Toyota CH-R

Toyota CH R side lr

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By Tim Saunders
 
Long journeys are the best way of putting a vehicle through its paces, I find. On a short jaunt seats have little chance to prove themselves and cruise control can’t usually be activated. So a trip to Bath for the futuristic Toyota CH-R should highlight strengths and weaknesses.
For looks, this compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) scores highly. It has a chunky, masculine front and an eye-catching rear. A designer’s job is increasingly tough but they’ve done well here; even if it does look similar to the more staid Honda HR-V from the side. Both share the hidden rear door handles that mislead the eye into thinking it’s a three-door. The children don’t like this because they can’t reach them. They seem a little flimsy, too. Keyless entry is helpful but this only works when opening the front doors.
To the driver of a 15-year-old Ford Fiesta where there are pleasingly few blindspots the CH-R takes a bit of getting used to but thanks to the reversing camera life is not too difficult. I’ve booked parking on a driveway and it’s a fairly tight spot meaning that I can only park head on. If I want to reverse into the space I must reverse down the long driveway. I’m not brave enough to do this at night but I do tackle it with success in the morning. Nevertheless it does feel quite a cumbersome vehicle and the turning circle is larger than I would hope.
Its high ride height is enjoyable, providing a good view of the road ahead; probably most noticeably on approaching Bath itself, travelling from the top of the hill that takes you down into the city. Here there is a panoramic view of Georgian splendour.
My wife wants to fold the central information panel away because it annoys her. And trust me, annoying her is not a good idea. That said the satellite navigation is easy to use and works. But we can’t figure out how to turn the radio off and to listen purely to the navigation instructions. Driver and front passenger get plenty of space but the overall dashboard design is a bit boxy and clumsy. There’s a bit too much black plastic for my liking and I’m not a great fan of the electric blue strip that runs across the dash.
With its six-speed manual gearbox it is a surprise to learn that the engine is a tiny 1.2-litre petrol unit. It seems to be quite efficient, travelling to Somerset and back to Hampshire on less than half a tank. Cruise control, which also monitors the distance of the car in front, braking and accelerating accordingly, aids frugality while the turbo boosts performance. Cruise is cancelled out at speeds below 25mph. When activated it is possible to change between gears without cruise control stopping. This is useful, some systems don’t work like this. There’s quite a decisive gearbox, too.
The rear seems a bit dark for the children. The shape of the windows, in response to the design of the CH-R, means that light is not at the top of the list of priorities for the designers. The black interior doesn’t help either although it does provide a feeling of richness. I like the imprint in the roof trim. Space is tight in the back when travelling with three cumbersome car seats. In fact Harriett cannot put her seatbelt on because the point is under Henry’s car seat in the middle. It’s quite a wide vehicle, certainly when compared to my own Fiesta, yet the seatbelt position does not pose such a problem in the latter.
Lifting the bootlid requires a bit of strength, not ideal for its legions of female fans, I would imagine but it does reveal a very good size space, which tackles our luggage and pushchair. The rear is probably the most attractive part of this vehicle; it is simply gorgeous with its curves and the spoiler above the blacked out window really adds to the overall appeal. From the back it does remind me a little of a frog. It certainly has far greater character in my opinion than the Honda HR-V.
The addition of heated front seats is much appreciated by my wife on a cold winter’s morning. The seats themselves are comfortable over the course of the journey.
As for punch, when there’s a row of slow moving traffic near Longleat, we easily overtake on the dual carriageway leaving a good amount of space behind us.
My children love cars as much as I do and enjoy pushing buttons. On the school run one morning as Heidi and I are reading and little Henry (2) is entertaining himself on the touchscreen, he discovers a Glass of Water app. He’s a clever lad. Basically this can be activated to determine careful driving. Any jerky braking or accelerating will spill the digital glass of water. The aim of course, is to get to your destination without any spillage, which is shown at the end of the journey. I didn’t try this…
 
FACTS AT A GLANCE
 
Toyota CH-R 1.2-litre Dynamic Turbo Petrol Icon
 
Price: From £27,095
0-60mph: 10.9secs
Top speed: 118mph
Power: 116bhp
Economy: 44 to 47mpg

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