Despite being regarded as a conservative motor manufacturer, Toyota has moved swiftly to join the increasing crowded “small” SUV market segment – a range of vehicles which are increasingly popular because of their ease of operation such as parking in constricted urban areas, as well as their inherently economical fuel consumption capabilities.

It’s in this market that Toyota SA’s dramatically styled, albeit weirdly named C-HR, entered the local landscape at the end of February this year and, to the delight of the testers at Driven we were offered the C-HR for a slightly extended test – during which the car showed us what it’s made of (to coin a phrase).


Trying to be all things to all people often ends in disaster. In the case of the C-HR, the dramatic angularity almost suggested that the Lexus design team had been let loose on this specimen. Sharp angles, dramatic crease lines, and taillights that will give a Nissan Juke an inferiority complex are all part of the mix.

I found this modern fusion of hatchback and SUV quite appealing and sure to speak to so-called millennials who have a desire to stand out from the crowd. Despite being decidedly mid-range in terms of pricing, the C-HR in a metallic turquoise finish was a real head-turner, with people coming up for a chat and (especially women) applauding the overall looks.


I had initial misgivings about the engine. A tiny 1.2-litre power source didn’t generate much confidence, what with only making 85 kW, but the good new is the 185 Nm of torque which is available from 1,500 to 4,000 r/min (thank you, turbo). This made the C-HR a real joy in town driving, while also providing safe overtaking on the open road. We did not get the opportunity to test Toyota’s claim of a maximum top speed set at 190 km/h since there are too many traffic officials doing duty out there while having left their sense of humour at home.

Linked to our C-HR’s power unit was a dreaded CVT gearbox – dreaded until we drove the car. Unlike many other CVT units, which are all sound and whiney fury without much by way of forward motion, Toyota seems to have designed a unit that really works. Admittedly, there is a slight whine, especially when reversing, but gear changes were quite snappy, as was acceleration.


While not cheap at R357,800 for the Plus (with CVT), the C-HR was kitted out with top quality Michelin tyres, a full-size spare wheel (on a real alloy rim), an excellent sound system with station selections even the BC (before computers) generation can figure out, a user-friendly, if quaint, dashboard, air conditioning, an auto-dimming interior mirror, and superbly supportive cloth seats. The only gripe will be aimed at the ridiculously tiny on/off/power button on the sound system, while the full sized spare wheel had the effect of turning the luggage compartment into a fairly modest cavity.

Since we believe that young couples will buy the C-HR, available luggage space (with the rear seats folded down) is more than adequate.

Other goodies, which we found particularly useful, included 12V power plugs, remote central locking, cruise control, a perfect size leather-covered steering wheel, daytime running lights, and rain-sensing wipers.


Returning the C-HR after the test period will be one of those (figurative) tears-in-the-eyes moments. It’s a well built, stunning looker of an SUV with excellent specifications, a 3-year/100,000 km warranty, a 5-year/90,000 km service plan and, unusually for Toyota, service intervals of 15,000 kilometres. The segment that it plays in, however, is crammed with other equally delectable offerings such as Hyundai’s Creta, the Mitsubishi ASX, and the Ford EcoSport. Ultimately, I believe, the buying decision will be made based on Toyota’s well-deserved reputation for quality and value for money. The C-HR sold 167 units in June this year, and regular targets of 300/month should easily be within reach.




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