It’s not too often that local vehicle manufacturers offer a prolonged test drive of a merely updated or facelifted product, however, we embarked on a two-day journey from Cape Town International airport to George airport to get to know the new Toyota C-HR. We travelled via the rural Garden Route backroads rather than taking the popular N2 highway all the way. After turning off the N2 out of Cape Town just after Caledon our drive took us through Bredasdorp along the R316 with an overnight stop in the quaint Route 62 town of Barrydale having traversed the scenic Tradouw Pass. The following day our trip to George was along the flowing R328 and crossing the spectacular Robinson Pass. These roads are some of the best that South Africa has to offer as they’re smooth, undulating and largely devoid of heavy traffic offering a great environment to test every aspect of a vehicle.
The Toyota C-HR has been mildly nipped and tucked compared to the out-going model and retains its striking yet unique design with a more aggressively styled from end fitted to this latest version. It’s one of the more fashionable Toyota’s around and now it’s gotten even sharper with a wider and larger front air dam and vertically positioned air intakes. The entire range now comes with premium looking LED headlights with daytime running lights as standard. The rear-end receives fewer noticeable updates but a gloss-black spoiler definitely stands out making for a distinctive look.
Step inside and the interior receives some significant updates, the most notable being a new 8-inch multimedia system upgraded from a 6.1-inch system before. Toyota has for the past few years lagged behind its competition in the infotainment department. This new system comes as a welcome addition and has filtered into the likes of the Toyota Corolla Hatch too. The new infotainment system offers full smartphone integration supporting both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the latter I got to extensively test. Before we set off on our launch drive we connected to the new system. Having an Android device I connected relatively easily to Android Auto and used Google Maps to navigate us to along our route. The C-HR comes standard with a WiFi hotspot and Toyota through a deal with Vodacom give you 15 GB of data to use valid for 12 months for free. This is a neat addition for buyers who enjoy streaming and have passengers who’d love to enjoy some Netflix while on a journey. An additional 5 GB valid for 30 days is available for R220 via the MyToyota app.
Along with the new touchscreen on the centre console, the driver’s information display has been upgraded too now as a larger 4.2-inch LCD screen. This system is responsible for accessing the different drive modes, the digital speedometer and controlling the driver settings and safety technology. This new model has gained side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag for the standard and plus models. The flagship luxury model receives a suite of electronic driver aids. This includes handy blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
The C-HR has not received any major upgrades in the mechanical department and is powered by the same 1.2-litre turbocharged motor as before available with either a 6-speed manual or an automatic CVT transmission. The engine is smooth and produces 85 kW and 185 Nm. The latter figure is handily available through 1 500 rpm to 4 000 rpm. The units driven on the launch were the CVT model and as with many vehicles fitted with this transmission, progress is smooth. It’s a rare combination a turbocharged vehicle with a CVT transmission and it’s one that works well on the open road where at 120 km/h the engine was ticking along at a hardly audible 2 000 rpm.
Having had the opportunity to pick up some hitchhikers just outside of Oudtshoorn I got to experience the vehicle with four gentlemen onboard and a bag of cement in the boot (don’t ask). The C-HR coped well with the added soaking up the bumps with only sightly exaggerated vertical suspension movement and managed to feel controlled in the corners too. Based on the same platform as the Corolla Hatch the C-HR provides a very similar driving experience which is very high praise indeed and makes it one of the better handling crossovers around.
The Toyota C-HR has been updated with more features with the fundamental recipe unchanged. Mechanically it’s not the gutsiest around but the drivetrain is smooth and suits the vehicle very well. The styling is a little radical and the boot is unfortunately compromised, however, it remains as one of the best looking Toyota products to date and is backed by the promise of Toyota’s promise of dependability. Whether or not these updates are enough for the C-HR to stand its ground in this over-saturated segment, time will tell.
In a nutshell –
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Luxury
Smooth drivetrain, expressive looks and now with seven airbags
Rearward visibility is a little compromised due to thick C-pillars and the boot is on the tight side
Engine: 1 197 cc, four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 85 kW @ 5 200-5600 rpm, 185 Nm @ 1 500-4 000 rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h 11.1 sec (claimed), top speed 185 km/h
Tyres: 225/50 R18 Michelin Primacy 3
Economy: 6.3 l/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: CVT automatic
CO2 emissions: 141 g/km
Price from: R371 700