Yes, Yes,Yes, oh YES: stunning “diamond” styling inside and out, excellent engine and transmissions
Oh dear me no: dated audio unit, no Apple CarPaly/Android Auto, no entry level model
Before we go on:
I’d like to remember those 5 souls who lost their lives when a light aircraft crashed into the DFO Shopping Centre after take-off from Essenden Airfield.
Those in the know have been waiting for the OZ branch of Toyota Motor Corporation to extract the digit and get this cool coupe (Or, is it an SUV, or a hatch, you decide) on the road, toot sweet. It has the potential to lift Toyota to a level of cool Eskimos would be proud of.
So many of these uber-cool street-rods concepts look fab on the drawing board, only to be gotten at by accountants with pocket-protectors. C-HR is different, but is it different enough?
First the boring stuff:
The new Toyota TNGA platform allows for a huge variety of rigid well handling vehicles to be built cost effectively.
Matching the new platform is a sophisticated new 1.2 turbo-petrol 4 cylinder engine which varies valve timing for efficient fuel use while producing maximum power over a wider range. 85kw/185Nm figures might not set the world on fire, but the aim is to produce adequate power while reducing fuel costs and emissions. The engine can shift between “Otto” and “Atkinson Cycle” to maximize power and torque and different rev ranges. You really don’t notice that while actually driving the car, but there is a certain pleasing friskiness that is the antithesis of the figures.
As if that wasn’t enough, you can have an “intelligent 6speed manual”, or a CVT capable of simulating a 7speed conventional automatic at the press of a button. The manual changes engine revs to match shifting up or down in a way normal manuals don’t. We didn’t drive that car sadly. As for the CVT: They are the bane of my life, because of the usual embarrassment at lights. It makes your engine rev to redline as you putter across an intersection at the walking speed of a toddler, but not the C-HR. If pushed, it will simulate gears, and both transmissions come with d3 ifferent driving modes, ECO, Normal and Sport.
Toyota claims the Macpherson Struts up front, and double wishbone in the rear, make for better handling while providing a softer more comfortable ride. They say the Macpherson struts have been angled forward to “optimise load path” meaning as the strut is compressed, it is done in the direction of travel instead of being transferred vertically as is more usual.
SUV sales continue to climb, and very soon, SUVs will outnumber passenger cars for the first time. It might even happen this year. In fact, if you include LCVs like Hilux and similar “pick-ups”, SUVs already hold a sales majority over conventional vehicles.
The project’s Chief engineer, Hiroyuki Koba, has the top model named in his honour. He started working on C-HR in 2010, but delayed the project in order to make use of the new platform. The “diamond design” is a motif inside and out. There are angled facets in the metalwork outside, as well as the buttons and surfaces inside.
It is intended to look and feel cutting edge, and with the advanced drivetrain, to perform as good as it looks. To further enhance that, the safety feature list is extensive, especially at this price.
Between 10km/h and top speed, this system uses a windscreen-mounted camera and millimetre-wave radar sensor to detect vehicles on the road ahead.
If it calculates a risk of a collision, it automatically warns the driver with a buzzer and alert in the multi-information display.
At the same time, the Pre-Collision Brake Assist engages to provide extra braking force when the brake pedal is pressed. If the system determines that the possibility of a frontal collision with a vehicle is extremely high, the brakes are automatically applied to help avoid the collision or help reduce the impact of the collision.
Active Cruise Control (ACC)*
ACC uses the same millimetre-wave radar as the pre-collision system to maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead. In CVT variants, the system will slow the car to a standstill if necessary and accelerate smoothly back to the pre-selected cruising speed once the way is clear. In manual-transmission C-HR, the system works at speeds above 40km/h and automatically disables itself if vehicle speed falls below 40km/h to prevent the vehicle stalling.
Lane Departure Alert (LDA)*
LDA uses the camera on the windscreen to track the vehicle’s course between lane markings on the road surface.
If it judges that the Toyota C-HR is about to move out of its lane without the turn indicator being used, the system sounds a buzzer and lights up a warning on the multi-information display.
If the vehicle is still moving outside the lane, it will apply light steering force to help the driver bring the vehicle back on course.
The technology includes a Sway Warning System that detects movements within the lane that indicate a fatigued driver. The system will warn the driver through the multi-information display and buzzer and suggest the driver takes a rest from driving. The sensitivity of this function can be adjusted.
Automatic High Beam (AHB)*
AHB uses the windscreen-mounted camera to recognise the lights of oncoming vehicles or traffic ahead, automatically switching the headlights to low beam to avoid dazzling other road users. It returns the headlights to high beam as soon as the road is clear to provide maximum night-time illumination and driver field of vision.
Blind-spot Monitor (BSM)*
BSM uses radar sensors mounted on the rear corners of the vehicle to detect nearby vehicles in adjacent lanes as they move into the driver’s blind spot. The driver is alerted to their presence by LED warning indicators in the door mirror on the appropriate side of the car. The LED indicators will remain illuminated for as long as the vehicle remains in the blind spot. If the driver operates the turn indicators, intending to move into the path of the other vehicle, the LEDs will flash rapidly to draw further attention to the potential hazard.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)*
RCTA uses the same radars as the BSM to monitor approaching traffic from either side as the vehicle is reversed out of a parking space, and warns the driver if any vehicles are detected.
Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)*
HAC prevents vehicle rollback when on steep inclines by applying the brakes and holding them for approximately two seconds. This allows easier take-off by providing more time for the driver’s foot to move from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal.
Trailer Sway Control (TSC)*
TSC controls trailer sway caused by crosswinds, road undulations or the driver’s steering operation when towing. It brakes and controls engine output to prevent swaying movements from becoming too large.
This function maintains brake pressure at all four wheels after the vehicle has been stopped using the brakes. It does not require the driver’s foot to remain on the brakes.
It is operated by pressing a button next to the electronic park brake. Rear brake lamps will activate when brake hold is active. It is automatically disabled once the driver uses the accelerator.
This is the point where the claims are tested and oft found wanting, but not here.
C-HR looks the business. The stylish coupe silhouette disguises rear door handles. The angles and facets look slightly like a half transformed Transformer. The Koba has smart entry/tart and is my pick. I tested the AWD CVT version so the manual test will come late. I liked it, a lot.
Our outing started in an old factory shed called Lauren’s hall. It has been repurposed to provide cutting edge retro exhibition spaces but is due to be bulldozed to make way for apartments. That’s progress for you. It was my hope that C-HR’s reputation would not suffer the same ignominy.
After coffee and buns, we were introduced to the new Toyota, and to the Chief Engineer, the charismatic Koba-san. He spoke enthusiastically about his pet project, and on paper, it all looks tickety boo. The only worry for me was the modest engine figures.
To enhance the C-HR sales process, Toyota has invested in VR technology to be used in shopping centres. This gaming tech puts the viewer in a reality where the car is blown apart. It is flown around, explained, detailed, then reassembled around the viewer as if sitting in the driver’s seat. It’s genius. The viewer can then behave exactly as they would in the real thing. You can lean forward, look up, down, and all around, just don’t try touching because you’ll look a complete tit to anyone watching you.
Once finished, we headed in convoy to the Dandenongs for a tasty light lunch at Levantine Hill, then back to Tulla to jet out to home ports. If it sounds like glamorous jetsetting, it is. And perhaps that is exactly the image this car deserves.
Toyota wants to appeal to the younger buyer who have deserted in droves over the last few decades. Wisely, an SUV that can pass as a hatch is just the ticket to appeal to a hugely demanding millennial buyer who wants “it”, and wants “it” NOW. This buyer will not be impressed that Apple Carpaly connectivity can’t be had, at any price. I know I wasn’t. It is such a stupid oversight that could so easily have been fixed prior to launch.
After navigating city streets, we turned onto the freeway and headed out of town. The route took us over both sealed and gravel roads. We climbed into the hills where breath-taking views across the valleys put the C-HR right into a weekend drive any owner might take.
The suspension was brilliant on poorly kept B-roads, and made the unsealed sections go almost unnoticed. It dampened even the nastiest imperfections resulting in a luxurious ride with little noise even on the roughness of unsealed roads.
Although, there was some tyre noise on highway tarmac, for the most part, the cabin was fairly quiet. The tight corners showed some tiny flaws in the steering which felt slightly distant and not as sharp as I’d like.
The tiny engine has a sharp response helped by the CVT which is always ready in the right ratio since there are no physical gears. CVT transmissions are normally horrible, but in this case. Not only could I live with it, but I felt comfortable with it. Is this the first step towards total acceptance?
The ride exceeded expectations, as did the puny 1.2 engine. In fact, this is an excellent package apart from the glaring oversight of Apple CarPlay. There is no sub-20k entry level model. Toyota says buyers almost never buy entry level anyway.
The looks will be a love-or-hate thing, and since the interior matches the exterior, some may not like that either. There have been quite a few attempts in the Mini SUV segment with varying levels of success. Nissan’s Juke comes to mind as an example of what not to do. Holden’s unattractive Trax also misses the mark with dreary handling, and a drab outdated interior full of nasty plastic, and awful 70’s fabrics. By contrast, Toyota’s C-HR may well signal a return to form for the big maker. Those who fondly remember Toyota’s hits like Supra and MR2, as well as cult cars like Celica, might draw a favourable comparison to the 86 and fab new C-HR.
The sound system has a rich tone for a vehicle of this price range and as already mentioned, is sans apple CarPlay. The looks are unique in our beige world of ubiquitous automotive ambiguity. The interior feels cutting edge and the concealed rear door handles feel cool and modern.
Steering aside, C-HR evokes the warm-and-fuzzies that give the niche a much-needed touch of class with a true sense of fun. It is crammed full of tech in a package which bound to pull even more punters away the safe yet dull Euro-boxes.
For me, C-HR is a sexy sinner.
Engine: Euro6, 1.2L turbo petrol, 4 cylinder, with Dual VVT-iW, Direct injection, 85kw/185Nm
Fuel: 95ron or higher, 5.6L/100k, 148gms CO2
Price: starts at $26,990* for the six-speed manual front-drive C-HR, PLUS $2,000 for the CVT transmission (CVT) plus $2,000 for AWD, PLUS $4,300 for Koba which includes: leather-accented seats, keyless entry/ignition, 18-inch alloys, LED lamps, and innovative nanoe (pronounced nano-e) technology that moisturises cabin air), PLUS 450 two-tone paint option