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Driven: 2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.

Driven: 2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport
GR Sport trim gives the C-HR an even sportier look.

   



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2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport

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The Toyota C-HR has been with us for some time now, and it has become popular for its funky looks and efficient hybrid powertrains. The promise of Toyotaís legendary reliability and quality hasnít dented its reputation, either. But Toyota clearly decided a more exciting, engaging version of the C-HR was needed, and it set about building this: the C-HR GR Sport. Essentially a standard C-HR with some sporty styling and stiffer suspension, itís designed to give Toyotaís futuristic SUV a bit more edge.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota C-HR GR Sport 2.0 Hybrid Automatic
Pricing: £33,570 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol Ďself-chargingí hybrid
Transmission: e-CVT (continuously variable transmission), front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 120-128g/km
Combined economy: 49.6-54.3mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Power: 184hp
Torque: 190Nm
Boot space: 290 litres

What's this?

Itís the Toyota C-HR, but with a sporty twist. The funky, futuristic family SUV has become a hit with customers, and with good reason. Thereís a choice of efficient hybrid powertrains and you get Toyotaís legendary reputation for reliability as standard. You also get a surprisingly capable platform, which has been crying out for a sporty, high-performance model. Which is where this, the GR Sport model, comes in. Unlike the GR Yaris, this isnít a full-fat sporty SUV. It has the sporty styling and sporty suspension, but it does without the thirsty, high-powered engine.

Nevertheless, it still looks the part. The C-HR was already quite an athletic-looking car, but the GR Sport model ramps that up with a sporty bodykit and plenty of black trim. It also gets larger, diamond-cut alloys with that two-tone, machined finish and a standard two-tone paint job. The interior continues the theme with red and grey stitching on the upholstery and the perforated leather steering wheel. There are GR logos everywhere, too, including the ignition button and the scuff plates.

Mixed with the usual C-HR features, including the diamond-pattern door cards and the slightly less diamond-shaped switchgear, itís quite a pleasant environment, albeit a little dark. The small rear windows and privacy glass donít help with that. Quality is every bit as good as you expect, though, with everything feeling really well nailed down and no suggestion that anything will ever break or fall off. Those rear door handles might feel a bit flimsy, but theyíll probably last the course, as will the switchgear in the cabin.

Of course, there are some material quality issues. While major touchpoints, such as the steering wheel and gear lever feel impeccable, some of the less well-used plastics feel a little cheap. That may be an attempt to cut costs or differentiate the Toyota from its more upmarket Lexus-badged cousins, but it does feel a bit hard and unforgiving in places.

But the biggest problem by a mile is the touchscreen infotainment system, which feels clunky and dated by modern standards. The display is bitty and blocky and generally unattractive, and although the way it responds to commands is acceptable, the boxy displays and awkward menus are not. Nor is the navigation system, which feels very old-school compared with systems from Ford and Volkswagen.

Itís better, therefore, to use the standard Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) systems provided as standard with this GR Sport trim. Theyíre much easier on the eye and they provide greater compatibility with your smartphone, giving you access to handy features such as Spotify and Google Maps. It turns a below-average touchscreen into a decent one, so itís worth its weight in gold.

And the touchscreen isnít the only drawback with the C-HR. The Toyota also lacks a little practicality compared with key rivals, including the Volkswagen T-Roc and Mazda CX-30. The boot is a little tight, at 290 litres, compared with a T-Rocís 445-litre luggage bay. And while space in the back is better, it isnít brilliant. The sloping roofline will restrict headroom for the tallest passengers, although legroom is more than adequate.

How does it drive?

As youíd expect from a car that aims to provide a sporty take on the C-HR, the GR Sport is quite a firm thing. The standard C-HR is hardly a magic carpet when it comes to ride comfort, and the GR Sport offers even stiffer suspension. It isnít intolerable Ė itís fine on the motorway and it isnít too bad around town Ė but potholes are jarring if you hit them at any sort of speed and thereís no subtlety over broken surfaces.

In exchange for that stiffness, you get very marginally improved body control and thatís about your lot. The GR Sport feels a little less prone to roll in corners and marginally faster to respond, but weíre talking tiny margins. For most customers Ė especially the kind of customers who tend to buy SUVs like this Ė the difference is too small to notice.

Not that thatís an issue. Whether you choose the GR Sport trim or any other iteration of the C-HR, youíll be driving a car thatís much more agile than you might expect. As is so often the case these days, the steering is a bit numb, but the response from the front end is fast and the body roll is reasonably well controlled. The whole car feels nimble and light on its feet, while still being stable. It all makes for something thatís surprisingly good fun to throw around.

While the GR Sportís influence on the handling is minimal, its influence on the powertrain is non-existent. Our test car came with exactly the same 2.0-litre petrol hybrid system as a conventional C-HR, albeit a high-specification model. The system combines a four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor that operates more often than you might expect, even kicking into action occasionally on the motorway.

That said, itís still what Toyota controversially calls a Ďself-chargingí hybrid, with the electrical systemís small lithium-ion battery topped up by the engine and the regenerative braking system. The idea is the electric motor can then take over from the petrol engine at low speed or when the system is under light load and the car is effectively coasting. That saves fuel, and allows the engine to return more than 50mpg on the official economy test, despite the 184hp power output.

All that power goes to the front wheels Ė thereís no off-road capability to speak of here Ė but itís enough for a fairly punchy 8.2-second sprint from 0-62mph and a top speed of 112mph. That doesnít sound that impressive, and we suspect the Ďe-CVTí transmission has a lot to answer for where those figures are concerned, but the C-HR feels faster. The instant torque of the electric motor allows it to surge ahead, particularly when itís already on the move.

The hybrid system is pretty refined, too, with the petrol engine making relatively little noise at low revolutions and the motor whirring away in near-silence. Only when you put your foot down will that transmission kick into action and send the revolutions darting towards the red line while the engine roars like an angry bee. It isnít a pleasant noise, and prolonged acceleration will feel pretty intrusive. Driving in a more relaxed manner seems counter-intuitive in whatís supposed to be a sporty model, but thatís what you have to do to get the best from this powertrain.

Verdict

The C-HR remains a funky and well-built compact SUV, but weíd steer clear of this GR Sport trim. Yes, it looks great from the outside and it comes with some sporty interior upgrades, but the suspension revisions have spoiled an already slightly firm ride, without making much difference to the carís handling characteristics. The 2.0-litre hybrid system, however, provides welcome punch and it isnít too expensive to run. But you can have that without the GR Sportís drawbacks.


4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


James Fossdyke - 19 Apr 2022



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2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.

2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport. Image by Toyota.








 

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