Like many of Toyota’s product ranges, the Hiace series has a history that dates back five decades.
The Toyota C-HR (Compact High Rider) was originally designed for the European market, but has now gone global, so should be great for New Zealanders given our liking for this type of vehicle.
Built around Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis -- the same as the new Prius -- the layout is said to offer a lower centre of gravity and better weight distribution; in the case of the C-HR this gives the feel of a hot hatch with the benefits of an SUV.
First impressions are of a bang-up-to-date look, with sharp lines and smooth curves, which in the case of the Ink Black review car supplied by TNZ was reminiscent of Gotham City’s Batmobile.
Power comes from a 1.2L turbocharged petrol delivering 84kW and 185Nm torque, mated to a CVT transmission that, besides the auto function, offers seven simulated speeds for those wanting to hit the wheel-mounted flappy paddles; the set-up is smooth, seamless and gets on with the job. A choice of eco, normal and sport modes alters how the engine/transmission responds, while the AWD system functions to deliver 0 - 50% of available torque to the rear wheels.
Handling on a fast trip from Hamilton to Pauanui, taking in the Kopu/Kikawai road, showed the car was torquey and flexible in the engine department, the suspension handled the twists, curves, dips and climbs with aplomb, and the sports style seats kept this reviewer’s ample rear held firmly in place.
Safety is taken care of admirably, gaining the vehicle a 5-Star ANCAP rating achieved by the aptly named Toyota Safety Sense Suite that includes a pre-crash safety system, lane departure alert, auto high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert and of course the obligatory rear-view camera and parking sensors.
The cabin is well laid out with a central touch screen monitor for all main functions, and dials angled toward the driver to give a cockpit-like feel and total control.
Neat detailing sees 5-spoke, 18-inch diameter wheels, and some further Gotham-inspired fun, with the underside of the rear-view mirrors hiding ‘puddle’ lamps which project the vehicle’s name onto the ground after dark.
What’s not to like? Not much when you remember this is a compact SUV. Taller passengers will find headroom adequate in the front but partly compromised in the rear as the raked roof runs its course. Likewise, the view of the outside world from the rear seats is not great, given the relatively small, triangular shaped panes.
With its radical looks, the C-HR will turn heads in town and country, with features like LED daytime running lamps, dynamic indicators and cleverly hidden, high-level rear door handles that the writer’s non-blonde other-half failed to find, making it one to watch.