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Concept for the Masses

Concept for the Masses

I have to admit, I wasn’t convinced of the CH-R’s looks when I first saw it on the net. It looked like Toyota had taken a concept car and pretty much gone ahead and made it. With outrageous proportions, angles, curves and heavy design elements. There is a reason why design concepts get filtered down when making the transition to commercial production. Practicality and cost usually come into the equation and the cars become shadows of their concept -selves, usually, but end up making more real-world sense.

With the C-HR Toyota have created a concept car for the road.

Replacing the very popular IST/ Urban Cruiser, and covering the younger segment of the RAV4 target market,the C-HR was built with the ‘Hip’ in mind. The entire subcompact crossover segment is seeing a healthy increase in entrants, and surging demand for cars like the Honda Vezel/HR-V, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-3. Even the European manufacturers have strong premium entrants in this segment with Audi fielding the very impressive Q2 and Mercedes Benz’s equally competent GLA. The C-HR sits head on with its countrymen, although with our tax scheme does compete with a few Europeans as well.



Toyota, till very recently, had an extremely restrained approach to daytime running lights on its offerings on the lower end of the price scale. But on the C-HR, they have made sure to showcase that they too can do DRLs, LED headlamps and indicators just as well as the best in class. These lights are striking, and are the first things anyone will notice, making the C-HR a very visible car.

IF the lights didn’t get your attention, then the sculpted panels will. The designers may have taken a KATANA into the clay moulding session as this is how sculpted the car is. Sharp lines combined with a deep character-line (more character-gash), the prominent head and tail lamps, and the sharp rear spoiler build up to what can only be described as a hotchpotch of individually striking elements that amount to a car nothing short of a spectacle.

The front is exceptionally sporty, and with the low placement of trapezoid grill, and the sleek headlamps merging into a sleek gloss garnish where the Toyota emblem is placed really complete the look. The rear, looks like Toyota’s best render of what the next generation Vezel would look like, with very Civic-like tail lamps.

The C-HR is a very bold design, showcasing Toyota’s new design language, after close to a decade of development that didn’t place a lot of weight on design. From a sensible car-maker, it is an almost Citroen-like offering, a polarizing design that is extremely ‘love/hate’.


Mech & Tech 

While on offer with a range of engines in other markets, here in Sri Lanka, given our tax schemes (with up to 155bhp), the most common version would be the 8NR-FTS 1.2 Litre turbocharged 3 cylinder unit, pushing 114hp at 5200 RPM, and 190 Nm of torque at 1500 RPM, with VVT-iW. The ‘W’ basically allows the car to operate in an Atkinson cycle for low RPMs for greater economy and emissions, and changes configuration to an Otto cycle at high RPMs for better performance and allowing for high torque through the rev band. Motor’s in-house guru Vimukthi might be better equipped to explain this in detail, but this sounds extremely impressive and complex. Lucky for us, this is a Toyota so you know this tech is going to keep working for a long time.

The car is available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive, although given the terrain this sort of vehicle usually sees, the former would be more than adequate. 

The C-HR is built on the new Prius platform, which was touted as being fun to drive, and Motor found this to be true. But is is the same story with the C-HR? Read on…


Driving Experience 

As you sit in the driver’s seat, you find that there is a great deal of driver orientation in the cabin, a greater ‘wrap-around’ sensation than any recent Toyota for sure. Up front, visibility is good, but drivers should exercise caution when reversing, as the fancy C-pillars may look fancy, but the looks bear the price of practicality. More on this later.

The real shock for us was how agile the chassis felt. Though a ‘high-rider’ with a tall-ish profile, the C-HR did stay somewhat true to it’s Coupe-High Rider aka Compact-High Rider moniker(s), and did handle surprisingly well. The C-HR remained supremely composed around tight corners and back roads, definite dividends of the rear coil-sprung double wishbone suspension.

While the engine may not sound impressive on paper, in ‘Sport’ mode, with manual manipulation of the gears, the turbocharged power-plant is a real fighter. Though towards the end of the rev band you do feel it running out of juice, the initial pull is very torque-y and the turbo dispenses it’s duties with typical Toyota dexterity. Without glancing at the spec sheet you wouldn’t know this was a 3 cylinder, as the characteristic thrum sounds quite smooth at full chat. 

