Flagship’s no rocket
TOYOTA joined the booming baby SUV class at last with its C-HR (“compact high rider”, if you must know). We’ve already tested the most affordable model — here’s how the $40,000 flagship stacks up.
The C-HR front-drive manual starts from about $31,000 driveaway ($5000-$9000 dearer than its peers). This top-of-therange Koba AWD is $39,930 drive-away, a power of money for a car no bigger than a Corolla. The price has crept up since launch because demand has outstripped supply. Toyota is getting only 6000 examples this year and could easily sell twice as many. Toyota has extended the service intervals from six months/10,000km to 12 months/15,000km and locked in the price at $195 for each of the first five visits. The warranty is three years/100,000km.
It could almost be a Lexus inside, such is the step up in quality from other Toyotas. The cabin materials look modern and feel great, from the checked patterns on the doors, to the faux leather accents on the dash, to the real leather on the seats (though I’m not a fan of the brown highlights). There is plenty of room front and back — but the tapering roofline and windows limit outward vision for rear passengers. There is only one USB port and one 12V outlet. It needs at least two of each (and fast-charging USBs too). It would help if the door lock switch automatically illuminated at night when you open the door, rather than wait for the engine or headlights to come on. With police urging drivers to lock doors, it would be handy to be able to see the switch at night before someone appears from the shadows.
Standard equipment includes seven airbags and several class firsts such as automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane keeping and blind zone warning. A rear camera and front and rear sensors round out the package. It earned five stars from ANCAP under recent more stringent regulations.
It may have “turbo” badges and futuristic styling but this is no rocket ship. The 1.2-litre fourcylinder turbo is designed for economy rather than performance, despite demanding premium unleaded. Around town it’s zippy enough but it starts to feel lethargic on long hills at freeway speeds. More impressive is the way it hugs the road, with precise steering and confident cornering grip, whether on roundabouts or winding country roads.
Suzuki Vitara Turbo This is roomier, zippier and about $8000 cheaper than the C-HR. Only downside it’s not yet available with radar cruise control and AEB (as with most others in this segment). Holden Trax Turbo It’s roomier and faster and (when Holden eventually comes back to earth) will be cheaper than the C-HR. And it’s fun to drive but looks cheap inside and dated outside. Mitsubishi ASX It doesn’t have a turbo but the 2.0-litre’s performance is comparable to the other options here. And it’ll be a bargain as soon as Mitsubishi returns to the $25,00 drive-away deal for an automatic.
The C-HR has class-leading technology and drives better than most rivals. Expect it to be a better buy in a year or so when supply improves and the price gets trimmed. For now Toyota is making people pay over the odds for the latest gadget in town.