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Fuelled by an ever increasing variety and diversity of models, soaring sales of small SUVs in South Africa’s passenger car market have made the segment the fastest growing in terms of volume. Reuben van Niekerk reports
There’s no rule book as to what constitutes an SUV. They can look like pumped up hatchbacks, compact MPVs or high-riding sports utilities. Variously described as lifestyle vehicles or crossovers, they rule the popularity roost for their versatility, commanding driving positions and car-like dynamics – in short, representing vehicles well-suited to modern, urban lifestyles.
One of the latest to join the small SUV fray is Toyota’s C-HR, the model’s designation being shorthand for Coupé High Rider since the vehicle combines a coupé-like upper body with the powerful underpinnings of an SUV.
Interior styling represents what Toyota calls a Sensual Tech design concept that melds a modern sense of fashion with high-tech functionality to produce a comfortable, driver-focused cockpit within an airy, expansive cabin.
The driver orientated area incorporates innovative details and intuitive, approachable technology with all operating switchgear and the display audio touch screen slightly angled towards the driver.
A host of comfort and convenience features make the expressive cabin a pleasure to spend time in. There is a Multi-Information Display operated by a four-way switch on the steering wheel. Upmarket Plus models also feature controls for the audio system on the opposing side of the steering wheel.
Keeping things comfortable on Plus models is dual-zone electronic climate control. The audio system makes use of touchscreen technology and allows occupants to play a variety of media types from sources including USB, iPod, iPhone, Bluetooth and CD/DVD.
The C-HR is the first model locally to use Toyota’s advanced new 1,2-litre turbocharged engine. The unit is equipped with advanced technologies that allow it to transform from the Otto-cycle to the Atkinson cycle under low loads. Other features include vertical vortex, high tumble, air flow intake ports, an exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder-head and an advanced heat management system.
The engine also benefits from direct fuel injection, a water-cooled turbocharger and a heat exchanger, with valve timing controlled by a Variable Valve Timing – intelligent Wide (VVT-iW) system.
The technology unites to offer outstanding performance and efficiency, the engine delivering 85kW and 185Nm between 1 500 and 4 000 revs/min, thee combination of power and torque propelling the car from zero to 100km/h in 10,9 seconds. Fuel consumption in the combined cycle is a claimed 6,3 litres/100km for the manual shift derivative, while the auto version is said to achieve 6,4 litres/100km.
One of the ways in which Toyota achieved the low consumption figures was by designing an engine with a high compression ratio and combining it with intake ports styled to generate a more intense flow and dished pistons aimed at improving in-cylinder turbulence.
Working together, the features allow for a volatile fuel mixture which in turn helps to create a higher combustion speed and prevent knocking, a common symptom of high compression ratio engines.
A low-inertia turbocharger, VVT-iW and the D4T direct injection system work hand in hand to ensure excellent torque delivery from the lowest engine speeds.
The transmission choices – a six-speed manual with Toyota’s iMT system or a CVT option – are equally high-tech.
The iMT system automatically increases the engine revs with a perfectly executed blip when down-shifting, ensuring a smooth gear shift. The system also works when shifting up by reducing shift shock.
The CVT variant uses an electronic brain to ensure that the optimal gear ratio is selected based on vehicle and engine speed, as well as the rate of acceleration required. The driver can also access seven pre-defined gear ratios when in manual mode.
With a low centre of gravity and double-wishbone rear suspension, the new chassis offers immediate and natural response, limiting body movement – something that generally affects tall cars but which also has a direct influence on comfort.
Even when traversing rough road surfaces the car remains remarkably composed and its steering accurate, adding to the confidence and joy of driving.
A full suite of active safety functions are embedded into the C-HR and include ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Hill Assist Control and Vehicle Stability Control. Driver and passenger airbags round out the safety specification.