What is it?

Toyota’s funky new urban escape machine. A colleague described the C-HR as ugly, a rival for the infamous Pontiac Aztek. I’m not familiar with that particular piece of Americana, but I think he was being a tad harsh. I’d prefer to describe the styling as striking, a stand out in a sea of bland. The name C-HR stands for Compact High Rider, Cross Hatch Runabout or Coupe High Rider – depending on who you’re talking to. Sitting below the RAV in terms of size it’s targeted at the young and young at heart, but is sure to have wide ranging appeal.

 

What’s it cost?

Prices start from a reasonable $26,990 for the two-wheel drive manual, with an additional $2000 for an auto and $2000 for all-wheel drive. The better spec’d but more expensive Koba two wheel drive version with an auto is $33,290. Top of the line Koba with auto and all-wheel drive rounds out the range at $35,290 – all prices plus onroads. Koba adds leather, larger wheels, keyless start – but not much else really worth having. The level of safety across the board is high too, with a pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist and reversing camera. As you can see the price quickly builds and there’s still plenty of options you can add to change the look of the car.

 

What’s it go like?

We clocked up more than 1100 back-to-back kilometres in the manual and auto. All models are powered by the same 1.2-litre turbocharged four, with 85kW of power and 185Nm of torque – the latter delivered between a useful 1500 and 4000 revs. Belying its tiny engine capacity it actually gets along quite well. The 1.2 turbo is paired with a either 6-speed manual or CVT style automatic with seven steps or gears. Although the two-wheel drive manual felt more than adequate, it can if you’re inattentive be caught off boost at times, resulting in little or no throttle response. Putting it in sport mode makes a discernible difference and that’s where you’ll probably want to leave it most of the time, but you have to keep engaging sport mode every time you start the car. Of the two we much prefered the CVT, which was smoother and overcomes this problem – it really hits the sweet spot. The manual is rated at 6.3L/100km, the CVT 6.4 or 6.5 depending on whether its front or all-wheel drive (we were getting around these figures with both). You’re probably wondering do I really need all-wheel drive? No, not really – it’s overkill.

 

What we like?

  • Standout styling
  • High level of specification
  • Digital speedo for ready reckoning
  • Auto lights, wipers and mirror
  • All in one head unit includes navigation

 

What we don’t?

  • No torque off boost
  • Have to keep selecting sport mode
  • Poor over the shoulder vision
  • Plunging roofline makes rear access difficult
  • Console cupholders difficult to access
  • Glovebox cheap and difficult to open
  • Door pockets thin and shallow

What are the alternatives?

The aging but still smart looking Mitsubishi ASX continues to lead this segment, based mainly on price and looks. From $25,000 it remains a very appealing package.

Others worth a look include:

  • Honda HR-V, priced from $24,990

The HR-V is a very underrated car and one of our favourites in the Honda lineup.

  • Mazda CX-3, priced from $20,490

Love the styling but based on the Mazda2 it’s actually quite small inside.

  • Nissan Juke, priced from $23,490

Now this really is ugly. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on it at some motor show overseas.

The bottom line?

C-HR is not our cup of tea, but there’s no reason not to give it a look. Try the two wheel drive with CVT first, then go for a run in the entry Koba for $3000 more – the big difference for us was in the ride quality which was oddly much better in the Koba despite lower profile rubber.

 

CHECKOUT: BRZ will leave ’em gasping

CHECKOUT: Spooky tale of Tassie sportster

Toyota C-HR, priced from $26,990
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Safety - 7.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Thirst - 6.5/10
  • 6/10
    Practicality - 6/10
  • 6.5/10
    Comfort - 6.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value - 7.5/10
7/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.