EX­CLU­SIVE – TEST VE­HI­CLES GET FAM­ILY RATED

New Zealand LCV - - FRONT PAGE - – Arna Evans

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.

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