Auto123 reviews the 2020 Toyota C-HR in a long-term test drive. Today, Part One.
Before deciding on a vehicle, among all the criteria we consider important, one of the big ones is always the capacity. Meaning capacity to hold passengers, and hold gear. Will the vehicle I want offer a certain comfort to my passengers, particularly those who can make my life difficult day-to-day if it doesn’t? And how will it handle all the stuff I entrust to it?
First, let’s look at the human factor.
I read somewhere that one thing about the C-HR is, you have to feel sorry for - or dislike - the people you assign to the back row of seats. But I'll tell you right now: that's fake news. To be honest, I must confess that when I first glanced at the rear space, I myself thought those criticisms were surely justified.
This was after my driver's seat had been positioned to accommodate my 6 feet of length, and the remaining legroom for my back-seat guests seemed dangerously small. Until I made like the banished passenger myself.
In fact, when I installed myself in back, everything was pretty much alright with the world. My feet found room under the seat in front of me. My knees didn't touch the backrest, because it is concave. And my head wasn't even close to the ceiling, which was molded high and rounded. You can tell the people who designed this space used all the tricks of the trade to maximize the number of available cubic centimetres of space. Even the dreaded fifth seat, in the centre of the bench, is very tolerable.
Actually, the door and its doorway are more of a problem, potentially. The exterior handle is located in the upper right corner, where the acute angle of the window ends. In terms of design, this fun idea reinforces the image of the small sports coupe, but practically speaking, a child can barely reach the handle, while adults might be reasonably wary of pinching their fingers in a slit that's pretty resistant to big lumberjack's hands like mine.
As for the door opening, because it’s low like the body of the car in general, it requires some precautions on the part of the taller individual who wants to avoid getting a bump on the noggin.
From there, it’s on to the rear cargo area.
The opportunity to test the C-HR’s freight-hauling capacities was perfect: I had an old church pew to transport...
When I asked my granddaughters to help me load it into the wee C-HR, the three of them stared at me with a look that translated roughly as, “Grandpa’s ripe for the psychiatric ward”. Not having the heart to contradict me, the little darlings played along with the old fool.
They started by arming themselves with a measuring tape to verify the extent of my delirium: 6 feet and dust, measured the pew. Then they looked at the trunk opening, the gaping tailgate, and shrugged their shoulders enigmatically.
Finally, their father and I slid the bench into the hold, and it turned out my genius granddaughters had seen right: the odd testament to my non-existent piety did not completely disappear into the C-HR’s cave. It almost did but as my old high-school math teacher used to say, close is only good for dancing.
I could have folded down the tailgate by tying it up and gone home at a slower speed via a country road, but we found absolutely nothing under the tailgate that would have allowed me to tie a rope.
Note to the designers of the next C-HR: please add a hook or something to the tailgate because sometimes it happens that owners will want to transport things like a church pew.
Since I happened not to be packing a chainsaw that day, I had to face the fact that a compact vehicle has its limits.
At the end of the experiment, I relied on the math I learned from that wise teacher to validate my highly scientific tests.
The 2,640-mm wheelbase of the C-HR brings it very close to the Nissan Qashqai (2646 mm) and not so far from the 2,665-mm wheelbase of the Subaru Crosstrek. That's why the five passengers in C-HR can get along so well.
On the other hand, the 538-litre trunk volume places the C-HR last in its category. Even with the 60/40 seatbacks folded down, the total is 1,031 litres, which doesn't compare favourably with rivals, for example the 1,665 litres available in the Honda HR-V.
To sum it up, longer items (within reason) are welcome in the C-HR thanks to a generous wheelbase, but accommodating tall objects isn't the C-HR’s strong point due to the sloping line of its tailgate.
And if you have something unusual to haul, trust my granddaughters - they are eagle-eyed and ruthless in their truth-saying.