2017 Toyota C-HR Review… Australian drive
Isaac Bober’s 2017 Toyota C-HR Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Toyota claims it’s disrupting the compact SUV segment with its C-HR… but the funky-looking hatch is really just disrupting the Toyota line-up
2017 Toyota C-HR
Pricing From $26,990+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Service Intervals capped price servicing – $195; 12 months/15,000km Safety Not rated Engine 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 85kW at 5200-5600rpm Torque 185Nm at 1500-4000rpm Transmission six-speed manual; CVT Dimensions 4360mm (L); 1795mm (W); 1565mm (H) Ground Clearance 154mm Turning Circle 10.4m Boot Space 377 litres Spare Space Saver Weight 1375-1510kg Towing 600kg Fuel Tank 50 litres Thirst 6.3-6.5L/100km
TOYOTA SAYS it has brought “excitement and driving pleasure to the SUV market with the launch of its radically styled C-HR”. I don’t want to cast a negative shadow across this review before it’s even begun, but that’s a stretch.
Read Paul Horrell’s pre-launch drive impression of the Toyota C-HR.
The new C-HR is a breath of fresh air as far as Toyota is concerned and stands out as a new direction the brand is heading in as far as quality, design and driving is concerned. But to suggest that everything else in the SUV segment has been as dull as dish water until the C-HR is just not true. Let’s settle this down.
The Toyota C-HR is the first Toyota to offer five-years capped price servicing, with each servicing costing just $195. That capped pricing is transferable to new buyers if the car is sold within the five years, and I’d suggest Toyota will test this program and then systematically roll it out through its entire range.
Toyota believes the C-HR will attract totally new buyers to the brand, “C-HR will bring new customers to the Toyota brand – typically younger, image-conscious people who take a more emotional approach to purchasing a car compared with our more traditional customers,” said Toyota Australia’s executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb.
What is it?
At the local launch of the C-HR, Toyota’s sales and marketing boss, Tony Cramb suggested the crossover shouldn’t be considered as a compact SUV, although it has aspects of an SUV, like the slightly high-set ride height. But, Cramb suggested, it’s also got elements of a coupe-cum-hatchback. So, let’s think of this as a crossover, rather than an SUV. Indeed, the name is a giveaway: Coupe, High Rider (C-HR).
From now until the end of the year, Toyota will only have access to around 6000 C-HRs and I’d suggest it’ll sell every single one of them. For a start, Toyota is being very un-Toyota-like in offering up to 60 genuine accessories, second only to the HiLux, allowing buyers to individualise the C-HR to suit them, ensuring that, potentially, no two C-HRs will be the same. Customisation options to expand driveway appeal include eight alloy wheel designs; coloured exterior garnishes, wheel caps and mirror covers; and roof cross-bars for bicycles and other sports equipment.
C-HR pricing starts at $26,990+ORC for the six-speed manual, front-drive variant. A CVT adds $2000 to that, and all-wheel drive adds another $2000 on top of that. The top-of-the-range Koba variants add leather-accented seats, keyless entry and ignition, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lamps and nanoe technology that moisturises cabin air –it adds $4300 to the price and is only available with the CVT and AWD.
At the local launch, Toyota trundled out the chief engineer of the C-HR, Hiroyuki Koba (yes, it’s his name that’s on the top-spec C-HR) who said (to answer claims it had taken Toyota a long time to enter the compact SUV segment) that development of this vehicle began back in 2010 with Toyota’s older platform.
Mr Koba said that to continue with that platform would have meant a considerable amount of engineering work to achieve the ride and handling balance the company wanted. So, a decision was made to wait for the new platform, Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) which will sit under all sorts of new Toyota product.
Of its TNGA, Toyota said “[it] offers fluent, engaging driving behaviour due to its exceptional rigidity, low centre of gravity and optimised suspension layouts.
“TNGA also enabled designers to produce a dynamic-looking car with low roof and bonnet heights without compromising headroom. The platform is constructed so that key components are placed lower in the structure; for example, the turbo engine is mounted low and angled backwards.
“Designers adopted sleek coupe styling cues and the raised height of an SUV to develop C-HR’s distinctive features, including a steeply sloping roofline, ‘hidden’ rear door handles and body panels that feature complex curves and creases.”
What’s it like inside?
Let’s start in the boot. The C-HR is a hatchack and the boot opens easily and without too much effort (there’s no automatic opening available). It reveals a Corolla-esque 377 litres of storage space, and while I didn’t have a tape measure with me to measure the load height, it’s easy to load and unload luggage from the boot. Beneath the boot floor is a space saver spare (which will frustrate those who live outside the city limits) but will probably be fine for most inner-city buyers.
