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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].

1.

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.

4.

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.

5.

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].

References

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

Toyota C-HR Koba she says, he says review

2017 Toyota C-HR. Photo: Supplied

He: The baby SUV segment has been rapidly expanding in recent years with the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. Now the biggest player in town has entered the fray. Toyota’s new C-HR is a bold entry too, with dramatic styling that certainly stands out from the pack, Dani.

She: You’re not wrong there, Steve. I first noticed the C-HR in a showroom and it stood out a mile away. I was on the other side of a very busy road and there was no escaping it.

It’s quite polarizing and a bit too futuristic for me but I applaud Toyota’s attempt to step outside from its usual conservative comfort zone. Do you like the design? He: I don’t love it but I don’t hate it either.

What I am impressed by is how well they’ve managed to package the cabin. With the swoopy roofline and waistline that tapers steeply up at the rear the exterior design creates the impression that the rear seats will be a squeeze. In reality, there is good room in the back seats, it’s still a bit tight for adults but this is a compact SUV.

I’d go as far as saying it’s near the best in this class. She: I like the cabin more than the body as well. The perforated leather seats, soft dash and diamond-pattern design inside the doors all have lovely finishes and look high-end.

The lights in the cup holders and puddle lights look pretty funky at night but I was really disappointed with the 6.1-inch touchscreen. It not only looks outdated but isn’t supported by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. He: Yeah, that’s particularly disappointing for a car obviously aimed at a youthful audience with a love of smartphone connectivity.

What did you think of the drive? The C-HR is the first Toyota to get a small capacity turbocharged engine. It’s a little 1.2-litre unit that produces 85kW and 185Nm, which is adequate but not exactly overwhelming inside the C-HR.

She: For me the engine was pretty underwhelming, which is disappointing because it actually handles really well on the road. It just feels like it needs more power. I know it’s a small SUV but when you step inside something that looks more like a rally car, you expect a gutsier performance.

It will take you just under 11.5 seconds to get from 0-100km/h in the CH-R. That’s half a second less than if you’re in a Toyota Yaris or Kia Picanto. So it was a bit of an anticlimax.

What I do really like about the Koba is the advanced driver safety features, however they’re also crucial given the restricted over the shoulder and rear access vision. He: Yes, Toyota has equipped the C-HR, and particularly the Koba, well. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning are all standard.

The Koba gets 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and ignition, leather accented seats and an air-conditioning system that Toyota claims purifies the air. But it comes at a cost because £35,290 is a big price for such a small car. She: I think it’s on the expensive side and I’d want a bigger, meatier, engine for that amount of money.

If you’re going to talk-the-talk, then you have to walk-the-walk and performance wise, it misses the mark for me. There are a lot of good features about the C-HR but overall it risks falling into the over-styled and underpowered category. He: A bit more grunt would be nice and the looks won’t appeal to everyone.

But I like the way the C-HR drives, how well it’s packaged and in the lower-grade models it offers better value. I’d skip some of the luxuries on the Koba and go for a cheaper model because Toyota has arrived on the baby SUV scene with an appealing proposition.

2017 Toyota C-HR AWD Koba price and specifications

Price: From £35,290 plus on-road costs Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol

Power: 85kW at 5200-5600rpm Torque: 185Nm at 1500-4000rpm Transmission: CVT automatic, all-wheel drive

Fuel use: 6.5L/100km

2017 Toyota C-HR Koba 2WD review

£33,290 Mrlp

  • Fuel Economy

    6.4L

  • Engine Power

    85kW

  • CO2 Emissions

    144g

  • ANCAP Rating

    N/A

Could this stylish small SUV be the best thing offered up by the Japanese brand? Read on to see how the 2017 Toyota C-HR Koba 2WD stacks up.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent interior presentation and class
  • Great material quality
  • Really well sorted suspension
  • Road manners a highlight
  • Smooth small-output turbo engine

Cons

  • Some more grunt wouldn’t go astray
  • Rear-seat occupants might feel hemmed in
  • Lacks the latest in-car connectivity
  • Media system not up to scratch

Bumblebee, we called it, this stunningly yellow example of automotive art that is known as the 2017 Toyota C-HR. It’s the top-end Koba model – not the all-wheel-drive version as tested by Paul recently[1], but the front-drive version that we included in our recent small SUV test[2].

And it came out on top. There are plenty of good reasons for that – and not only because everyone on that test thought it was the coolest car with the most presence, in a market where many have tried and plenty have failed to find the right blend of styling and substance. That’s the key point with the 2017 Toyota C-HR[3] – it has both style and substance in spades – but in this specification it does come at a cost: the Koba front-wheel-drive model is £33,290 plus on-road costs, making it one of the dearer SUVs of that configuration in the segment.

But it is well kitted out, with a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, climate control, cruise control, push-button start, leather seat trim, heated front seats, automated LED headlights with daytime running lights, LED rear lights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and auto wipers. It rides on 18-inch wheels. Infotainment is by way of a small-for-the-segment 6.1-inch touchscreen, which has Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a single USB (a bit behind the times for tech-savvy urban buyers), but it also has built-in satellite navigation, which some competitors lack.

