Product Promotion Network

Toyota C-HR Koba AWD 2017 review: family test

Everyone had something to say about this car. From the moment I picked it up, to the moment I dropped it off a week later, I got comments from just about everyone who saw it – family, friends, neighbours, my physio, even the garbage men who saw us shooting this video and just had to come over and ask what it was… this car is a talking point. And that’s because it’s different.

The C-HR[1] launched in early 2017 into the small SUV market[2], going up against cars like the Mazda CX-3[3] and the Honda HR-V[4]. From a company known for its basic but solid vehicles, everyone sat up and took notice. But how does this seriously sporty car perform for a family?

I drove the Koba, which is the top of the range, and here are five things I loved over the week with my family of four, and five things I thought could do with some improvement.

1. The Look

People literally stopped me in the street to ask “what is that?” They were intrigued. It’s sportier than any regular SUV[5] on the road, and almost looks like a rally car, which in an SUV is an interesting concept.

It’s also really cool. You actually do feel a bit like you are driving a rally car when you’re inside. The colour combinations (I drove the charcoal, but there is a bright yellow version that’ll get your heart racing) with the shiny black roof is of particular note.

I mean, who or what is this car trying to be?

People literally stopped me in the street to ask “what is that?”. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The C-HR is sportier than any regular SUV on the road. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

This is the kind of car that you get when you’re in between life stages. You might already have a baby, or have one on the way, or have very young children. You know you should be thinking about an SUV but you can’t quite bring yourself to plunge headfirst into a traditional ‘family’ looking vehicle, but a hatch is too small.

Fair enough. This car is for those people who have one toe in the family car category, and the rest of the foot firmly out of the family car category. There’s no reason to give it all up just because you have kids, you don’t need a boring car.

This car looks anything but boring.

2. The Zippiness

It’s a small engine, yes. A 1.2-litre turbo[6].

But it’s fun to drive – zippy, swifty, it gets you from A to B without any trouble at all. Handles well on corners. Is fast to take off or take over.

And when you’re driving a family around in suburbia, or you do a lot of city driving, the engine does its job superbly. The seats are comfortable, in the Koba they are leather accented and also heated. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

3. The Interior Space

When I first saw it, I was a bit concerned that my four-year old and six-year old would be squished, or wouldn’t find it comfortable.

But climb inside, because the interior is surprisingly spacious. There’s enough legroom in the front, and enough space in the back for a whole family of four to fit comfortably. Even a third child in the back would be fine.

There’s no extra space like a Kluger[7], granted, but when you don’t need it, you don’t miss it. This is a small SUV and there is definitely enough room for the four us to fit without feeling like we’re in a too-tight jar.

4. The Fuel Consumption

Another big tick from the family car reviewer.

If the fuel is cheap, everyone’s happy, right? And a small 1.2L engine uses less fuel than a bigger one. Toyota claims a 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle[8], and on the last two Cars Guide tests, we got 7.7L and 7.9 L respectively.

That’s certainly on the cheaper end of good.

5. The Safety

The C-HR has seven airbags, including side curtain airbags for the back passengers. There are two ISOFIX points[9] in the back, plus three top tether points.

It comes with Auto Emergency Brakes[10], which means the car will stop for you if you happen to be distracted (though it doesn’t work if you’re travelling under 20km/h, so watch yourself in slow traffic). Plus it comes with a bunch of other things – blind spot monitoring[11], a reverse parking camera[12], and front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control[13], and a lane departure system[14] that will take over the steering if it can sense you’re drifting. Now for the five things I thought could do with a bit more thinking on Toyota’s part[15].


The Look

Yes, I know that’s also in the positives, but I think the looks are appealing to a particular kind of customer, and that customer may not be everyone. It almost feels a little bit like a remote control car. Not real.

A bit Batman-y. The looks aren’t for everyone. (image credit: Dean McCartney) If it’s to your taste, great, and it certainly grew on me over the week – I loved that it was different.

But it won’t be everyone’s car of choice. If it’s not, go for the charcoal over the bright colours and wind the look down. The interiors too, were a bit OTT.

Brown panels over the black in front and on the back doors aren’t my thing.

2. The Back Rear Panels

Now, while there is enough space in the back, the way the car is designed and it’s sporty edge brings up the side panels at the rear to a point, which results in a triangular panel, right near the heads of the back passengers, where a bigger window would normally be. This brings a sense of darkness in the back seat.

While that’s cosy and certainly good if you want your kids to go to sleep, it takes away that sense of airiness, that sense of lightness. The back is not small, but those panels make it feel less spacious than it is. They also provide some visibility problems – I found myself craning my neck out more than once to make sure there were no cars coming.

It’s not poor visibility as such, but it’s not as good as it could be. So as long as you’re willing to sacrifice that for a sporty looking vehicle, you’ll be fine.

3. The Cabin Storage

I’m all about practicality.

Come on, I’m a mum. This means I needs places – note the plural – to stash my keys, sunnies, wallet and phone. But they are missing in this car.

There are two cupholders in the front and a bottle holder in each door, plus pockets behind the front seats. Oh, and a tiny shelf in the front for your phone. And that’s it.

There are two cupholders in the front and a bottle holder in each door. (image credit: Dean McCartney) I found myself chucking all my stuff in the cupholders – everything from the girls’ hair elastics to my keys and sunnies, which meant that the cupholders didn’t actually function as cupholders. More storage would be ideal.


The Rear Air Vents

This wasn’t a huge problem, because the car is small, so the air does travel to the back quite well, but it’s just something Toyota could have done better than the competition. Most of the other small SUVs don’t have rear air vents either, and this could have been one easy way to one-up them in their already established market foothold, but they didn’t. I’m voting yes to rear air vents because my children get hot in their car seats.


The Good News

The good new is, there was no number five. I couldn’t think of another thing I was so unhappy with that I had to write about it. It also means the good outweighs the bad if you’re a fan of pros and cons lists (clearly I am).

For a more detailed review, click here[16].


  1. ^ The C-HR (
  2. ^ small SUV market (
  3. ^ Mazda CX-3 (
  4. ^ Honda HR-V (
  5. ^ regular SUV (
  6. ^ 1.2-litre turbo (
  7. ^ Kluger (
  8. ^ 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle (
  9. ^ ISOFIX points (
  10. ^ Auto Emergency Brakes (
  11. ^ blind spot monitoring (
  12. ^ reverse parking camera (
  13. ^ active cruise control (
  14. ^ lane departure system (
  15. ^ Toyota’s part (
  16. ^ click here (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *