Although the Toyota C-HR is due for replacement within the coming year, there's still a lot to like about Toyota's quirkiest SUV.

What is it?

Toyota has grown its SUV range considerably over the last few years with the introduction of the all-new Yaris Cross and Corolla Cross, but alongside these new models the company is still offering the long-lasting C-HR which has been in production since 2016.

While it has been treated to a few upgrades over the years – most notably the introduction of a hybrid drivetrain in 2019, along with added safety tech and a new GR Sport variant in 2020 – it has for the most part soldiered on unchanged while Toyota has introduced new and updated models left and right around it.

Here, we’re taking a look at the 2022 GXL 2WD – the cheapest C-HR variant on offer which comes priced at $30,915 before on-road costs, or roughly $35,000 with on-road costs factored in.

Why are we testing it?

With two brand new SUVs alongside it in Toyota’s range and an all-new C-HR expected to be revealed in 2023 – with the recent C-HR prologue concept previewing what is to come – we wanted to see how the C-HR is holding up after all these years and whether it’s worth still getting one of these original first-generation models while you can.

What does it look like?

Despite being a nearly seven-year-old design, the 2022 Toyota C-HR still looks relatively box fresh, with it already having been quite the revolutionary design for the long-conservative brand when it first arrived. Its sloping roofline, funky body lines, and bold snout means it’s a design that looks like it could’ve only been revealed yesterday.

It’s worth adding that while the GR Sport model looks substantially different with its more squared front grille, this base GXL looks almost entirely identical to the base C-HR I remember reviewing for a newspaper when the model first launched, so it’s the real teller of how well this design has held up.

A base model looking this funky – and especially at this price point – is certainly a good thing, too, with no signs of cheapness outside except perhaps the admittedly mediocre wheels, although Toyota does offer seven optional 17-inch or 18-inch designs which make the problem easy to rectify.

What’s the Toyota C-HR GXL like inside?

If the outside of the C-HR was giving me déjà vu of my first time testing one of these all those years ago, the interior only heightens that feeling. Aside from a new infotainment system which was introduced in 2019 with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – which, it’s worth mentioning, is a system that works well but has rather a washed-out, low-res display – there’s very little change to show for all its years on the market.

But again, that’s no bad thing as even the base variant manages to feel as funky inside as it does outside. There are three types of cloth upholstery on the seats, diamond patterns impressed into its black headlining, and geometric patterns formed into the plastic of the door cards, making it feel genuinely quite fun and quirky. Although a touch plasticky in some areas, most materials feel quite nice including the soft-touch dashboard and leather steering wheel, and it’s all bolted together with the expectedly solid Toyota build quality.

It’s also worth noting that it comes quite well equipped for a base model with dual-zone climate control, one-touch power windows, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated and power-folding side mirrors, keyless entry, automatic headlights and wipers, a rear-view camera, puddle lights that project the C-HR logo onto the ground at night, and of course the aforementioned comprehensive infotainment system. There are a few things that do show this car’s true age, such as the small 4.2-inch screen in the instrument cluster, but by and large it holds up incredibly well.

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2019 saw a host of extra safety technology added to the C-HR as well, with the GXL coming standard with lane trace assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors all standard.

Up front, the C-HR’s cockpit is a nice place to spend time with its comfortable and supportive seating and well-arranged dashboard, although it must be said that the rear seats are not only on the small side when it comes to headroom, but the small windows and black headlining do make it feel a bit claustrophobic back there.

In the boot, you’ll find 318 litres of storage space which is on the smaller end of the class although it will still be versatile enough for most. There’s a good amount of interior storage up front, although the layout is a bit quirky with a seemingly unusable cubby hole at the base of the dashboard with no lid or lip at the front of it. The cupholders are also separated at different ends of the centre console and oddly have the same diamond shape you’ll see all throughout the cabin, although the rear cupholders are conveniently placed at the right height for rear passengers to access them easily. However, rear passengers do miss out on proper door storage and seat-back pockets.

What’s under the bonnet?

In the base Toyota C-HR GXL as well as the mid-spec Koba, you’ll find the same 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet that’s been there since the model first launched, with this engine producing 85kW from 5200-5600rpm and 185Nm from 1500-4000rpm. Fun fact: this engine unusually uses a water-to-air intercooler, rather than a typical and more simple air-to-air intercooler.

