Toyota C-HR GR Sport overview
In recent years Toyota has expanded its SUV offerings beyond recognition, and the C-HR is the sporty one in the line-up. Its coupe-SUV looks put it in a fairly unique position in the market, and it slots into Toyota's range between the smaller Yaris Cross and larger, more practical RAV4. To further confuse matters, Toyota will be introducing the similarly sized Corolla Cross to the range, too.
While the compact SUV market is busy, there aren't many direct rivals to the C-HR. The Renault Arkana goes for the coupe-SUV looks, while the Hyundai Kona and Tucson, plus the Honda HR-V choose hybrid drive. Then there's the Cupra Formentor, which covers the brief for sporty handling and looks.
The C-HR is based on the same running gear as the Corolla hatchback, so there are 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains on offer, while the arrival of the GR Sport trim is designed to appeal to buyers that want to tap into Toyota's recent motorsport success.
GR stands for Gazoo Racing, the racing team behind Toyota's successes in the World Rally Championship and at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and also the people that helped develop the GR Yaris hot hatch and GR Supra sports car. To that end, the C-HR GR Sport has been given a racy makeover, although there isn't any extra power.
The Toyota C-HR model range
Irish pricing for the Toyota C-HR starts from €31,205 for the entry-level Luna model, which features 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, two-zone climate control and a reversing camera.
Move up to Sport trim, and you get 18-inch alloys, smarter piano black interior trim, tinted rear windows, heated front seats and parking sensors front and rear, while the Bi-tone version adds a black roof to give the exterior styling a lift.
Next up is Sol spec, which has a different 18-inch wheel design, LED lights front and rear, park assist, keyless entry and starting, a wi-fi hotspot and additional safety equipment.
At the top of the range, the GR Sport pushes the boat out with a sportier body kit, 19-inch black alloy wheels with a machined rim, tinted adaptive LED headlamps, red interior highlights and a perforated leather steering wheel.
While the GR Sport has a racier look, it's still offered with the same drivetrains as the rest of the C-HR line-up: a 1.8- or 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid set-up that powers the front wheels via an e-CVT automatic gearbox. These systems have 122hp and 184hp, respectively, so while the GR Sport looks the part, it's best to think of it as a sporty looking model, rather than a performance flagship.
The Toyota C-HR interior
Climb aboard the C-HR, and the GR Sport's add-ons do give it a racier feel. There are GR Sport scuff plates on the door openings and piano black interior trim that gives the cabin a lift, while the red stitching on the chunky three-spoke steering wheel and gear selector gaiter is a nice touch, too. But overall, sitting in the GR Sport is the same as being in the standard car - while the view out front is fine and it's easy to get comfortable with the wide range of seat adjustment, the small back windows and narrow rear windscreen mean visibility is tricky behind.
Cabin storage could be better. There are a couple of illuminated cupholders on the centre console, small door pockets and a couple of small storage areas up front, but that's about it. However, in the back there are some decently sized cup holders moulded into the doors.
The cabin feels well built, although there are some harder plastics on show lower down on the dashboard and doors.
Toyota hasn't been the best at producing user-friendly infotainment systems, but the set-up in the C-HR has been updated over time, and it's fine to use. There's no built-in navigation, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now included, so you can plug your smartphone into the USB socket and use that instead.
At least there's some brightness in the front, because the combination of tinted glass and small windows means the back of the C-HR feels a little claustrophobic. It's not actually that tight in the back, though, as there's just about enough room for three back there, although tall passengers in the outer seats might find their head close to the door openings. If you need to fit child seats, access can be tricky through the narrow door openings, though two sets of ISOFIX mounts are included.
Boot space is good, but there's a high lip to load items over, and the hidden storage under the floor is small. At least the 60:40 split-folding seats create a flat load area in two-seat mode.
The Toyota C-HR GR Sport driving experience
Fire up the C-HR GR Sport via the start button, and you are greeted with a bong from the dashboard and not a lot else. Since this is a hybrid model, it prioritises electric drive over the petrol engine, so that only starts up when the drive battery is completely flat, or when you need the combined power of the electric motor and four-cylinder engine.
While Toyota's hybrid systems of old delivered harsh noise under acceleration, the C-HR's powertrain is pretty decent. The engine is well isolated from the cabin, even when you're using full throttle, while performance from the 2.0-litre model is good enough to be engaging, although on occasion there is the typical disconnect between what the engine is doing and where your foot is on the accelerator.
Another highlight is the C-HR's handling. Its damping and composure are exceptional, and Toyota's TNGA platform proves once again that it has a sporty edge. It's not a car to fling about like a GR Yaris - the light, feedback-free steering and slightly woolly brakes put pay to that - but the C-HR copes well with fast cornering and can maintain high speeds with great body control and a good ride. There was plenty of grip from the Continental tyres fitted to our car, too.
Our verdict on the Toyota C-HR
The Toyota C-HR is a fine choice for compact SUV buyers that want something different, but aren't too fussed about maximum carrying capacity. This GR Sport version suits the character of the C-HR well, giving it some racy additions, but without shouting about its sporty potential. We really like the 2.0-litre hybrid set-up too: it's refined and powerful enough for fun, yet economical when you need it to be.