Damien O’car­roll tests a brace of C-HRS in 2WD and AWD for­mats

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

It’s funny how spend­ing a bit of time with a car can change your opin­ion of it. And the Toy­ota C-HR is a car that can do that in both its 2WD and AWD form, just not in the same way. After the lo­cal launch I was ini­tially dis­ap­pointed by the C-HR. While it was gen­er­ally im­pres­sive on the in­side, looked great (yeah, that’s right) and pos­sessed a lovely lit­tle chas­sis, the driv­e­train just seemed to let it down so badly... But here’s the thing – Toy­ota held the launch out on some wind­ing coun­try and coastal roads that jour­nal­ists love and small en­gined CVT cars don’t do quite so well on. So spend­ing a week with a 2WD C-HR in its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment (the city) showed an­other, far more im­pres­sive side of its na­ture. The en­gine was ea­ger and re­fined, the CVT not as an­noy­ing and its com­pact size made it an ab­so­lute breeze to skip around an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment in. Then a few weeks later came the AWD ver­sion and my opin­ion re­verted back to how I felt about it at the launch. On an ini­tial drive of the two at the launch, it seemed that the AWD sys­tem brought very lit­tle to the C-HR other than ex­tra weight and spend­ing a week in the two of the just drove that home. While the 2WD C-HR was nim­ble and had enough power to scoot hap­pily around town, the ex­tra bulk added by the AWD sys­tem robs it of all of that. The dif­fer­ence in ba­sic kerb weight be­tween the two is 75kg, which may not seem like a huge amount, but then the lit­tle 1.2-litre turbo en­gine only has 85kw and 185Nm to haul it around with, so ev­ery kg counts. And it is more than enough to make all the dif­fer­ence here. Speak­ing of the 1.2-litre turbo en­gine, it is a mod­ern, smooth and re­mark­ably re­fined lit­tle unit that is a de­light around town, whilst the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion isn’t that bad around town, mak­ing for a su­per smooth and pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence in the daily com­mute. But even in the 2WD model it is not quite pow­er­ful enough on the open road, where

it runs out of puff on hills and it is still rather slug­gish off the mark. You can take all th­ese crit­i­cisms of the 2WD pow­er­train and mul­ti­ply them by four for the AWD ver­sion. The ex­tra weight makes the AWD C-HR even more slug­gish off the line and breath­less on hills, while it even man­ages to blunt its ac­cept­able round town per­for­mance. All of this is made even more dis­ap­point­ing by the fact that the C-HR has a bril­liant lit­tle chas­sis that is a blast to throw around. It boasts some great steer­ing and is sharp and re­spon­sive, while also man­ag­ing to still main­tain im­pres­sive ride qual­ity for such a small car. The im­pres­sive ride is nicely com­ple­mented by the bril­liantly com­fort­able and sup­port­ive seats, while the rest of the high qual­ity in­te­rior is mod­ern and pleas­antly laid out, with some great shapes, lines and tex­tures on show. So why Toy­ota de­cided to stick an au­dio head unit that looks like a cheap af­ter­mar­ket job in the mid­dle of the dash is a mys­tery, par­tic­u­larly when an at­trac­tive and far nicer in­te­grated one is in over­seas mod­els. Then we get to the out­side. While the looks are po­lar­is­ing, they cer­tainly are in­cred­i­bly distinc­tive and in­di­vid­ual. There are so many in­ter­est­ing an­gles and lines go­ing on over the ex­te­rior of the C-HR you could quite pos­si­bly own it for a year and still be see­ing new things from dif­fer­ent an­gles. Per­son­ally, I love it – you can call it ugly, but you sure can’t call it bland, bor­ing or unimag­i­na­tive. The C-HR lands in New Zealand in iden­ti­cal spec for both the 2WD and AWD mod­els, with the AWD cost­ing $2,000 more. This sees the C-HR’S al­ready hefty $37,990 2WD price just about top $40K. This makes the C-HR a rather ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion in its seg­ment and is yet an­other rea­son not to buy the AWD ver­sion. While the 2WD C-HR is pleas­ant around town and can even man­age to al­most be fun on the open road, the heftier and pricier AWD brings lit­er­ally noth­ing worth pay­ing the ex­tra for and even man­ages to make the C-HR quan­tifi­ably worse. While there are the ob­vi­ous safety and trac­tion ad­van­tages to AWD, the C-HR’S trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tems do the ma­jor­ity of the heavy lift­ing for the AWD sys­tem any­way, so un­less you spend a lot of time in the snow, then the 2WD ver­sion is def­i­nitely the one to go for ev­ery time.

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