2017 Toyota C-HR review – first drive
Paul Horrell’s first drive 2017 Toyota C-HR review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Toyota’s small road-biased crossover is hardly a crossover at all. It puts styling and driving pleasure above practicality. The badge stands for Coupe High Rider and for once a name carries some whiff of reason, if you can accept a five-door as a coupe. It was designed for Europe, but an Australian launch has been confirmed for early 2017. The interior is as stylish (or over-styled if you will) as the outside, and is a notable improvement in material quality for Toyota.
2017 TOYOTA C-HR
PRICING TBA WARRANTY 3 YEARS 100,000KM ENGINE 1.2L TURBOCHARGED PETROL 4 CYLINDER POWER 85KW AT 5200-5600RPM TORQUE 185NM AT 1500-4000RPM TRANSMISSION 6-SPEED MANUAL DRIVE FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE DIMENSIONS 4360MM (L); 1795MM (W); 1565MM (H) TURNING CIRCLE 10.4M SEATS 5 KERB WEIGHT 1350KG FUEL TANK 50L FUEL CONSUMPTION 6.0L/100KM COMBINED CYCLE FUEL PETROL SPARE NO (IN EUROPE) TOWING 1300KG BRAKED
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Toyota never intended the C-HR to be global. It was designed with a certain kind of European buyer in mind – a city-dwelling single or couple who value style and connectivity, and who are haunted by the fear of missing a trend. There’s already a trend for coupe-crossovers, but the Toyota is smaller than most, making it more economical and city-friendly. It also takes the trend further by wearing one of the most outlandish styling jobs on any crossover. Anyway, Toyota’s divisions in Asia, Australasia and America saw the near-completed C-HR and decided those sorts of buyers existed in their territories too, so now it’s going to come here.
The C-HR uses the same underbody platform as the new Prius, which means it has a strong structure, and the dynamics gain from a sophisticated suspension layout and a low centre of gravity. A strong suite of electronic accident-prevention devices and driver aids is also taken from the Prius.
It’s no surprise then that you can also have the C-HR with the complete Prius hybrid powertrain, but so far only in Europe. There’s also a 1.2-litre turbo over there, either with manual or CVT transmission. And that’s the one that’s coming to Oz, so it’s the one what we’ve concentrated on in this review.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
Too often you get a distinctive-looking exterior, then climb inside to meet a sea of crappy grey plastic and drab upholstery. Not here – the design team kept their nerve when they did the interior.
In front, you sit in well-bolstered sports seats, gazing at a dash that swoops into the doors. A metallic feature line, in either grey or bright blue, emphasises its shape and also runs around the top border of the high-mounted infotainment screen. The instruments sit in a deep binnacle but are easy to see.
Once your fingers start to prod the surfaces, door pulls and switchgear, it’s clear the general material quality has taken a leap ahead. Toyota’s cabins were always long-lasting and well-assembled, but the materials were generally hard and scratchy. Not here. The dash top is plush and has a stitched seam along its edge. The door panels are soft too, and wear a new material with diagonal 3-d texture. Instead of defaulting to Toyota’s standard parts-bin switches for the climate control and steering-wheel buttons, the C-HR gets bespoke gear, shaped in the diamond theme of many of the car’s design elements. There are even diamonds embossed into the headlining.
In the rear seat, life isn’t so rosy. The C-HR’s overall length is similar to, say, a Nissan Qashqai or the Honda HR-V we tested last week. Of course its swooping roofline means the Toyota loses out on headroom, but actually not as badly as you might guess. The real sacrifice is that sideways visibility for rear passengers is badly compromised by those very thick rear-door pillars. Still, at least there are cupholders in the rear doors, and pockets in the back of the front seats.
The boot can’t take tall boxy objects – at least not if you want to shut the hatchback wothout breaking its window. Still, with the parcel shelf in place, boot capacity isn’t all that bad, at 377 litres.
The infotainment screen is touch-sensitive and has average-to-good response times and resolution. It’s the same size in all versions, but go for the top spec and it adds navigation and some advanced connectivity and apps.
Driver’s functions such as the trip computer and safety systems live on menus on a smaller screen between the speedo and tachometer. They’re controlled by a buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a nice logical setup, and doesn’t take much learning to quickly find the function you’re looking for.
Toyota is proud of the optional audio system, by JBL – although this unit won’t be available on Australian models which will get a 6.1-inch screen, and is Europe-specific. This company claims to equip 80% of the world’s concert halls. The system in the C-HR was designed-in at an early stage, to give the speakers sonically helpful positions. Driven by 576 watts of amplification, the setup has nine speakers and does indeed produce a spacious and engaging sound.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE ROAD?
For a crossover – you always have to bear that condition in mind – the C-HR is fun to steer. You don’t sense much cornering roll, and the car goes round any corner in satisfying proportion with your inputs at the steering wheel. Even at the limits of cornering grip, it resists understeer and still feels confident and accurate.
Few crossovers manage to combine lively cornering behaviour with a pliant ride, but this one does. Noise from the suspension and tyres is decently suppressed too.
So the result is a car that’s reasonably handy to steer around urban junctions, and lopes along the highway in relaxing calm. It’s a well-judged combination.
Performance from the 1.2-litre turbo engine isn’t very strong on paper, but on the road it shows an encouraging enthusiasm that belies the figures. The turbocharger goes to work to fill out the low-rpm torque, so it hardly matters that the red-line is a constrained 5500rpm. It’s a smooth-sounding engine too.
As to the 90kW (system power) hybrid version, it’s smooth and quiet in town but moans and groans in open-road acceleration and when pulling out of corners. I didn’t enjoy it. Finally, its brake pedal has a disconcertingly unpredictable action, due to the mechanism to splits effort between the discs and the regeneration system. In contrast the 1.2 Turbo’s brakes feel more satisfying and are easier to feather smoothly.
WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FEATURES?
The C-HR is too new to have an NCAP test. But it’s comforting to see a five-star rating for the closely related 2016 Prius. The Prius structure was strong except in the most brutal side pole-impact test where the driver’s chest showed only ‘marginal’ protection. Another marginal score for the Prius was for the driver’s chest in the difficult front offset-barrier impact test, but it’s possible the C-HR’s different seat and steering wheel position will alter this result.
Airbags include curtain bags front and rear, and a driver’s kneebag. In the back, all three passengers get a head restraint and three-point belt. There are two sets of easily-accessible ISOFIX child-seat points with top tether.
The range of electronic systems is pretty comprehensive. As standard there’s a forward collision mitigation system that warns the driver, then pre-conditions the brake system, and finally if a crash is very close it goes on to brake autonomously. It’ll detect vehicles and pedestrians. Independent tests by EuroNCAP and by the European Car of the Year jury found that the system is effective up to higher speeds than most similar installations.
The same radar system is used for a standard adaptive cruise control system, which is certainly a safety aid if you consider its ability ot reduce fatigue on long trips. A well-calibrated lane-keeping system goes hand-in-hand with that. The lane-assist’s camera also keeps an eye on speed-limit signs and relays them via the instruments, although this feature won’t be available on Australian delivered variants.
A blind-spot detection system comes with the higher trim levels, together with cross-traffic alert that warns when you’re going into the path of another vehicle when reversing perpendicularly into the road.