the side.

Both of these rearward monitors are very useful on the C-HR, given the big blind spot over the driver’s left shoulder as a result of the upward sweeping rear bodywork. Nevertheless, the blind spot is there: to a greater degree than on cars with better rear vision, you must rely on the sensors.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated all C-HRs at five stars for safety, its maximum, in March 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes. The C-HR is a terrific car to drive.

It rides on Toyota’s latest vehicle architecture, called TNGA (Toyota New Generation Architecture), which focuses on driving enjoyment as much as fuel efficiency.

As well as being agile around town – steering is light but accurate and the body is light and compact - the C-HR also behaves well on a country road.

There’s great grip through corners, and the suspension props the body up nicely while responding quickly and efficiently to big imperfections. (A double-wishbone design at the rear helps here.)

While the C-HR responds well to a prod from your right shoe, the turbocharged 1.2-litre does not produce as much go when you hold your foot down as, for example, the bigger turbo-petrol in a Suzuki Vitara or the much bigger non-turbo petrol available in a Mazda CX-3.

The hybrid’s performance feels slightly punchier.

How is life in the rear seats?

The C-HR is on the big side for a small SUV, and where you notice that most is the in the back.

Adults will have enough knee room - legs will graze seatbacks if there are tall people in front – and plenty of headroom.

But there are compromises. There are no rear pockets, for example, either in the doors or on the backs of the front seats, so storage is left to the circular drink holders in each door. There are also no overhead grab handles. Plus there’s a sizeable lip on the floor, which requires some fancy ankle-work when getting big feet in and out.

Superb Toyota air-conditioning flushes cool air rearward quickly from the vents in the front – there is none at the rear.

The biggest back seat issue will be keeping kids happy: the sharply rising window line interferes with their side vision, and is intrusive enough to annoy some adults.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The glovebox is slim, so it accepts only slim objects.

And while there are cupholders scattered throughout the cabin, other small-item storage is light-on.

The boot is wide and has a flat floor, with small foam storage binnacles in each corner.

But the boot floor is very high: large suitcases will have to lie flat. At least there is only a very small lip to the back of the car, which makes it easy to slide heavy stuff in and out.

Rear seats fold 60-40.

The 1.2-litre turbo C-HR is rated to tow up to 600kg. The Hybrid version has no towing capacity.

Where does Toyota make the C-HR?

All C-HRs sold in Australia are made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

More wagon-like practicality as you get with more boxy-shaped small SUVs such as the Kia Seltos, Suzuki Vitara, Nissan Qashqai, Honda HR-V, Holden Trax, Jeep Renegade Mistubishi ASX, Skoda Karoq, and Renault Kadjar.

More off-road capability, as available with the Subaru XV.

That said the C-HR’s is unashamedly a high-riding hatchback which can be directly compared with the Mazda CX-3, Renault Kaptur, Citroen C3 Aircross, Hyundai Kona and Venue, Suzuki S Cross and Peugeot 2008.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

It is hard to go past the entry-level front-drive C-HR automatic. It has auto braking and plenty of equipment, refined interior trim and feels like a more expensive car to drive.

Are there plans to update the C-HR soon?

The C-HR went on sale in Australia early in 2017 as an all-new model.

In December 2019 it received a slight exterior facelift, which also saw the introduction of the hybrid version. The infotainment system was improved with the 6.1-inch touchscreen growing to 8.0-inches and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay added. Meanwhile, the manual version was deleted from the range, resulting in a jump in the entry-level price.

No further updates are expected until 2021.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Space
  •   Features
  •   Comfort
  •   Auto braking, punchy hybrid
Not so much
  •   View from rear seats, turbo needs premium unleaded


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