Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Toyota C-HR - Big excitement, small package

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

It's not very often that you can pair the words 'excitement' and 'Toyota' together. The vehicles from the automaker are known for reliability and, in a few instances, all-out performance in limited categories. Aggressive styling, hard body lines, and come-drive-me looks are not what we have come to expect from Toyota in all but a few exceptions. The Toyota C-HR is set to be one such.

We called up our friends at Carland Auto Sales, and Malik was only too happy to present a car he says he's been tracking for the last two years. C-HR stands for Compact High Rider. It debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2016. After that, it made the rounds at all the major shows until its release in late 2017. The Carland attendants almost jealously handed over the unit with a mix of approving nods and expressions of regret that they were not going out on the test ride.

The car presented was a real head-turner, with just stunning looks not normally associated with Toyota. You are struck by the x-front grille that starts at those sleek-looking LED headlights and ends up at the fog lights that sit atop the front spoiler that takes styling cues from a race car splitter. The track heritage/aggression continues with the bulbous front and rear fenders with sharp lines that go all the way to the back. Toyota went all the way with the aggressive lines because the handle for the back door was almost made to disappear by its discreet placement at the top corner to the back. All this sits atop 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/50 Bridgestone Potenza R50s. Four-wheel disk brakes with big fat calipers up front provide stopping power.

The C-HR is made to seat five persons on leather upholstery (cloth available), but, while the driver and the front passenger can sit comfortably, it will be a bit of a tight squeeze for those in the back. This is made even tighter with the sloping roofline that encroaches a bit. The back seat folds flat for more cargo space, splitting 60/40 and carrying two child-seat harnesses.

Don't go asking this car for loads of power. There is a noticeable interval between stomping on the gas and a real 'get up and go'. The C-HR builds power gradually - not slowly mind you but gradually - until you are up to speed. This has plenty to do with the fact that round-town driving is automatically done in economy mode, which changes when your right foot asks the question.

The suspension comes with a sure-footedness that is both reliable and reassuring. It doesn't slop its way through potholes, but rather delivers a firm thud that doesn't jar the driver. Throw it into a corner, especially in sport mode, and the steering will become more responsive with none of that lack of road-feel that comes with electronic steering. The wide track, low centre of gravity, and traction control will forgive your sins of over-exuberant driving.

The 2017 Toyota C-HR comes standard with a surprisingly small 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine. The 8NR-FTS motor has a nifty turbocharger with an efficient liquid-cooled intercooler. It makes about 114 horsepower. It comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which functions like an automatic. It can be shifted into manual mode, at which time it behaves like a six-speed automatic that gears up on shift command and gears down both automatically or manually.

The C-HR is feature-rich and comes standard with a long list of safety features, including the Toyota Safety Sense suite, which includes pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera and hill-start assist are also standard. Available safety features include rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Expect to hear a few urgent beeps when you do a lane switch or go too near to another car or a curb. There is no hand brake, just a brake-hold button where you'd normally find the handle. Press it and the C-HR will stand still. It is released as soon as you tap the accelerator. We could spend the rest of the day talking about all the other features.

This compact crossover SUV is clearly aimed at the young professional or otherwise millennial market. Needless to say, that comes out most in a seven-inch-screen infotainment system that has voice control and all the techie gizmos that we get dizzy just thinking about. Malik says that Carland has one C-HR available, with another four on the high seas. Available also is a hybrid version that comes with a 1.8-litre VVT I and regenerative braking to charge the batteries that power the electric motors. Expect to pay between $5.4 and $6.1 million. The one we tested was valued at $5.9 million, but talk to Malik; he is ready to do a deal any day with anyone who falls in love with an exciting Toyota C-HR like I did. I'm still smiling two days after the test drive.

Vehicle provided by Carland Jamaica. Contact: 929-1433 or