Review: 2020 Toyota C-HR is stylish, but is it useful too?
JOHANNESBURG - The Toyota C-HR is a somewhat different take on the SUV and crossover craze. In fact, it’s also the most distinctive member of the Corolla family.
We use the C-word with caution here as Toyota does not call this a Corolla, but it is in fact a close relative, even sharing its 2640mm wheelbase with the Corolla hatch. But Toyota has certainly done a decent job of making it look different to its Toyota siblings, both inside and out.
And boy does the C-HR stand out in a crowd.
With its outlandish, coupe-inspired shape and bulging wheel arches, the C-HR turns heads like no other modern Toyota out there, except for the Supra of course.
Refresh for 2020
Toyota recently gave the C-HR a minor refresh, which also included some safety upgrades.
Base models, for instance, have gained the side and curtain airbags that should have been standard from the beginning, while the flagship Luxury derivative (which we had on test recently) gets a full suite of driver assistance gizmos, which we’ll get to a little later.
On the design front, apart from the slightly sharpened frontal styling and some bold new colour options like Inferno Orange and Passion Red, there isn’t really much to tell it apart from the pre-facelift models, which is not a bad thing as it looked rather arresting to start with.
But does its striking design come at the cost of practicality?
Unfortunately, it does to a degree. But I wouldn’t go as far as calling it cramped.
It’s spacious upfront, and there is a reasonable amount of legroom in the back, although it will probably get a bit cramped if you have tall people upfront and the seats get pushed back. There’s enough headroom for an average sized teen or adult in the back, but probably not for taller occupants. It also feels a tad claustrophobic in the back thanks to the windows being small to make way for that sweeping C-pillar.
The boot is fairly small, swallowing just 234 litres, and this you can attribute to the short rear overhang, which means the trunk area has to sit over the rear axle. Toyota has at least mitigated this to a degree by fitting a space-saver spare wheel.
Is it fun to drive?
While the wheel-at-each-corner packaging doesn’t do any practicality favours, it does help to make the C-HR more agile than you’d expect from a crossover, but it also helps that the vehicle is lower than your average pavement hopper - in fact it sits a good 120mm closer to the ground than a Rav4. The C-HR rides comfortably too.
The powertrain is not quite what we’d call perky, but we’re not expecting fireworks in this neck of the crossover woods.
All C-HR models come with a 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine that produces 85kW and 185Nm.
The two bottom models come with manual transmission, while the upper half of the range gets CVT transmission. I know that acronym sounds horrible to anyone who is enthusiastic about driving, but this engine and gearbox is really not bad for a continuously variable set-up. For starters, force fed motors work surprisingly well with CVT boxes because they produce much of their perk at lower revs so you don’t get that revvy droniness that we all love to hate. Toyota has also built some steps into this CVT to simulate a traditional torque converter autobox, and I’d say it works rather well. On an experiential level I’d say this gearbox feels like a cross between a conventional auto and a CVT.
What features do you get for your money?
Basically, you get to choose between four options: 1.2T base (manual only), 1.2T Plus (manual or CVT) and 1.2T Luxury (CVT only).
In terms of spec, the base 1.2T comes with the basics like manual air conditioning, electric windows, multi-function steering wheel, electric park brake, LED headlights and six airbags.
As for infotainment, all C-HR models come with a newly designed touchscreen system that comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity as well as a reverse camera.
Moving to mid-range, the 1.2T Plus replaces the base model’s 17-inch steel wheels with 18” alloys and also gains cruise control, dual-zone climate control and auto wipers.
Over and above all that, the 1.2T Luxury receives push-button start, heated front seats (with power adjustment for the driver), a black rear spoiler and a full suite of new active safety features, such as Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.
If you love the way it looks, then you’ve probably already made up your mind about the Toyota C-HR. It all comes down to what your needs are. There are other SUVs out there that are far more family-friendly, but if space isn’t too much of a concern for you then the C-HR certainly is a stylish way to stand out from the crowd.
The C-HR is priced between R379 100 and R486 100, and comes with a 90 000km service plan.
Our test car averaged around 8.5 litres per 100km in a mixture of road conditions.