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Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Toyota C-HR with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.
There's fashionably late to the party, and then there's Toyota's C-HR small SUV. While its competitors were making hay while the city-sized SUV sun was shining, the Japanese powerhouse remained eerily quiet. Sure, there was the occasional sketch and a concept car at the Paris Motor Show in 2014, but then... crickets.
But the brand's first ever city-sized SUV has finally arrived in Australia, and Toyota is promising it's been worth the wait. And it arrives to a market absolutely booming: the 440,000 SUVs sold in Australia last year was more than the double the number sold in 2009. And more than 110,000 of those sales were in the C-HR's hotly contested segment.
To say the C-HR is like no mainstream Toyota product that has gone before (at least in recent years) is a staggering understatement. Gone is the dull design philosophy. Same with the tired-but-safe interiors. Instead you'll find a hugely adventurous exterior, a premium-feel interior and a brand new turbocharged engine.
Perhaps most surprisingly, though, is the brand's focus on an engaging drive experience that even Toyota admits has been missing from its recent back catalogue.
|Toyota C-HR 2017: (AWD)|
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Exciting. Unique. Interesting. Not three words you might normally apply to mainstream Toyota product (it's like crushed Valerian has been mixed in with the exterior paint of the current-generation Camry, for example). But then, this is no ordinary Toyota.
The C-HR part actually stands for Coupe High Rider, and the newest Toyota does give off the same kind of vibes as the pioneers in this weird SUV/Coupe pseudo-style. Viewed front on, the C-HR looks simple enough, with the blocky and tall grille, an extreme example of Toyota's new 'under priority, keen look' design language, framed on either size by two massive and swept back headlights (they're 950mm in length, and Toyota had to have its supplier design new machinery to craft them).
But viewed side on, the coupe-ness emerges, the near-vertical windscreen meets a slightly sloping roofline that eventually meets a rear window which angles away from the roof. The wheel arches are bulging, the belt line is sky-high and even the body crease takes a crazy journey from the top of the wheel arch to the base of door before climbing again to the rear door.
So far so good, then. And from those two angles, the C-HR looks sharp on the road. But its the rear view that looks somehow cluttered and confused. From the mass of black cladding, to the boomerang-shaped brake lights, to the endless array of sharp angles and bulging panels, it looks more than a touch too busy for our tastes. Oh, it's supposed to look like a diamond. But you'd need to have sampled Lucy's sky diamonds to spot it.
There are eight body colours (four are new: red, bronze, teal and silver), while $450 will net you a white- or black-painted roof.
Toyota's made no secret it's targeting a more upmarket clientele or, in the words of Toyota: "our customers will have competitors from premium brands on their shopping lists", and the interior does feel a cut above.
There are still a few hard plastics lurking in places, but the other materials feel well crafted and the driver-angled dash has a kind of layering which works well, with different materials and colours stacked on top of each other.
At 4360mm in length and 1795mm in width, the C-HR is actually slightly bigger than a Corolla, and while the interior can feel claustrophobic at times, space for front and rear passengers is actually pretty good. You can genuinely transport four adults in comfort, though squeezing three across the back seat will wipe smiles off faces pretty quickly.
The weirdest part, though, is a large curved panel in the rear door, which eats away the window space in the back. It means backseat passengers will have to lean forward to look out the window, or be left staring at a door panel.
Elsewhere, expect two cupholders in the front and another one in each of the rear doors, but there are no pockets for bottles in the back. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
Luggage space is pegged at 377 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats in place, but that climbs to 1112 litres with them folded flat.
Now for the bad news: there's no price-led entry-level model here. Instead you'll be asked to part with $26,990 for the cheapest C-HR, which is about $6k more than an entry-level Corolla. Toyota explains away the price hike by saying most (about 80 per cent) of small SUV shoppers jump into the market at a medium trim level or higher, saying the C-HR's customers are "looking for the niceties of life."
Niceties or no, that money will earn you a front-wheel drive, manual-equipped vehicle with satellite navigation, active cruise control and cloth seats. You'll also get dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, an electric parking brake and LED fog lights and DRLs. Most commendably, you also get an impressive suite of standard safety kit, but we'll come back to that in a moment. As in the rest of the range, your touchscreen will be a fairly underwhelming 6.1-inches in size, and is missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Exciting. Unique. Interesting. Not three words you might normally apply to mainstream Toyota product. But then, this is no ordinary Toyota.