It comes paired with a CVT automatic with a simulated eight-speed manual mode (another fun fact: there was also once a manual option for it!) and front-wheel drive is standard although all-wheel drive is available as a $2000 option. Toyota claims fuel consumption of 6.6L/100km in front-wheel drive models and 7.0L/100km with all-wheel drive, but do be aware that this engine requires premium 95 RON fuel.

While not available on the GXL model tested here, there is also a hybrid drivetrain available optionally in the Koba and as standard for GR Sport models. The hybrid pairs a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine with a small electric motor and battery to deliver a maximum 90kW, with a CVT and front-wheel drive as standard. Fuel consumption for the hybrid is listed at 4.3L/100km.

What’s the Toyota C-HR like to drive?

Although the C-HR’s power outputs don’t exactly look too exciting on paper, the little 1.2-litre is a really nice engine in the real world. Key to this is the way this turbo unit delivers its power, with the maximum amount of torque spread evenly across the greater part of the rev range meaning it feels smooth and surprisingly unstressed for an engine of this size.

Sure, it’s not the last word in performance with a desire for just a hint more top-end power when overtaking at open-road speeds, but it does feel perfectly punchy enough in traffic thanks to the power being available right where you need it. It’s also worth praising how quiet this engine is – the cabin itself is quiet, too – which combined with the way it delivers its power makes this refined power plant feel surprisingly premium and almost European.

It’s a shame this engine is expected to be given the axe when the new C-HR debuts sometime in the coming year as it also gives the C-HR a real point of difference from what is its closest rival in Toyota’s stable, the Corolla Cross. The new C-HR is expected to feature a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine like the latter, which while more powerful on paper may not offer the same mid-range strength and effortlessness as this.

Although I’m not the greatest fan of CVTs, the one in the C-HR is a decent one with no overbearing ‘rubber band’ feeling that some CVTs can be prone to show. Rather, it, like the engine, feels smooth and acceptably progressive, making it a fairly ideal pairing.

As for the ride and handling, the C-HR’s electric power steering feels nicely weighted and its road-holding is solid, although some outright cornering performance has been traded away in exchange for an even more supple ride. That’s the right move for a car in this class in my eyes, the way the C-HR rides and steers, much like its drivetrain, is relaxed and smooth in an ideal way.

How to the numbers add up?

Although new car prices have risen substantially over the past few years, the price of the Toyota C-HR has remained fairly constant with the list price only rising by less than two-grand between the first 2017 model year and 2022 – impressive given the new infotainment system and additional safety features it now has. This keeps it at the cheaper end of this class and below its rivals in the Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V ranges; it’s also $2085 less than the cheapest Corolla Cross, the GX petrol.

Fuel use is fairly acceptable, with an indicated return of 7.7L/100km after my 295km of testing, although that does mark a fair increase over the 6.6L/100km claim. Again, do remember that this engine requires premium 95 RON unleaded as well, while most rivals and the hybrid drivetrain in the Koba and GR Sport variants can take 91 RON.

In addition to a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, Toyota also offers the C-HR with five years of capped price servicing which costs just $220 per visit – a tiny amount, although the HR-V can somehow best it with its incredibly cheap $125 servicing, although servicing is only required every 12 months/15,000km in the C-HR, rather than the HR-V’s 10,000km intervals.

So, what’s the verdict?

With funky looks that still look fresh, lots of equipment even in base form, an engine that’s quiet and relaxed and ride quality to match, and a price tag that’s on the low end of the class, there’s still a lot to like about the Toyota C-HR even after all these years.

Even with a new model not too far away, I feel there’s still a lot of merit for this outgoing model, not least as its turbocharged engine will be going away with it. If you’re a fan of quirky styling but still want a car that’s no-nonsense, the C-HR GXL remains the same solid option it always has been.

2022 Toyota C-HR GXL 2WD List Price: $30,915 | As Tested: $31,415
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Lots of equipment even in the base model, funky styling still looks fresh after nearly seven years, smooth and refined turbocharged engine, solid road feel and build quality
Cons: Rear seats feel claustrophobic, low-res infotainment screen, some extra power wouldn’t go astray, there’s a new model right around the corner

Photography by Tom Stuart and Patrick Jackson.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Toyota Australia for two weeks with all fuel costs covered.

Patrick Jackson
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