The rise of the SUV’s continues! Toyota, who are neck and neck with Volkswagen in the race for the world’s biggest car manufacturer, is not about to miss out on the action. Earlier this year, they presented a radical all-new model named the C-HR. A bit of an odd name from Toyota. We’re more accustomed to names like that coming from Honda. What it actually stands for is Compact – High Rider, which we found out is completely apt.

The C-HR is the definition of a crossover; not quite a hatch, but not quite a SUV either. We recently got to test drive the top of range C-HR 1.2T PLUS CVT. And it wasn’t what we were expecting. It was so much more!

We can just imagine the Toyota big cheeses briefing their car designers – “Blow us away!”. In our opinion, that is exactly what they did. The exterior styling is unlike anything you’ve ever seen from Toyota. Picture this: if the Honda HR-V and Nissan Juke had a naughty affair and gave birth to a beautiful healthy child, it would look like the C-HR. The curves and lines on this car are incredibly dynamic.

During our few days with the car, we were consistently complimented by members of the public. The C-HR is certainly a head-turner. So kudos to the Toyota design team – this is a massive leap forward. Its outward appearance was further bolstered by the fresh colour our car was donned in – Toyota calls it Aztec Green.

If you think the exterior is impressive, wait until you step inside! It is by far the finest Toyota interior we’ve ever been in. As the driver, you feel as if you are sitting in a semi-cocoon, with everything placed optimally around you, positioned to meet primarily your eyes. We loved the on-board computer, which is very easy to control from the good looking multi-function steering wheel. The materials and build quality are superb, with surprises scattered all around the cabin. For example:

  • The soft touch inner door handle – you’ll notice this as you close the door
  • The leather covered upper dashboard – looks and feels fantastic
  • The pyramid matrix door inserts
  • The eco-leafed indented ceiling design

If we had to capture both the exterior and interior styling in two words, they would be: truly innovative. However, that’s not the only thing new about the C-HR. The engine is too!

The C-HR is driven by a 1.2l turbo petrol engine. Think that sounds a bit small? Think again! Automakers are investing heavily in highly-advanced turbo-powered petrol engines, and this is Toyota’s crack at just that. For those of you who understand stats, the engine produces 85kW, but more importantly, 185Nm of torque from an incredibly low 1 500 RPM’s all the way through to 4 000 RPM’s. For those of you who don’t understand engine stats, think of it this way: This is an engine with little to no turbo-lag, which gives you a good sense of acceleration throughout each gear. It’s particularly great for people who live in high-altitude towns and cities. It is practically the same amount of torque you will get from the 2.0 RAV4, but usable for more of the rev range.

This engine concept is a reminder of how we need to stop thinking of engines in terms of input (we too remember the good old days of the 1300’s, 1600’s, 1800’s and the boss 2.0l’s), and start thinking of them in terms of output.

So far, so good – but we left the best for last. Something we were truly not expecting – the exceptional ride quality! In our opinion, this is generally not a strong point for Toyota. We have found most Toyota vehicles to have quite a firm, even harsh ride. This is not the case with the C-HR, though.

The engineers, who deserve as much kudos as the designers, found the perfect balance between comfort and handling. You literally forget that you are driving a car that is technically categorised as a SUV and even more so, that it is powered by a 1.2l engine. The C-HR definitely has hatch-like handling. Like we’ve said before, these mini SUV’s that still manage to drive and feel like a hatch are, in our opinion, the ‘small’ cars of the future.

As always, like with any car, there are some small ‘niggles’. You almost want to shake the designers by the shoulders, saying: “You’ve done such a good job… why didn’t you just do this?!”

  • The central locking doesn’t lock automatically as you pull off
  • The interior light covers are the same ones you’ll find in a 20 year old Toyota Corolla
  • The audio-jack/USB port plastic door looks like something a toddler would love to break off
  • If you are used to carting your kids around in the rear seat, be prepared to become their personal chauffeur. The rear door handles are mounted high to complement the car’s styling. Here’s to hoping they can actually reach the handles themselves!
  • The boot is very shallow/small. That said, it does house a full-size steel spare wheel, but we’ve heard that this will soon be replaced by a space-saver wheel, giving the boot some additional space. Which option do you prefer?

So, that’s our brief review wrapped up. Now let’s see how the C-HR does against our SUV lifestyle criteria which we apply to all SUV’s. The aim of The Torque is to give one an impression of what it is like to actually own and live with a car, not just test drive one.

  • School run dice: Does your car have enough ‘oomph’ to quickly get past any irritating slow coaches or misbehaving taxis? A definite yes! Once the turbo and the CVT gearbox get in the right groove, this car really goes! However, you need to be comfortable with high revs and the engine sound that comes with it. One of the great things about these new modern small turbo engines is that you can thrash them without consuming a lot of fuel. Our average came in at 8.2l/100km – Toyota claims a fuel consumption of a healthy 7.4l/100km. Reversing out of the car park is also aided by an onboard camera, however this is an optional extra that will cost you just under R2k – we highly recommend you go for this option.
  • Sticky finger proof: The C-HR features good looking and very comfortable cloth seats (almost Volvo like in their design). However, leather seats would have been a real win here. You can have them custom fitted for just under R10k. The centre console dash looks great, but it does show greasy fingerprints quite quickly. Have some wipes handy!
  • Easy access boot: Another tick! A user-friendly height combined with a boot that has no lip (flattish floor) means that hauling a pram into the back should prove to be easy. Just know that the pram is pretty much going to fill up the boot. On the positive side, we really like the two deep compartments on both sides of the boot. They are handy for placing small, valuable items in as they won’t slide around in the boot when going through the twisties – something the C-HR does really well.
  • Baby seat fitment: The rear interior of the C-HR looks smaller than it actually is. A number of our taller male staff sat quite comfortably in the back. However, if you are tall, your head will come very close to the roof line. For a baby/child, there will be more than enough space. That, combined with ISOFIX chairs, improves the C-HR’s score in this department.
  • Climate control: The C-HR plus range comes standard with an auto dual-zone aircon. The interface looks good, and we particularly love the diamond up/down click buttons. Even though there is an auto mode (as well as eco mode), you still actually have to press the aircon button if you want to cool the car down. We felt the aircon wasn’t super powerful, but definitely adequate for the cabin size.

Whilst most of us commonly liken a SUV to a family car, we think the C-HR will better suit an individual, a couple or a family of three. It’s a car that you will feel proud to own. It looks great on the outside and continues to look great from the inside. You’ll feel super comfortable in the driver “cacoon” seat. To top it off, it drives, (you guessed it) really well! If you fit into that category, best you test drive one soon. Like us, you will be impressed.


– Fantastic ride and handling for a crossover SUV
– Performance is great and offers good fuel economy
– Styling is impressive both inside and out


– CVT (continuous variable transmission) gearbox causes a slight indirectness between the throttle pedal and engine response
– With such a looker of a car, the alloy wheel design could have been a bit more exciting. You can opt-in for a black machined alloy wheel for an additional R4 624

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