2021 Toyota C-HR GXL (car review)

AT a time when SUVs are flooding the Australian car market, one manufacturer continues its mission to deliver an option in almost every size possible. The C-HR is one such example, tested here in its base GXL form.

The name literally stands for Coupe – High Rider, with the range spanning from this model, to the previously tested 2020 C-HR Koba and Koba Hybrid, along with the Gazoo Racing enhanced GR Sport.

The GXL is new for 2021, replacing the previous base model and adding more safety technology, keyless entry, push button start and a raft of other updates. It’s a refreshing, youthful and funky bit of kit, pitched into a knock down drag them out battle with rivals.

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Those competitors include the Suzuki Vitara and Hyundai Kona, the latter of which has just undergone a complete facelift, which includes the introduction of a new N Line variant, with a full N offering on its way.

The C-HR has settled nicely into its role as one of the bravest Toyotas in years, but with the arrival of the Yaris Cross, it’s also undergone some tweaks. It remains unconventional and edgy, with huge swooping headlights, and large flared wheel arches and rear pillars.

The interior is far less ‘out there’ though, and is practical and easy to navigate. There’s plenty of room up front too. In the rear, legroom is good for a small SUV, but we dislike the small windows that block your view to the outside world.

Toyota really does need to revisit these back doors. That aside, the seats are comfortable and supportive throughout, with interior materials made from good quality plastics that feel good under hand.

The 8.0-inch infotainment system, which was new in 2020, is still there, but now sports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s not the best looking unit, but it is easy to operate. There’s a 318-litre boot, that can be expanded by dropping the rear seats.

We wouldn’t call the C-HR a family car. It’s specifically suited to a single person or young couple whose weekly driving takes place predominantly in the city and suburbs. It’s built for purpose though, and suits this environment perfectly.

All C-HR models inherit a generous list of safety tech and features as standard, including a pre-collision safety system (with day and night pedestrian detection), all-speed active cruise control, and lane departure alert with steering assist.

There’s also auto high beam and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, with Toyota also adding 17-inch alloys, a six speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, satellite navigation, auto LED headlights and auto wipers.

Folding heated electric mirrors, power windows and a space-saver spare complete the package. Disappointingly, there is still no option for a wireless phone charging pad, but Toyota has also thrown in road sign recognition and front and rear parking sensors.

The GXL is powered by a 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine with 85kW and 185Nm, all fed to a CVT transmission. The gearbox is slow, and has a mind of it’s own. It makes it a little un-fun to drive. It simply feels underpowered as a result.

Toyota claims fuel economy of 5.7-litres/100km, but in our week long test we could only manage 8.0-litres/100km, in a mixture of suburban and freeway driving. Wind noise remains a problem at speed too. Break 100km/h and the wing mirrors play a tune.

It remains poised and composed on the road though, particularly through the twisty stuff, and while yes, it’s no sports car, it does handle quite well. On long drives, it’s comfortable, and composed on the road in any circumstance.

Reverse parking is a cinch thanks to multi-angle cameras and the C-HR’s very responsive steering. Reversing out of a driveway with limited visibility is also a breeze, with the car’s rear cross-traffic alert system warning you of any approaching hazards.

We weren’t in love with C-HR when we first saw it, but we’ve really warmed to it. Toyota is continuing to complete small updates here and there as time goes on, and the arrival of a new sporty variant can only serve to add to its popularity.

Prices start from $30,915 (plus on-roads), with the 2021 Toyota C-HR GXL available in Hornet Yellow, Ink, Crystal Pearl, Shadow Platinum, Graphite, Inferno Orange, Nebula Blue, Feverish Red or Oxide Bronze. There’s also two roof colours to mix and match with.

Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Toyota C-HR GXL, please contact your local Toyota dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - great safety features; good city SUV; updated standard inclusions.
Cons - rear seat is small and confined; engine needs more oomph and a proper transmission; rear side window visibility.
Mick Glenn
Mick Glenn
Mick is a car fanatic, with petrol pumping through his veins. With a deep love for cars, and what makes them tick, Mick likes things that go fast, very fast. But he also appreciates a Sunday cruise in the Rolls...... who are we kidding, he'd drive the wheels off that too.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> great safety features; good city SUV; updated standard inclusions.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> rear seat is small and confined; engine needs more oomph and a proper transmission; rear side window visibility.2021 Toyota C-HR GXL (car review)