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Toyota C-HR 2020 review: Koba 2WD

Is there more to the C-HR than its concept-car looks?
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Toyota's C-HR was the latest and greatest in the small SUV world when it launched, but just a couple of years on is it yesterday's news?

In the ever changing, ever expanding small SUV space, a new apex predator can slip down the food chain awfully quickly.

With the category booming, every automaker is scrambling to offer a cutting-edge small SUV and grab the sales opportunity.

Take Toyota’s C-HR. When the small SUV launched locally in 2017 it looked and felt bang-on the mark with new-age, youth-focused styling unlike anything else in the brand’s range. Not to mention a new platform and a new engine placing it front-of-mind for small-SUV buyers.

But just a couple of years on, a lot has changed. New competitors have launched, or are arriving soon, while some existing opponents have received significant updates.

The race is on to offer what buyers are after. Top-of-the-line multimedia, cutting edge safety and practicality, in a small package.

So, is Toyota’s C-HR still on the money? Or should you be waiting for the overhaul? Read on to find out.

Toyota C-HR 2020: KOBA (2WD)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.2L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$33,290

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The C-HR comes in just two model grades, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The one you see here is the top-spec Koba in FWD form.

The C-HR is still a tad pricey for the segment, with our car commanding a $33,290 (MSRP) price tag.

It lines up against the upper-mid spec Hyundai Kona Elite (AWD - $33,595), top-spec Honda HR-V VTi-LX (FWD - $34,590), and top-spec Mazda CX-3 Akari (FWD - $33,950).

All of those options can be had at significantly cheaper entry points, or in a lower grade with AWD if you are so inclined.

Thankfully, the C-HR makes up for its pigeonholed price-point with some great safety gear, detailed later in this review.

Its overall standard equipment level is decent, but leaves you wanting in the multimedia department. Standard is a 6.1-inch touchscreen, the same outdated unit found in the current Yaris.

The C-HR's forward-thinking interior design is let down by the small and outdated multimedia screen. (image credit: Tom White) The C-HR's forward-thinking interior design is let down by the small and outdated multimedia screen. (image credit: Tom White)

It has built-in navigation, which is a plus when you’re off the grid, but lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the user interface would have looked good a decade ago.

Worse still, it ruins the slick look of the cabin, and has no integrated USB ports, meaning if you want to connect or charge anything, you’ll have a big cable running out of the front of the head unit.

If multimedia is important to you, the C-HR’s impending update will (we hope) address this issue, bringing it in-line with the current Corolla and RAV4, which will receive Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via a software update.

This interface and having a USB lead sticking out of the top of the dash is a bit lame in 2019. (image credit: Tom White) This interface and having a USB lead sticking out of the top of the dash is a bit lame in 2019. (image credit: Tom White)

Better standard features on the top-spec Koba include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, leather seat trim, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, and dual-zone air conditioning (with a Panasonic-developed air filtration system), a 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker audio, and rain-sensing wipers.

Not bad at all, although a lot of that spec is standard on the base C-HR, too. If you want a sunroof, power adjustable seats, a digital dashboard, or a decent multimedia suite (did we mention that?) you’ll have to look elsewhere for now.

The 18-inch alloys are a neat bit of spec and have a cool design. (image credit: Tom White) The 18-inch alloys are a neat bit of spec and have a cool design. (image credit: Tom White)

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The C-HR is all about its look. Love it or hate it, there’s a lot to take in from any angle. It has a coupe style silhouette, with a descending roofline, pronounced bonnet and integrated door handles.

The wild lines and angles that run down this car’s flanks manage to resolve themselves at the front and rear. Complete with the sculpted rear light fittings, aggressive spoiler, and the Koba’s contrast roof colour, it maintains a full-on concept car guise.

The C-HR still looks very much like a concept car on the outside. (image credit: Tom White) The C-HR still looks very much like a concept car on the outside. (image credit: Tom White)

I’m a fan of the alloy wheels which have a brushed finish and painted black highlights, as well as the LED light fittings with their blue tinge that really give this car the presence it’s meant to have at night.

