The Toyota C-HR is Toyota's answer to the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai and the Hyundai Tucson. In fairness to Toyota, they should be number one in this compact SUV segment. After all, the Rav4 predates most of its competitors. However, the Rav4 lost its edge a few years back and while the current version is a much better alternative, the new C-HR or Coupe High Rider looks set to put them back at the races.
The Coupe High Rider is not perfect. However, I will say that I think that it is one of the more exciting cars Toyota has on the Irish market. What's exciting about it? Well, first off, there's the look. This is extremely Lexus-like in terms of design. The curves and angles to the rear look like they fell off the NX. This bus looks good - especially in the black colour that was on our test car (see gallery link above). It has an abundance of lines and the coupe rear actually suits it. Photos of this car do not do it justice. For some reason, every photo I've seen of the car makes it look small. In pictures, it looks like it would be more able to compete with a Nissan Juke rather than a Qashqai. No, in the flesh you instantly see that it's bigger than the photos perceive it to be.
The front cabin is extremely spacious and comfortable. Toyota has also made a lot of goodies available - even from entry-level trim. The dash layout of the Toyota C-HR is the best that I've seen to date from the manufacturer. Everything is clean, crisp, driver focused, and very easy to use. Of course, we were driving the Top Spec, Sol, model. Sol benefits from the Toyota Touch 2 system with Go navigation. The entry level Luna doesn’t get this, but it does get the same 8” multimedia display as part of the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system. All trims get a rear-view camera, USB connection points and Bluetooth. The Sol version however, gets Wi-Fi connectivity, and it’s a pretty intuitive system once you hook up to it. Our video above shows some of what you can do with it. My personal favourite app, and I’ve used it in many Mazda vehicles before, is the AHA app. This allows you to listen to an excellent selection of podcasts. The biggest downside to the app was that I couldn’t fast forward or rewind through the podcasts and I found that every time I left the car, I couldn’t tune in and listen from where I had left off.
That coupe-like rear though, which looks good, is the primary feature that lets this car down. You see, the curved roof widens the rear pillar, which means that visibility is not excellent through the rear-view mirror (which is why we’re thankful that it comes with rear view cameras for reversing). The other thing is that the back windows also curve down with the roof, which means that things are very dark in the back. As soon as I noticed just how dark it was back there, I decided to have a look at the options that are available with the car on Toyota Ireland's website in the hope of finding out that there were some bright upholsteries available that might shed some light to the rear. Unfortunately, all I could see on offer was the black (which was in our test car) and dark blue. On the plus side, leg room and head room is pretty-good back there.
We tested the 1.2 litre petrol version of the car. The Irish market also benefits from the same 1.8 hybrid system that you will find in the latest Toyota Prius – but I’m yet to drive that in the C-HR. The 1.2 litre version is surprisingly nice to drive. It’s well-weighted and it offers very good grip. I felt that corners were no problem at all for the car. Body roll is minimal and I wonder if that’s because the of the low, sleek, roof. The suspension allowed me to smoothly driver over Irish roads and I was surprised by the refinement of the car. The steering was precise too, which made those aforementioned corners even easier to tackle.
While I do describe the Toyota C-HR as one of the most exciting Toyota vehicles on the market, some of the figures don’t reflect that. Getting from 0-100km/h with the 1.2 litre petrol engine takes 10.9 seconds – but it doesn’t feel that long. On-paper we are also told that the average fuel economy is 6 litres per 100km. After our week with the C-HR, we averaged 9 litres per 100km with normal driving. We weren’t pushing the car to any great excess and we drove it for the most part in “eco” mode.
There are three driving modes with the car; Eco, Normal and Sport. “Eco” mode frustrated me after a while and I felt it to be lacking any push. It felt sluggish. On “Normal” though, things feel, well… normal. So, you’ll get most enjoyment from either “Sport” or “Normal”.
The C-HR is also equipped with iMT, or Intelligent Manual Transmission. When turned on, this aids in shifting through gears at the right time in relation to engine speed.
There are three trim lines of the C-HR in Ireland. Toyota offers; Luna, Luna Sport, and Sol. In fairness to them, the entry level version is nicely equipped. However, if you want to enjoy nicer wheels and better infotainment, the further up the trim line you go, the more satisfied you will be. Starting price for the Luna version is €26,895 and there is a €4,000 jump to get into the top-spec’d Sol.
Judging by the amazing sales of the Hyundai Tucson last year, I would guess that the Toyota C-HR will do very well for Toyota. Its style adds something interesting to the streetscape.