First Drive: 2017 Toyota C-HR

First Drive: 2017 Toyota C-HR

The spunky new C-HR infuses zest into the staid image of the Toyota brand, writes Brenwin Naidu

What is this car all about?

The compact crossover market is all the rage. And manufacturers seem relentless in their pursuit to satiate consumers’ appetites. It seems that with each passing week, another contender is launched. Toyota might be a little late to the genre – but it hopes the spunky new C-HR will help make up for lost time.

The Japanese manufacturer was adamant about the idea that this is a car for millennials. During a presentation at the global launch in Madrid, Spain, this week we heard a variety of buzzwords. And instead of dismissing them with a roll of the eye and a snigger, we (kind of) bought into it.

Because at first glance – by merely having the balls to go ahead with such a striking design – the carmaker has shown that they are walking the talk, on the road to creating a more exciting brand image.

Toyota C-HR

What’s under the hood?

A turbocharger! Yes, our market will finally receive the boosted 1.2-litre petrol engine that Toyota had kept away from us. It produces 85kW and 185Nm of torque, which is certainly effusive enough for the applications of most city-dwellers. A hybrid derivative is also on offer. This is armed with a 1.8-litre engine (72kW and 142Nm) and an electric motor (53kW and 163Nm); although our market is only likely to receive it much later into the car’s lifecycle. The 1.2-litre unit will be the only engine choice available to customers initially.

Toyota C-HR

Does is stand out from the crowd?

It will certainly make its siblings on the Toyota dealership floor look frumpy. The C-HR is a dazzling little thing in the metal. Now just in case you were wondering, the C-HR acronym stands for “coupé high rider” – almost, but not as pretentious as the “sports activity vehicle” descriptor BMW uses for their swoopy SUV-cum-coupé models.

From the purposeful snout, to the ambitious aerodynamic bits at the rear, this car will pique curiosity. And this is crucial in this ambit, as exuberant peers have proven. Whether you think the C-HR is endearing or hideous from a looks perspective, it is bound to stir discussion. This is something that could never have been said of many Toyota products in South Africa before.

Toyota C-HR Interior

What’s noteworthy on the inside?

The fascia is angled towards the driver like in the most authentic of performance cars. Trim pieces in lively shades throw an air of trendiness to things. The switchgear clusters on the dashboard are described as diamond-shaped by Toyota. And overall it recalls some of the quality and detail that one would expect from the cabin of a Lexus. This is not a hyperbole, I promise you: from the stitching on the dash to the quilted pattern of the leather upholstery, the CH-R is fancy indeed.

But we should be circumspect because not all the niceties of the European-specification cars we drove are confirmed for South Africa. Take the digital interface, for example. While our market will receive it, the system is likely to omit features like navigation. Our test cars were also equipped with items such as blind-spot detection – which South African cars will not get. This is all to do with keeping the price competitive.

While the C-HR looks deceptively small from the outside, its makers purport that in terms of size it is about the same as a Nissan Qashqai. Rear space is surprisingly good – with more headroom than that coupé roofline would lead you to believe. The tiny apertures of the rear windows would not be ideal for claustrophobes, however. The luggage space in South African models will be slightly less too, as our vehicles will receive a full-size spare wheel.

Toyota C-HR

Is it good to drive?

It is as pleasant and inoffensive as you would expect from a contemporary Toyota. You must remember, after all, that these folks are the leading manufacturers of automotive appliances that just work as they are supposed to – with no quirks.

The C-HR is underpinned by the automaker’s new global architecture, which also serves in the latest Prius. The plushness of the ride is commendable, so too is its composure when the road gets challenging. Customers will be able to pick between a six-speed manual or CVT. The latter drones a bit, as expected, but it is not unbearable. And anyway, those who desperately want two-pedal convenience will not be deterred.

We were happy winding-up the manual version through the twisty roads of Spain. Like a Nissan 370Z, this also has rev-matching technology for smoother shifts. The 1.2-litre turbocharged engine felt peppy enough. Toyota claims a consumption figure of 5.7l/100km. But on our route, with a mixture of town and urban driving, we hovered around the 8l/100km mark. Our accelerator pedal pressure was also mixed, though.


Who’s going to lose sleep about this car?

Toyota executives spoke about the Nissan Qashqai. But as mentioned in the introduction, we feel the C-HR slots better into the compact crossover category. And there is no shortage of offerings here. Think Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Suzuki Vitara, Renault Captur, Citroën C4 Cactus, Opel Mokka, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X.

Quite frankly, it is easy for a new contender to get lost in the periphery in such a crowded market. But then… the cachet of the Toyota emblem in South Africa will count for a great deal. Although the C-HR does not need to rely solely on the reputation of a badge to get far.

With its soulful styling, assuring dynamics, sorted interior and punchy engine, the newcomer is likely to ruffle many feathers. Expect the C-HR to arrive in March 2017. Pricing is likely to range between R320 000 and R350 000. – Brenwin Naidu

Toyota C-HR