When Toyota handed us the keys to the latest CH-R (refreshed earlier in 2020) #TeamAdventure was divided. A true urban crossover, it’s not the typical car our team here at Adventure Afrika drives. So having spent close to a month with this looker, driving on various road conditions which included a long-haul to the Northern Cape with a full car of passengers and luggage, we know what we like… and don’t.
Initially, myself and most of my male friends dismissed this car as average at best, but soon realised it is actually rather impressive and hits most of the correct notes. As usual, the women in our lives proved us wrong yet again! For most of them it was love at first sight – like my twin sister who declared this her dream car when it first hit the South African streets in 2016. She fell in love with it all over again after seeing it in our driveway and couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Although it had received a facelift with the addition of a more prominent wider grille, it is a minor one and does not contradict its almost spaceship, sportscar like façade. Although you could describe the rear end as decisive, it does suit the car perfectly. Styling wise, it is truly unique and beautiful from nearly every angle. It most certainly has a presence on the road and it turns heads. Being what they describe as a sub-adult male, I particularly enjoyed the smiles of appreciation when passing, let’s say equally stylish, young women. However, much like with the female species, that sexy behind does come with a drawback. Visibility is quite poor due to an oversized C-pillar and door moulding and the blind-spot monitor only somewhat compensates for it.
When stepping into the interior that mix of sportiness and comfort is ever-present, although I would it rate it more comfortable than sporty. According to my grandmother, it is everything she needs in a car. This is achieved thanks to strong fundamentals and a fairly ergonomic layout which leads to a cocooned and insulated drive. The diamond design elements from outside are repeated inside with various levels of success – we like them on the doors, not so much on the roof as it just feels a bit overdone.
We’d prefer a sunroof to lighten up the interior and at this price, one would expect rear passenger aircon vents (as most segment competitors do offer it). The driver position is electronically adjustable and seats are cushioned and comfy. The 8” AV display’s resolution is fairly good and safety features include the standard ABS, EBD and VSC; with our test model (Luxury) also boasting Toyota’s Safety Sense. This includes Pre-crash system, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Parking Assist to name a few.
The CH-R has a solid road feel and grip, giving the driver confidence through corners. The adept chassis and suspension soak up any imperfections, resulting in a comfortable ride for driver and passengers. Although we initially felt you would compromise on space for style, it surprised us. It comfortably carried four people, leaving enough legroom for lanky teenagers. The latter, of course, were thrilled with Apple CarPlay connectivity and the 15GB complimentary data! Comparatively to other players in the segment, it is smaller which makes it a pricey niche choice. In the price range (starting at just under R380k up to R487k for the top of the range model we drove) Toyota’s very own RAV4 offers a much more spacious alternative.
The 1.2L CVT has a modest 85kW and 185Nm, but provides enough grunt for a bit of fun. However, because the platform feels like it can provide and handle so much more, its a shame we don’t get the larger engine choices in South Africa (in Europe and the US its available its available with a 2.0L and even a 1.8L). While we found the powertrain packing a decent punch, the CVT gearbox remains a negative aspect. It is whiney and often feels like it is struggling to find the right gear for the job. Having said that, you can still overtake with confidence and fuel consumption is fair albeit higher than the 6.4l/100km claimed by Toyota. In perfect traffic and road conditions, we struggled to keep it below 8l/100km.
In conclusion: like any Toyota, you know it is a quality buy and fairly good value for money. Unlike other Toyota’s you get some lit styling with this one too and you will certainly stand out. Having said that, the outlandish styling is not everyone’s cup of tea and what we have seen is that you either love it and want it or you hate it and is quite opinionated about it!
Words: Anton Willemse Jnr