Every automaker likes to lay claim to being a segment scene setter and Toyota can probably, justifiably, make that claim in terms of the compact crossover and the RAV 4.
The RAV 4 was the first Toyota to break the perceived mould of it being a company specialising in rather bland and conservative styling for its mainstream cars – read older Corolla (’cause the new one looks quite yummy) and Camry – while also having real styling expertise in the sporty segment as in Celica and 86.
The bulking up of the RAV 4 left behind it a hole in the market and Toyota filled that with the CH-R that steps in comparable in size to the Nissan Qashqai although, perhaps, more akin to the Juke in looks – and certainly the CH-R stepped well to the conservative left, enough to put it in the ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ category.
Personally, I like the looks and the edginess of the styling; however, those distinctive looks do not do wonders for practicality.
For 2020, the compact crossover got a refresh with design, safety and specification updates. Both front and rear areas received detailed attention, with the front bumper going ‘under the knife’ to get a wider and larger lower air dam and more vertically positioned side air intakes. The ‘facelift’ also included repositioning of the fog lamps, to a higher and more outward position.
The headlights on standard and Plus models have been upgraded to premium LED technology (bringing it in-line with the Luxury model), with the daytime running lights (DRLs) and indicators combined into one frontal projector. At the rear, the new bright red tail lamps are connected by a gloss black spoiler creating a single clean shape.
The 1,2-litre turbo-charged petrol engine continues as the anchor of the range paired to either a CVT or 6-speed manual transmission. It produces 85 kW and 185 Nm across a broad rev range, although Toyota’s claimed fuel consumption of 6,4 l/100 km for the CVT variant on test was somewhat optimistic as the best highway cruise number I managed was 7,0 l/100 km with an overall test average of 8,1 l/100 km.
Dynamic upgrades include modified EPS tuning for improved steering feel, this certainly made a difference off the highway where both turn-in, and precision made the drive far more pleasurable compared to its predecessor.
On the interior, the revised C-HR gained a new multimedia system that upgrades Toyota’s connectivity offer allowing full smartphone integration supporting the latest versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As part of the multimedia upgrade the screen size was been ‘enlarged’ from 6,1 inches to 8 inches (20cm) and all Toyota models come equipped with Toyota Connect, including a complimentary 15 Gb in car Wi-Fi allocation, vehicle telematics and enhanced user features via the MyToyota app.
The 1.2 petrol on 18-inch alloy wheels rides rather quite well and is not soft and wallowy like some SUVs, eliminating bounce and shake along rutted roads both on and off the tarmac.
It is remarkably agile by family SUV standards, maintaining it poise even when pressed through tight twists and turns. As mentioned, the steering is accurate, delivering enough feedback to give confidence through faster bends while remaining light during low-speed manoeuvres, especially in too small parking spaces in shopping centres where this breed of vehicle loves to congregate and socialise.
Also, be thankful for the excellent definition rear-facing camera. This is a necessary fitment as the styled rear end makes it hard to see what is behind you when reversing and its small rear side windows do not provide a massive field of vision.
But, the CVT! In the world of CVT gearboxes this certainly one of the least intrusive and irritating but, it still becomes noisy in the upper reaches of the rev range and can be quite indecisive under pressure – at least there is a manual change option to redress this.
To be fair though, this is designed as an urban crawler and longer haul genteel cruiser. On that subject, the seating is comfortable and supportive for long journeys with sufficient movement options to cater for most body shapes.
Rear space is surprisingly cramped in the back, with rear leg and headroom closer to that offered by cars from the class below, such as the Renault Captur and, while the kids may not moan about the space, the small side windows engender a mildly claustrophobic feeling.
It comes with 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and the C-HR’s rear seats do not slide or recline. Outright boot space (328 litres) is disappointing compared with similar-sized, similar-priced rivals such as the Qashqai, Hyundai Creta and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Side, curtain and driver knee crash bags are standard along with Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Lane Change Assist (LCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Pre-crash system, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Assist.
All C-HR models are sold with a 6-services/90 000 km service plan (intervals set at 15 000 km) and 3-year/100 000 km warranty.