Aside from being its first foray into the ever expending compact crossover segment, the C-HR, or ‘Coupe High Rider’ again sees Toyota shying away from its conservative styling direction in favour of something bursting with character and a fresh approach you’d not normally expect from the maker of humdrum offerings such as the Etios and Corolla.
With demand currently outstripping production, Toyota has only allocated 150 units a month to South Africa despite an initial stockpile, the C-HR’s local launch earlier this year has been nothing short of staggering with 418 units sold in March, followed by another 222 last month, making it second in class behind the Ford EcoSport.
The arrival of a rather eye-catching Aztec Green C-HR over the Easter weekend was therefore met with a great deal of anticipation and excitement from yours truly, not only because it had remained forbidden fruit for me unlike my two colleagues, but also due to the fact that I was to undertake a mammoth road trip to my home town of Despatch outside Port Elizabeth and back over the extended mid-month break.
An aesthetic tour de force
Much has already been said about the C-HR’s futuristic appearance, but it continues to be one of the biggest talking points unlikely to quieten down anytime soon. Factor out for a moment our flagship Plus model’s minty-fresh hue, and you are faced with possibly one of the best-looking non-performance cars on sale today, never mind a crossover.
The combination of flowing lines and creases, angular headlights, boomerang taillights, rear door handles integrated into the C-pillar and sporty 17-inch alloy wheels gives the C-HR a decidedly youthful and funky appearance that is bang up-to-date and likely to attract considerable stares and finger pointing.
Stylish interior that lacks certain tech
It is a similar story inside with a neat and uncluttered layout trimmed in quality plastics, with the overall ambience and look being further lifted by smatterings of chrome and piano key black detailing. A noteworthy highlight was the almost vertical ventilation panel with its series of oversized buttons, and a TFT instrument cluster display between the speedometer and tachometer.
A let-down though is the 6.1-inch touchscreen display as opposed to the eight-inch setup employed in Europe, which takes after the conventional looking sound system normally found in a Quantum, with a further quirk being the presence of a button marked MAP NAV as local C-HR’s don’t come fitted with satnav to keep costs down.
The issue of space…
Using the same TNGA platform as the Prius, and indeed fitted with eco-optimised Michelin GreenX rubber, the C-HR’s biggest hillock comes in the form of reduced rear passenger headroom as a result of the lowered roofline, and minimal legroom. Boot space is rated at 234-litres, although a full-size alloy spare replaces the European model's space saver.
… And missing equipment
In terms of standard kit, the Plus comes equipped with dual-zone climate control, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB, electric windows all around, electric mirrors, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, automatic headlights, ABS with EBD and Hill Start Assist although, again due to costs, omissions include curtain airbags and more surprisingly, a reverse camera.
On the road
It seemed like a daft idea but the overall total distance of some 2 500 km from the Big Smoke down the coast and back turned up some interesting finds, with the most impressive being the little motor up front.
The first Toyota to embrace downsizing locally, the blown 1.2-litre 8NR-FTS petrol mill produces 85kW/185Nm, and made for an eager performer with sufficient low-down punch and minimal lag. While a six-speed manual gearbox is standard, our tester came fitted with the optional CVT which, although smooth and seamless, still exhibited a typical drone, but only when you really mash the accelerator.
Offering a choice of three driving modes, Eco, Comfort and Sport, the C-HR was left very much in Comfort and despite short spells in the remaining two modes, and with the air-conditioning and heater on, returned a very impressive 5.8-litres/100 km, well and truly thrashing Toyota’s claimed 6.4-litres/100 km.
While it might lack some of it European sibling's nice-to-haves and can be a bit of a squeeze in the back, the Toyota C-HR nevertheless makes for a cracking first attempt at the segment. Regardless whether you opt for the Plus manual (R345 000) or CVT (R356 000), it represent a superb package unlikely to be toppled soon.