It’s missing some stuff that competitors do have, though, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto extended phone connectivity and digital radio reception. And the Bluetooth – while easy to pair and quick to re-connect – follows Toyota’s silly ‘safety’ focus of not allowing you to choose your saved contacts on the screen when you’re driving, or dial numbers. Instead, you’ve got to use the voice control, which is at times tedious.

The safety focus is strong, though, with its adaptive cruise control operating at all way to standstill, and it has autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assistance.

It scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash score, and has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee). You need those electronic aids at times, because the vision from the driver’s seat isn’t terrific. When you’re trying to park you should almost just forget about glancing over your shoulder to get a gauge of your vicinity: it is called the C-HR – Coupe High Rider – for a reason.

Forward vision is good, though, and while you sit up reasonably high for that ever-so-desirable ‘command’ position. The cabin is perhaps the most surprising thing about the C-HR – and that’s saying a lot, given how striking the exterior styling is. You can tell that the company allowed its designers off the leash in the cabin, with beautifully textured, almost arty finishes on show.

Sure, the hard plastics on the doors aren’t soft to the touch, but the quality of the finishes is brilliant, with a gorgeous diamond pattern with raised edges, not to mention soft (brown … ewww!) leather on the dash-top, doors and centre console. That swooping body doesn’t have too large an impact on rear-seat space: headroom is actually pretty good, and it is one of the roomier small SUVs for legroom. While the back seat comfort is good, on test we found it could feel a little bit closed in because of the black headlining and the way the rear doors are shaped, sharply curving up and away from the occupants.

That means that kids mightn’t like it very much, particularly if they’re prone to travel troubles.

On the topic of littlies there are three top-tether attachment points and two ISOFIX child-seat anchors, but no rear air vents. And the boot is big enough for a pram or stroller: at 377 litres it’s about what you’d expect from, say, a small hatchback. There are some items missing: you don’t get rear grab handles, nor is there a centre armrest between the seats, and there are no rear reading lights.

But it is good for loose item storage, including bottle holders in the door-grabs in the rear, big door pockets up front and a smallish centre console bin. The dual-zone climate control features an air purification system that – it has to be said – is better in smoggy traffic-clogged tunnels than lots of competitor vehicles. Under the bonnet is a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a slim 85kW of power (at 5600rpm) and 185Nm from 1500-4000rpm.

The numbers aren’t high by turbo standards, and not even really by class standards when you look at rivals with non-turbo four-cylinders. And it seems even more meagre when you look at the Peugeot 2008[4], which has a three-cylinder turbo with 81kW but 205Nm. The engine is adequate with four on board, and only a touch better than that with only a sole occupant.

It isn’t a firecracker, but it is very refined and smooth revving engine despite being a little sluggish at low speeds. That mainly comes down to the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which aims to keep the engine working at low revs, and is most noticeable if you’re pulling away from traffic lights or a roundabout and going up a hill. If the going is flat, it’s more convincing in its performance, and makes urban driving feel like a breeze.

The most impressive thing about how it drives is its road manners: the suspension is extremely well sorted, with excellent ride compliance and great body control when you push it in corners.

The ride quality is great over bumps and lumps. Sharp edges pose no concern for the C-HR, which is all the more convincing due to the fact its riding on 18-inch wheels with Bridgestone Potenza 225/50/18 rubber. The C-HR’s steering is direct and accurate, and while it is not quite as sharp as a Mazda CX-3[5], it is among the best in class for reactivity and composure.

The suspension – a Macpherson setup up front, and double wishbone at the rear – offers up a really nice blend of comfort and compliance with sure footedness, and the quality of the execution of the chassis arrangement makes it feel composed and more premium than pretty much any other small SUV in the segment. Despite that premium feel, the Toyota ownership plan isn’t as pricey as you might think. The brand requires the car to be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km, at a cost of £585 per year, which is cheaper than Mitsubishi, Honda and Mazda.

Toyota can’t match some of the lengthier warranty plans around, with a three-year/100,000km plan and no included roadside assist. The Toyota C-HR Koba is a terrific small SUV, one that pushes the boundaries of what we thought Toyota was capable of. Not just because of its stylish design, nor only because of its funky interior – it’s both of those things, plus the fact it’s a really good car to drive.

If you’re in the market for a small SUV – or even just a small Toyota – be sure to take a look at one; and you might even be happy with the lower-spec model, which could be the pick of the bunch. Click the Gallery tab for more images by Sam Venn. MORE: CH-R news, reviews, videos and comparisons[6]
MORE: Everything Toyota[7]

Our Ratings Breakdown

7.0

Performance
& Economy

7.5 Cabin Space
& Comfort

8.5 Technology
& Connectivity

7.5

Price
& Features

8.5

Ride
& Handling

References

  1. ^ the all-wheel-drive version as tested by Paul recently (www.caradvice.com.au)
  2. ^ our recent small SUV test (www.caradvice.com.au)
  3. ^ 2017 Toyota C-HR (www.caradvice.com.au)
  4. ^ Peugeot 2008 (www.caradvice.com.au)
  5. ^ Mazda CX-3 (www.caradvice.com.au)
  6. ^ CH-R news, reviews, videos and comparisons (www.caradvice.com.au)
  7. ^ Everything Toyota (www.caradvice.com.au)