STILL, this chassis deserves a meatier engine, and with such a lovely platform, and the obvious engineering prowess, one can only hope Toyota will put their mind into bringing back some icons like the Celica, as they are already pretty darn close in terms of capability.


Living with it 

Looks like these are usually not cheap. Usually in the automotive world, concept-car looks make it to production at the expense of practicality. In the C-HR’s case, it is the same story. The sloping C-Pillar is very reminiscent of a CRX, and the rear passengers will find their headroom situation quite similar to Honda’s icon. The rear, even for the average Sri-Lankan, is claustrophobic as the small window doesn’t allow light in, and the gargantuan C-Pillar makes sure the quarter-lights are pretty useless as well. You could however make this a positive, and say the cabin is ‘cozy’, offers that extra privacy for the man or woman who does not want to be seen.

While it may not be the most spacious cabin, the C-HR does have one of the finest interiors in the class, with many high quality materials used all around the cabin. Even more impressive, is the way the cabin has been designed. There is a diamond motif used all around the cabin, from the steering to the door cards, the roof lining and the shape of the buttons on the center console. It seems that Toyota may have borrowed more than a few tricks from Lexus, evident also in the latest Harrier.

The seats (also embellished with more diamonds), are finished with stunning workmanship and while they look sporty, are super comfortable. The front seats do give adequate support when driving swiftly as well; a perfect blend of comfort and functionality.

The gauges are clear and informative with a central display which features vital statistics for the driver. The gear knob is a work of art, machined aluminium and smooth to touch, almost like a Civic Type-R number (though not a perfect sphere); It’s an absolute joy to use. The center console features Toyota’s new theme of floating display also seen on cars like the new Prius, and it might take a few minutes to digest. Minimalist in design, the controls are clear and stylish. There is no ‘hand-brake’ but a lever/button much like a European car. There are plenty of recesses and cup-holders dotted around the cabin, which will store your necessities quite efficiently.

The boot is quite substantial, and this can be further increased by folding the rear seats.



The C-HR comes with a plethora of safety features, much like many of its rivals and stablemates. It can be specced up to have 10 airbags, Blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and Hill start assist in addition to the standard safety features you get with the base models. The C-HR has received a 5 star Euro-NCAP rating as well. Even the dullest Toyotas usually end up global champions at safety.


Fuel Economy & Price 

The C-HR is rated by Toyota Japan at 15.4Km/l which when translated to Sri-Lankan conditions would amount to around 10-12km/l in the city at best owing to our road & traffic conditions. Given the different specifications you can get the C-HR in, at time of writing is priced anywhere between the mid 7Mn to mid 8Mn. Which puts it in a very interesting price bracket, and against stiff competition.


Final Words 

What we have here is an interesting proposition. A Toyota that isn’t your average Toyota. With the C-HR, Toyota has shown that it isn’t afraid to push beyond boundaries in terms of design, technology and driving dynamics. They haven’t forgotten how to make a car that handles well, as shown by the GT86 and even the new Prius (As Gishanka discovered a few years ago). The C-HR shows that Toyota can develop a car without letting the personality of a ‘concept’ succumb to the bean-counters, who will generally push hard for a re-issue of the AE100 corolla DX if they could.

So who is it for? Ideally the consumer would be someone who is looking for a Japanese subcompact crossover, that isn’t the default option of Vezel; something unique. Even though it’s been close to a year since the C-HR landed on our shores, only now, with the revised pricing, is it gaining a following. Still, in a tough segment, the C-HR manages to hold its own, with superior build quality, engineering prowess, and striking design. If we could just have a bit more power…


Tech Specs


1.2L 3-cylinder


114bhp @ 5,200rpm

190Nm @ 1,500rpm




Variable (CVT)

Tiptronic shift

Front wheel drive



Multilink / Independent



Disc, ABS, EBD



Length: 4,360mm

Width: 1,795mm

Height: 1,565mm

Kerb Weight: 1,845kg

Fuel Tank: 43L

Boot Space: 377L



0-100km/h in 10.9s

Top speed 190km/h

(manufacturer claims)