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Sporty by name, fuel efficient by nature

Toyota has broken the mould with the C-HR SUV, its funky styling is a big shift away from the brand’s usual conservative looks and its latest version wears its new GR Sport badge. We find out what it’s all about.

VALUE

The Toyota C-HR occupies the space between the popular mid-size RAV4 and the pint-sized Yaris Cross.

Buyers can choose between two-wheel and four-wheel-drive, as well as hybrid variants. Three trim levels are available: GXL, Koba and GR Sport.

Prices start at about $34,600 drive-away in base GXL two-wheel drive petrol form and rise to about $41,600 for the GR Sport tested here.

GR stands for Gazoo Racing – Toyota’s new performance sub-brand – but this model is a styling exercise rather than a performance variant.

It’s a lot of money for a small SUV but it brings peppy hybrid performance, a sporty driving character and a long list of standard equipment including big 19-inch alloy wheels and GR badging inside and out.

The dash layout is functional but lacks wow factor and the 4.2-inch information screen in the instrument cluster isn’t as modern looking as some rivals.

The eight-inch centre touchscreen is a decent size, though, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Bluetooth and satnav.

Toyota guarantees the C-HR for five years/unlimited kilometres and servicing is very cheap at $1000 over five years

COMFORT

Leather accented, bolstered sport seats hug front passengers in a tight embrace but they don’t provide the heating function found in the similarly priced Koba variant.

A leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, along with GR Sport pedals and door trim, make the cabin feel a bit special.

The cabin is a bit cosy, though, and the back seats in particular feel a tad claustrophobic, thanks to the sloping roofline and small, highset windows.

Small children in particular will struggle to see out of the windows.

The lack of rear air vents and USB charging points is disappointing.

The GR Sport has firmer suspension than the rest of the C-HR range but it still manages pockmarked city streets without much trouble.

SAFETY

Toyota has all the safety bases covered. The GR Sport will brake automatically for cars and pedestrians if it senses a potential collision and it will notify drivers if a car is in its blind spot.

Rear cross-traffic alert makes reversing out of driveways and tight carparks a breeze, alerting you if a car is coming.

The C-HR will keep you in your lane if it detects you wandering out of it, gently tugging the steering wheel to direct you back in.

DRIVING

The petrol-electric combo doesn’t produce a heap of power, but the instant torque of the electric motor makes it feel zippy off the line.

Compact SUVs aren’t known for their driving prowess, but the GR Sport hugs corners like a hatch, feeling both stable and agile thanks to its firmer suspension. Sharp, direct steering adds to the fun.

It can feel a bit laboured on steep hills as the non-turbo engine has to rev high to reach its power reserves.

The C-HR’s compact proportions and manoeuvrability make it a cinch to navigate around tight city streets and carparks.

Fuel use is a claimed 4.3L/100km and we managed close to that, especially in city driving. The standard petrol engine requires premium fuel, but the hybrid only needs regular, adding to the fuel savings.

VERDICT 3.5/5

The C-HR is great to drive and fuel efficient but it’s expensive and more suited to couples than families.

ALTERNATIVES

Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo, from $36,990 drive-away

Sporty looks, punchy turbo engine and a cracking drive. Dual-clutch auto can be a bit sticky at low speeds.

Mazda CX-30 G20 Touring FWD, from about $39,500 drive-away

Quality cabin, eye-catching exterior design and fun to drive. The engine lacks a little refinement though.

Hyundai Kona N-Line, from about $40,200 drive-away

Feisty turbo engine and head turning looks but it’s thirsty by comparison.

TOYOTA C-HR GR SPORT VITALS

Price: About $41,600 drive-away

Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor, 90kW

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $1000 over five years

Safety: Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist

Thirst: 4.3L/100km

Spare: Temporary

Cargo: 318 litres

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