You can get a more understated look from the Mazda CX-3, a similar but less extreme design from the Kona, and a balanced sporty look from the HR-V.

It's interesting from any angle, with plenty of neat highlights and design touches. (image credit: Tom White) It's interesting from any angle, with plenty of neat highlights and design touches. (image credit: Tom White)

Inside, the C-HR has a really consistent diamond-shaped styling theme that runs through the dash, doors and even the roof lining.

There are other concept-car-like bits, including the climate control cluster which juts out into the centre of the cabin, and the 'look at me' silver shift lever.

There’s also a coloured soft-touch dash liner running across the top of the deep and long dashboard.

Toyota says this design is to increase visibility, with only that dated-looking media screen to interrupt your line of sight.

The interior has a consistent diamond theme that carries throughout the dash and even on the roof. (image credit: Tom White) The interior has a consistent diamond theme that carries throughout the dash and even on the roof. (image credit: Tom White)

Along with much of the other switchgear the steering wheel and instrument cluster are unique to the C-HR, setting it apart from the helm of other vehicles in Toyota’s current range.

There are some so-so materials used, and the glossy centre console is going to be a bit of a nightmare to keep clean.

If you don’t like the look of 'our' car, the Koba is available in eight colours with or without the black roof, and a choice of four 17-inch wheel designs. You can also accessorise to your hearts content with colour highlight packs, even different-coloured wheel hubs.

The black contrast roof and highlight spoiler ram the sporty theme home. (image credit: Tom White) The black contrast roof and highlight spoiler ram the sporty theme home. (image credit: Tom White)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Despite its concept-car looks, the C-HR is a bit more practical than you might expect. Front-occupants get big, sporty-looking leather-clad seats which are nice and supportive, as well as two cupholders on the transmission tunnel, questionably useful ones in the doors, and a nicely sized centre console box.

Front passengers have a decent amount of space allocated to them, with leagues of headroom available above my seating position (182cm tall).

This car has made poor use of the space under the climate controls. I half expected to find a storage trench with power or USB outlets or even, in this top-spec car, a wireless phone charging bay, but there’s simply nothing there.

The front seats have a nice amount of room, but the storage spaces could be more practical (image credit: Tom White) The front seats have a nice amount of room, but the storage spaces could be more practical (image credit: Tom White)

Rear passengers are decidedly worse off. The cropped window line designed to give this car it’s sleek exterior look, combined with the dark interior trim make the back seat claustrophobic.

Legroom is acceptable, my knees touch the front seat when it's set to my seating position, but surprisingly, considering the descending roofline, there’s still enough headroom.

The C-HR's back seat has just enough room, but feels a bit claustrophobic courtesy of the high windowline. (image credit: Tom White) The C-HR's back seat has just enough room, but feels a bit claustrophobic courtesy of the high windowline. (image credit: Tom White)

I do like the way the rear door cards have armrests and big cupholders built into them, and both the front seats have pockets attached.

There are no power outlets or adjustable air-conditioning vents for rear passengers, and good luck fitting a full-sized adult in the middle rear seat.

Boot space comes in at 377 litres which isn't bad considering the C-HR’s coupe roofline. It compares well to many small SUVs, but is still easily bested by the practicality-wizard HR-V with its 437L capacity.

The C-HR has a decently-sized boot for a small SUV. (image credit: Tom White) The C-HR has a decently-sized boot for a small SUV. (image credit: Tom White)

A minor annoyance is how high the boot floor is off the ground, making lifting heavy objects into it less than ideal.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

The C-HR’s sporty looks are betrayed by its lackluster 1.2-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine. Offering just 85kW/185Nm it straight up lacks power.

Rivals get significantly more, including the Kona (2.0-litre non-turbo 110kW/180Nm), The HR-V (1.8-litre non-turbo 105kW/172Nm) and the CX-3 (2.0-litre non-turbo 110kW/195Nm).

