EXCLUSIVE – TEST VEHICLES GET FAMILY RATED
TOYOTA’S CH-R REALLY CAUGHT MY EYE. We drove past a Toyota dealership and the same blue hue model was sitting proudly outside, and I immediately fell in love.
That may have clouded my initial judgement, but looks play such an important part because there are so many SUVS that are boring or just a little… “different”: Nissan’s Juke and Mitsubishi’s boxy Outlander spring to mind.
So I was really looking forward to driving the CH-R, despite its forgettable name and zero model recognition.
When I first saw it close-up, I thought it’d been shrunk – it’s smaller than it sometimes appears, but as a top-spec Kia Soul owner, I knew what to expect.
The CH-R, of course, is so much smoother, and modern than almost any other SUV.
After a quick drive, my rose-coloured glasses hadn’t faded. Smoothness is the word here too, and though I’m not a fan of CVT transmissions – they always sound like the clutch is slipping – it seems to help-not-hinder the CH-R. It’s only when the throttle is buried that you notice it revving.
After a short drive, I was asked the “what engine capacity?” question. To me the engine felt like a 1.4/1.5-litre. That it’s a 1.2-litre impressed me even more – it pulls up hills with ease, and I never found it lacking in speed.
I’m no leadfoot, but I certainly use the power to zip around the stop-start suburban streets and the Hamilton hills, and the little Toyota lapped it all up.
Though its acceleration numbers aren’t as fast as the Holden Trax I drove recently (apparently 0-100km/h in 11.1 versus the Trax’s 9.8 seconds) , the Toyota feels faster, or at least as fast, and that’s fine with me. It’s just so smooth doing it.
It also feels small and light, from the steering to the pedals and its small turning circle. It’s so easy to drive, though I’m not sure our two girls are such big fans.
Our five-year old could just reach the semi-hidden rear door handle while standing on her toes – once it was pointed out – and though rear legroom is just enough. As expected in a small SUV, vision is restricted.
Not just for the driver, but for the airplane-sized, high rear-cabin windows that both girls struggled to see out of; and our two-year-old is at the age where if she doesn’t see the moo-cows, we all know about it.
Boot space is also a compromise. Though it’s certainly just big enough, it’s rather shallow, which is great that it’s not a deep drop into for picking up heavier items, but not so great if there’s a lot to pack in.
As a family car, the CH-R is probably best left as a second/back-up around-town specialist.
But for singles, couples or empty nesters, this size of SUV is ideal, and its smooth looks, smooth driving and all around feel-good factor makes it a winner not just in my books, but in my semi-retired mum’s to.
Above left: Two-year old Ella was pushing out of her belts to see out of the CH-R’S window.
Aboce centre: Even for a tall five-year-old, it was a tippy-toes stretch to the CH-R’S rear door handles.
Aboce right: Rear legroom is about what’s expected from a small SUV.
Right: Boot space is good, not great, and relatively shallow thanks to the spare tyre. Storage bins either side help compensate.