Final Position: 1st
5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Premium interior; polished dynamics; feeling of solidity
Rear three-quarter vision; rear seats; price
The weight of expectation can be a heavy cross to bear. Heading into this megatest as a pre-combat favourite, the Toyota C-HR potentially had more to lose than gain. After all, it's claimed the top gong in more than one Wheels comparison. However, as you can see by its number-one ranking, any question marks were unwarranted. Apologies for the spoiler.
Released in 2016, the C-HR proved somewhat of a revelation for being a very un-Toyota Toyota, introducing the Toyota New Global Architecture in SUVs to widespread acclaim. The ‘funky’ styling has an unashamedly youthful buyer in mind and it certainly turns heads. Nipped and tucked for the 2020 model year, Toyota’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it update brings minor exterior design tweaks, a top-spec hybrid variant and the fitment of an 8.0-inch touchscreen with long overdue Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
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While the entry-level C-HR isn’t ostensibly cheap at $29,540, it still represents good value. It’s packed with Toyota’s Safety Sense technology, which includes items like AEB with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, and lane-departure alert with steering assistance, so there’s some heavy-hitting features.
Inside, the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra continues. However, apart from the infotainment screen, which now gains the aforementioned smartphone mirroring, little needed to change. So upmarket is the look and feel of the C-HR’s interior that it isn’t a stretch to say Toyota is verging on outclassing Lexus here, although the graphics are a bit gauche. Still, the climate controls are easy to use and there’s a logic and ergonomic simplicity to the cabin that juxtaposes the manic exterior.
Chinks in the C-HR’s armour begin to unfurl in terms of packaging and practicality. It’s almost as if Toyota has blatantly decided to eschew rear vision. It’s form over function, and you could lose a truck in the rear three-quarter blindspot. Further impediments to vision are caused by the beltline rising higher than a pensioner’s trousers, while the rear windows are like peep holes out of a claustrophobic dark room. However, there is vastly more head and legroom than you expect, but clearly the focus here is on the front passengers, and perhaps new parents: the 377L boot is surprisingly roomy and the 60:40 rear seats fold flat to fit prams and strollers.
Mechanically the C-HR remains unchanged, with the diminutive 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo offering up 85kW and 185Nm. A powerhouse? No, the front wheels certainly aren’t troubled. But this linear, silken engine belies its on-paper figures thanks to its meaty mid-range torque (peaking between 1500-4000rpm). With stepped ‘ratios’, the CVT works well, too, as it mimics a conventional torque converter without perching revs high under heavy acceleration. The boosted mill also averaged 8.4L/100km despite coming to us with just 590km on the clock, making it one of the most frugal on test.
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Behind the wheel the TNGA platform shows its promise – especially with urbane multi-link rear suspension. The C-HR is far from a mundane SUV and its well-tuned hatchback soul is easily accessible. The steering is well weighted (if not overtly tactile), the eco-focused Dunlops offer good grip, and body control is kept in check. While there is a degree of firmness to the ride, all surfaces are dealt with in a skilful manner and there is an ever-present veneer of sophistication and solidity. Road noise is one of the few blots on the copybook.
It’s hard not to be enamoured of the C-HR and its layers of dynamic talent that are refreshing and pleasing. It’s one of those rare Toyotas you buy with your heart just a little more than your head. While the Kia Seltos is the better monetary deal, the C-HR is the better ‘car’. The small SUV status quo remains intact.
Toyota C-HR Turbo specs
Engine: 1197cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Power: 85kW @ 5200-5600rpm
Torque: 185Nm @ 1500-4000rpm
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B): 4390/1795/1565/2640mm
Cargo capacity: 377L
Tyres: Dunlop Enasave 215/60R17
Economy: 8.4L/100km (tested)
0-100km/h: 10.3sec (tested)
80-120km/h: 7.9sec (tested)
100-0km/h: 37.2m (tested)
ANCAP rating: 5 stars