Sure, 185Nm is a decent torque figure, but the C-HR struggles to make use of it.

The C-HR's 1.2-litre turbo engine is a bit underpowered for a small SUV this heavy. (image credit: Tom White) The C-HR's 1.2-litre turbo engine is a bit underpowered for a small SUV this heavy. (image credit: Tom White)

Drive goes to the front wheels via a continuously variable auto transmission (CVT) which is rubbery in its feel and feedback.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The C-HR’s lack of engine displacement (and performance) might be explained by its ambitious 5.5L/100km combined cycle fuel economy claim. A bold target with no hybridization to support it.

Fuel consumption wasn't quite on target, but still less than you'd expect from many rivals. (image credit: Tom White) Fuel consumption wasn't quite on target, but still less than you'd expect from many rivals. (image credit: Tom White)

Over my week of combined freeway/city traffic driving the C-HR returned a fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km, which is a miss, sure, but still less than the 8.0+ you’d realistically expect to score in its 2.0-litre powered competition.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The C-HR is a mixed bag. There’s a lot of good here. Every vehicle underpinned by Toyota’s new TNGA architecture has favourable handling and ride characteristics, and the C-HR is no exception.

The light but direct steering, for example, is excellent and easy to swing around at low speeds for parking maneuvers.

On the whole, the ride is very good, giving the C-HR a reasonably comfortable, but definitely sporty feel. It's a little stiff around the rear however, where bad road conditions can lead to jolting through the cabin.

Cabin noise seemed to be under control, even on the freeway or sub-par surfaces.

The most frustrating thing about the C-HR is that the sporty ride is at odds with the so-so 1.2-litre engine.

This car is underpowered, plain and simple. Just 89kW is not enough in this day and age to propel a 1440kg SUV.

The CVT auto doesn’t improve things either, delivering rubbery feedback and rendering the engine a thrashy, noisy unit under acceleration.

Driving in 'Eco' mode drains the accelerator pedal’s potency further, allowing foot to the floor driving just about everywhere, whereas 'Sport' mode tips in some much-needed initial grunt, upping throttle response and allowing the CVT to stick around higher revs for longer.

In the UK the C-HR gets a 1.8-litre hybrid drivetrain, and in the USA it picks up a 2.0-litre with more power. Imagine this car with the current Corolla's 125kW output. Better, no?

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The C-HR comes loaded with safety equipment from the base model up. You don’t need to pick the Koba to get the full ‘SafetySense’ suite of auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning (FCW), blind spot monitoring (BSM), lane departure warning (LDW), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), auto high-beam and active cruise control.

It’s up there among the best equipped small SUVs for active safety.

The expected refinements include seven airbags, stability, traction and braking controls, and two rear ISOFIX and three top-tether mounts across the rear row.

All C-HR variants carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating awarded in March 2017.

The C-HR is stuck with a space-saver spare under the boot floor. It would be nice to see it grow to full-size for Australia.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Since I last reviewed the C-HR Toyota has updated its warranty offering from three to five years with unlimited kilometre coverage, which matches the industry standard.

It is also relatively cheap and convenient to service, with Toyota’s extensive dealership network a big plus.

With a now industry-standard warranty, Toyota's ownership promise is strong. (image credit: Tom White) With a now industry-standard warranty, Toyota's ownership promise is strong. (image credit: Tom White)

It will need to be serviced every 12 months/15,000km (whichever comes first) at a cost of just $195 per year for the life of the warranty, which is impressive.

Verdict

The C-HR is stylish and nice enough to drive, but competes in a quickly evolving segment. Back in 2017 it sat at the pointy end of the small SUV category. But just a few years on updated competitors are offering more flexible ranges and up-to-date multimedia with the same safety promise.

If you’re in love with the C-HR’s design, fair enough, you’re not getting a bad little SUV at all. But for those on the fence, our advice is to wait and see what next-year’s update offers.

Pricing Guides

$33,290
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$33,290
Highest Price
$33,290
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7
Tom White
Journalist

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