The MH Motoring Minute: Toyota C-HR 1.2CVT Plus

Toyota has taken big risks and broken conventions in terms of design and styling with the new C-HR, and we think it’s going to pay off – handsomely.


Arthur Jones |

Review: 5 day test.

Engine: 1.2 litre, 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol.

Power: 85kW, 185Nm.

Price: R376 600.

South Africa and SUVs go together like jam and peanut butter. This trend has gone nuclear in the last few years, and sadly, it has come as a cost to the sedan market. Toyota already has the excellent RAV 4 and the dominant Fortuner, but this smaller crossover hits a different market for them – and it’s a savvy move on their part.

The C-HR translates as Compact High-Rider, and that’s exactly what this sharp-angled little crossover is – the rear, coupe-like roof line and design-led nip-and-tucks create a striking look – it’s a breath of fresh architectural air for the Japanese brand, who is not exactly known for being rule-breakers in the looks department. It almost feels like they’ve taken a peek at their Lexus siblings for inspiration, and it’s paid off handsomely.

Related: The MH Motoring Minute: Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT

So, it looks good – how does it drive? Thankfully, there’s some substance to this style, too. While it’s not a fire-breathing tyre-stripper, this front-wheel drive has decent punch, plenty of grip, and feels agile. It feels low-slung and planted, and the drive is dynamic and satisfying. The steering is very light (we’d ideally prefer more feedback and weight), which doesn’t fit with the rest of the ride and its offering. It can handle bad roads with aplomb – the suspension and frame set-up is excellent. All-in-all, a very comfortable, stylish car – both in motion and in standstill.

The interior is well-appointed and has a premium, sophisticated feel with glossy black surfaces and accents. The leather steering wheel and the diamond-design accents are high points; it’s a high standard of cabin quality and design – especially at this price point –and it’s definitely one of the best in the Toyota family, even if this is more of an entry-level model in the range.

This model is decently specced: reverse-view camera (which is essential considering the lack of rear visibility), a host of safety abbreviations – ABS, EBD, BA, VSC; Apple Carplay (Android compatible), dual-zone air conditioning and more. But if you want the full suite of features (including more air bags – 7 versus the 2) and leather seats, then you’ll need to fork for the latest addition to the range, the 1.2T Luxury model, which offers even more edgy design extras, like a black roof and side mirrors and a two tone colour.

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So all good news, right? Unfortunately, besides the lack of rear visibility, the biggest issue for us was the very limited space in the boot and the rear leg and headroom. This is partly due to having a spare tyre – this lack of rear storage is something that cuts into the versatility of this SUV as a family car.

PROS: Striking design; Great ride and handling; Light on petrol.

CONS: Tiny boot; Limited rear passenger space; Light steering; Terrible rear visibility.

WHAT WE LOVE: Toyota has taken big risks and broken conventions in terms of design and styling with the new C-HR – and we think it’s going to pay off handsomely.

RATING: 7.5 /10

COMPETITORS: Ford EcoSport (From R306 900), Nissan Juke (R321 900), Mazda CX-3 2.0L Individual (R389 400), Honda HR-V (R419 900)

READ MORE ON: MH Drive motoring motoring minute Toyota