The back seats are 60:40 split fold (there’s no 40:20:40 option) and offer ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats and top tether anchor points across the backs of the three seats. They’re located about halfway down the backs of the seats which makes them easy to access. The seats fold down but not entirely flat.
The door opening into the back seat feels small, indeed, I had to duck my head on the way in and way out to avoid bumping my head. And the door handle cleverly tucked away high up on the door is a clever piece of industrial design, but is a little awkward, ergonomically-speaking, and it will be impossible for most kids under 10 to reach and use easily. There’s also a narrow but considerable sill getting into the back that could become a trip hazard.
Once in the back seat itself it’s clear there’s only room for two adults (indeed, Toyota itself admits this is just a four-adult car); the middle seat is a definite perch only. With the front seats set to suit me I found that leg and foot room wasn’t amazing, and because of the sloping, and almost wraparound roof line the back felt smaller than perhaps it is. I didn’t get to travel in the back but will do once we’ve had the C-HR in the Practical Motoring garage for a week.
Climb out of the back and into the front and the seats and space feel much better than the back. The front seats are supportive without being too figure-hugging and proved comfortable enough on our short commutes at the local launch, but how they’ll prove on longer stints behind the wheels remains to be seen.
The steering wheel features reach and rake adjustment, but both adjustments are minimal and the steering wheel didn’t feel like it could be raised high enough to be totally comfortable, for me anyway. Looking around the dash, it’s clear the C-HR is a step ahead of other Toyota interiors. There’s soft-touch plastics everywhere and neat glittery gloss trims, if you stump up for the Koba variant. As nice as those trims look, though, after just a few minutes of fiddling around with the interior there were visible finger marks left behind. The cup holders in the front are split both fore and aft of the gear shifter and your phone will need to be stashed in either the centre console or the glovebox as there’s no storage on top if you’re already using both cup holders.
There’s a 6.1-inch infotainment unit perched on top of the dash but, at the same time integrated into it (see the pictures). It’s a very basic looking unit and not particularly feature rich, and nor does it offer Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity which, at this price point, is a bit of a miss. That said, native sat-nav is included as standard on all model grades, something that you don’t necessarily get in the competitors. A reversing camera is also standard and the image is projected onto the touchscreen.
Below the screen are the climate controls which are easy to use on the fly and the system itself is quick to heat and cool the cabin. Something that this car’s European competitors sometimes struggle with, especially the cooling.
Ergonomically, the interior and back of the car is a little compromised and that continues on the passenger side at the front where it’s impossible to open the glovebox if you’re sitting in the seat as it bangs against your knees. I tried squirming and contorting but couldn’t get the glovebox open while sitting in the passenger seat. And it is little things like that that take the shine off an otherwise pretty looking interior.
What’s it like on the road?
Under the bonnet is a 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and this is the first time we’ve seen this engine used in a Toyota here in Australia. This engine makes 85kW at 5200-5600rpm and 185Nm of torque from 1500-4000rpm. It’s mated to either a six-speed manual (which we weren’t able to sample at the local launch) or a CVT with, in Manual mode, seven simulated gear ratios. The engine is Euro 6 compliant but in a very un-Toyota-like move requires higher octane 95RON petrol.
The engine might not seem like much on paper, but out in town, on the highway and up in the hills it had more then enough guts with two on-board, each carrying 30L backpacks. What it would be like with the family on board would be hard to say before actually loading the family up. The CVT does a good job of hiding any torque deficiency which is no doubt helped by the wide maximum torque band. The weakest part of the drivetrain was the throttle response which was spongy and slightly delayed to pick-up out of corners. We’ll have a more complete assessment once we’ve had our hands on it for a week.
The C-HR sits on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) which is a modular platform and will be used under everything from small hatchbacks to SUVs. The platform, says Toyota, allows for better ride and handling, partly because the chassis is much stiffer than the old platform.
Unlike some of its competitors which run a torsion beam bum, the C-HR gets MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspensions. Toyota spoke a lot about the C-HR being a ‘driver’s car’ and while I wouldn’t go quite that far, the C-HR is right at the sharp end of this segment for driving dynamics, especially in on-demand all-wheel drive set-up (I can’t speak for the behavior of the 2WD manual as I didn’t get to drive it).
