Toyota C-HR Launched

Toyota c hr

As the fastest growing sub-segment on the South African passenger vehicle landscape, it was time for motoring giant Toyota to join the race. But, in a radical, (for Toyota) design, they moved away from dull and boring with a controversial offering dubbed C-HR - a name which denotes coupé high-rider. This is the vehicle, Toyota believes, that will lure buyers away from Nissan's Juke and also Hyundai's recently launched Creta, not to mention Renault's Kadjar.

Modest engine, decent performance

I must confess to some initial skepticism upon being confronted by what is, essentially, a rather small 1.2-litre little four-cylinder that has been tasked to get 1,320 kg moving in the right direction - and to be quick about it. Fortunately, the smooth-revving 85 kW did seem up to the task even when Toyota bravely launched on the Highveld where altitude drains some 17 % off the produced power.

The resulting 0-100 km/h sprint time of 10.9 seconds may very well be described as undramatic but is still more than good enough for the market it's aimed at - the so-called millennials who, it is said, are the first to try new experiences and products.

Dramatic Exterior

Viewed from any angle, the impression is a delicate balance of precision and sensuality. Light and shade play over these surfaces for a visual signature that's a photographer's delight. Even the disguised rear door handles indicate advanced thinking by the design team, although it must be admitted that this particular feature was already to be found on a number of Alfa Romeo models a few decades ago.

Significantly, the rear of the C-HR elicited even more comment from the assembled media corps. With protruding taillights, it was impossible not to be reminded of Nissan's Juke, while the sweeping roofline enhanced the car's visual appeal. Unfortunately, this feature also limited rear headroom, and taller passengers should preferably aim for the front seat. The tiny rear side windows will also not be appreciated by rear passengers/photographers when visiting a game reserve.

Nevertheless, fashion-conscious urbanites will probably overlook these minor irritations.

Chassis and Handling

With a low centre of gravity, fully independent double wishbone rear suspension, and a brilliant platform, Toyota engineers have created a vehicle that handles superbly with steering that's almost neutral - all of which provide a sense of safety and handling predictability rarely found in cars costing twice as much.

The front suspension is more conventional (MacPherson struts) with reduced steering friction and hatchback-like roll rigidity. Backing up these excellent handling characteristics was the choice of rubber, 215/60 R17 Michelins on attractive, blade-style alloy rims.

The Interior

Infamous for providing the world of motoring with boring interiors, Toyota has ditched this reputation in the case of the C-HR. All operating switchgear and the touchscreen are angled slightly towards the driver, while all panels feature perfect fit and finish. A host of comfort and convenience features include an electric parking brake, dual zone climate control (Plus models), cup holders, storage shelf, and audio controls on the steering wheel. On Plus derivatives, both headlamps and wipers are equipped with an auto-on function, while the audio system features USB connectivity, iPod, iPhone, Bluetooth and CD/DVD interfaces, while Plus models are kitted out with cruise control.

Safety Features

Playing in a fairly congested market segment has forced Toyota to provide a full suite of features. These include ABS, Brake Assist, EBD, Hill Assist Control and Vehicle Stability Control. Isofix attachment points for kiddy seats are also provided, but, inexplicably, there are only two airbags (driver and front passenger). Daytime running lights are standard.

The Drive

A notable feature of the C-HR was the impressive engine response provided by the adequate 185 Nm of torque kicking in from as low as 1,500 r/min and continuing all the way up to 4,000 r/min. Turbo lag was minimal and went almost unnoticed, while the transmissions - 6-speed manual and a smooth CVT - did not disappoint. The manual 'box featured the traditional (and excellent) ultra-light Toyota clutch action, while the CVT got on with the job of propulsion without whining as much as similar offerings by other manufacturers.

Last Word

Getting used to the exterior styling will take a while, but the very good build quality, seating comfort and reasonable luggage space will endear the C-HR to young buyers, who will be pleasantly surprised by both models'  very good pricing, high specification levels, and the knowledge that one has purchased a vehicle which encapsulates traditional Toyota build quality, but which, once and for all, gets rid of the "boring" epithet. This is a cool set of wheels.