Toyota has simplified the costs from there, asking customers to shell out another $2k for a CVT (auto) and another $2k for AWD, lifting the combined price to $30,990.
If you're still wanting more, another $4,300 (for a total $35,290) will earn you the top-spec Koba treatment, adding heated leather seats, push-button start, LED headlights and taillights, 18-inch alloys, privacy glass and Toyota's new 'Nanoe E' air-con technology that not only blocks all kinds of nasties, but adds moisture to the air to stop you hair and skin drying out.
The C-HR is powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, on debut in this model, that produces 85kW from 5200–5600rpm and 185Nm between 1500–4000rpm. Those numbers don't make for the most exhilarating acceleration: while no official sprint times have been quoted, we were producing 12.5-ish second runs, albeit recorded on a phone on undulating road surfaces.
A Toyota SUV honed at the Nurburgring? Clearly, then, this a new direction for the brand.
That power can be sent to the front wheels or to all four tyres, depending on your budget, via a six-speed manual transmission with a tricky rev-matching system that blips the throttle on up and down shifts for smoother gear changes, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. The CVT has a manual mode - though there's no wheel-mounted shifters - which builds in seven artificial steps in the gearing to simulate a traditional auto.
While the front-wheel drive versions paired with the manual transmission will sip a claimed/combined 6.3 litres per hundred kilometres, some clever tech ensures the auto and all-wheel drive models aren't far off.
Opt for a FWD drive paired with a CVT, and your official fuel use climbs to 6.4L/100km, thanks in part to the fact that the CVT is tuned to sit in its highest possible ratio when coasting.
The AWD models claim 6.5L/100km, helped by the fact the engine actually defaults to FWD when it can, only incorporating the rear tyres if pushed, which will see up to 50 per cent of the power sent to the back.
A Toyota SUV honed at the Nurburgring? Clearly, then, this a new direction for the brand.
This is supposed to be Toyota's driver's car, and in a lot of ways it is. The steering is terrific, smooth and predictable in the city, and perfectly linear when you start tackling tighter, faster bends. The ride is great, too, while the suspension, which strikes a commendable balance between supple and sporty, helps ensure the C-HR sits nice and flat when cornering, only pushing to understeer when you really ask a lot from it.
However, there are some drawbacks. The first is the engine, which feels adequate in the CBD when you're jumping from traffic light to traffic light, but whimpers pretty quickly when you try to unlock some performance.
It's simply supposed to be a better driving car than Toyotas that have gone before it, and we think it definitely is.
But the biggest issue for us is the CVT . It's far from the worst we've driven - quieter and smoother than most - but it's a terrible way to draw any meaningful performance from the engine. The foot-flat climb from 30 to 70km/h feels particularly slow, thought that's improved by selecting manual mode, which builds in seven artificial gear steps.
That said, it's not supposed to be an out-and-out performance car, it's simply supposed to be a better driving car than Toyotas that have gone before it, and we think it definitely is. Road noise, too, is kept to a minimum, and vision out of every window (except the rear windscreen - thank goodness for standard reversing cameras) is terrific.
In short, it's a great set-up let down by a lacklustre engine, but heavy rumours abound about Toyota fixing that problem in the not too distant future. Either way, it is a strong outing for Toyota's new TNGA (Toyota New Generation Architecture) platform that will underpin a whole heap of its new products in coming years.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
A hugely commendable safety package arrives as standard, with every trim level equipped with AEB, active cruise control, a lane departure system that will take over the steering if it senses you're drifting. That's a lot of handy safety technology, especially on an, albeit expensive, entry-level model. You also get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and hill start assist.
The high-tech stuff joins seven airbags, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
The Toyota C-HR is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty and requires a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000kms.
An impressive capped-price service scheme sees maintenance costs pegged at just $195 per year for the first five years.
Sharply styled, engaging to drive and stacked with safety kit, the C-HR will be a tempting proposition for small SUV buyers in Australia. Personally, though, we'd be holding on for a more powerful engine, but if your life is lived in the city, that's unlikely to bother you much.
|(2WD)||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$16,100 – 22,440||2017 Toyota C-HR 2017 (2WD) Pricing and Specs|
|(AWD)||1.2L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$18,500 – 25,740||2017 Toyota C-HR 2017 (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Koba (2WD)||1.2L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$20,300 – 27,610||2017 Toyota C-HR 2017 Koba (2WD) Pricing and Specs|
|Koba (awd)||1.2L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$21,500 – 29,260||2017 Toyota C-HR 2017 Koba (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||6|