Despite its high-riding stance, the C-HR tucks into corners with verve, sitting flat and composed. The CVT bolted to the back of the engine will likely cop criticism from other hacks but for me, it works and covers up for the relatively low output engine. And, when you’re driving on a twisty road, the Manual mode allows you to take control and ‘shift gears’ yourself. The lack of flappy paddles on the steering wheel are a miss with this car, because in Manual mode it’s a much more involving car and gives more to the driver than when it’s left to its own devices.
The steering is quick and well weighted but lacking in feel and takes a few corners to get the feel of. There’s no kickback across broken surfaces, and the general body control and noise suppression across poor road surfaces is excellent.
The all-wheel drive system isn’t as good as a permanent system, and nor is it as good as the quattro system in the new Audi Q2, but it’s better than the sort of on-demand system you’ll find in many of this car’s competitors. Essentially, when running on the highway or in situations where there’s ‘no’ steering input the C-HR will run in two-wheel drive. Once it detects steering input with throttle being applied then around 10% of drive will be immediately shuffled to the rear, with up to 50% able to be split front to rear. We’ll have a more thorough assessment once the C-HR has graced the Practical Motoring garage.
What about safety features?
The Toyota C-HR hasn’t been tested by ANCAP yet and nor does it have a Euro NCAP rating (that means we’ve had to mark it down for our safety rating – as soon as we see its ANCAP rating we’ll update this score accordingly). A result is expected shortly. As standard, C-HR offers pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist and reversing camera. All variants are equipped with seven airbags, stability and traction control, auto high beam, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors and hill-start assist control.
Why would you buy one?
Possibly because the three-door, and similar looking, Hyundai Veloster isn’t practical enough, or because you want something that rides a little higher. The C-HR is well-equipped, arriving at a spec and price point that sees it, sort of, lob around the mid-spec of its competitors.
The C-HR gets a good set of standard safety features, features that often have to be optioned in its competitors. But, the lack of Apple Car Play and Android Auto Connectivity is a miss in this segment as the infotainment unit isn’t amazing.
The C-HR is one of the better handling compact SUVs, certainly better than the Mazda CX-3 and its funky design mean its likely to attract young couples or those looking to downsize. Families looking for a small, cool crossover should look elsewhere.
Toyota C-HR key features:
C-HR FWD MANUAL
- Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform
- 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine
- Six-speed manual transmission:
- Switchable “intelligent” mode
- Pre-collision safety system
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Active cruise control
- Lane departure alert with steering assist
- Sway warning system
- Blind spot monitor
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reversing camera
- Seven airbags, including driver’s knee airbag
- Vehicle stability and traction control
- Trailer sway control
- Anti-skid brakes
- Hill-start assist control
- Brake assist
- Electronic brake-force distribution
- Brake hold
- Advanced pitching control
- Front (4) and rear (4) parking sensors
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Halogen projector-type headlamps
- LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Roof-mounted spoiler
- Tailgate lip spoiler
- Satellite navigation:
- SUNA Live Traffic, safety alert, 4WD tracks, unsealed roads
- Dual-zone automatic air-conditioning
- 6.1-inch display audio with six speakers
- AM/FM radio, CD player, USB and AUX input
- Bluetooth hands-free, music streaming, message, phone book
- Speech commands
- Toyota Link connected mobility:
- Fuel finder, local search, destination download, Toyota help (all with “drive to” navigation capability)
- Weather, Pandora, travel times
- 4.2-inch colour multi-information display (MID)
- Premium steering wheel with audio, phone, MID and driving switches
- Tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment
- Premium gear-shift knob
- Electronic park brake
- 60/40 split-fold rear seat
- Auto power windows (all doors)
- Flush-mounted rear door handles
- Shark-fin antenna
- Roof-hinged tailgate
- Power folding heated exterior mirrors
- Auto-dimming interior mirror
- Driver and front-passenger sun visors
- Sporty fabric front seats with six-way manual adjustment
- Engine immobiliser
- “C-HR” puddle lamp
- 12V/120W power socket (centre console)
- Aerodynamic underbody panels
C-HR FWD CVT
- Multidrive S continuously variable transmission:
- Seven-speed sequential shift
- All-speed active cruise control
C-HR AWD CVT (in addition to FWD CVT features)
- Dynamic torque control part-time AWD system
C-HR KOBA FWD & AWD CVT (in addition to standard C-HR features)
- Smart entry
- Smart start
- LED headlamps
- LED rear combination lamps
- 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels
- Heated, leather-accented seats
- Power lumbar adjustment (driver’s seat)
- Nano-e air purifying
- Side and rear privacy glass
- Illuminated driver and front-passenger sun visors
- Illuminated door trim
- White or black two-tone roof option (with selected exterior colours)