Auto Review: 2018 Toyota C-HR Koba

PART small SUV, part fancy sneaker, Toyota’s C-HR Koba has a uniquely athletic exterior. It’s a striking look. Like the aerodynamicists in Aichi Prefecture were left unsupervised. With ALL the crayons.

According to the Toyota boffins, the shape is “a unique diamond design”.  We think they’re all kinds of crazy. So is the Koba. And we like it.

Australians love their Toyotas, but we’ve come to have certain expectations of these Japanese favourites. They’re solid, they’re comfortable and they don’t break. Noble qualities that usually come with some sacrifice in the looks department.

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Exteriors are most often passably attractive and the interiors, even in luxury models, have always leaned towards functional. But Toyota seems to be getting adventurous in its old(er) age, with the C-HR emerging as a show pony in a crowded category.

On initial impressions the Koba, a compact SUV crossover, is a show stopper. Especially our test vehicle in the extremely tasty Atomic Rush, a delightfully iridescent burgundy with pink undertones, paired with black roof.

We almost wished we’d scored one of the crazier colours. The vibrant Hornet Yellow is the standard colour – if you’re not brazen enough to carry it off you will have to pay up. There’s also Electric Teal and Nebula Blue, both guaranteed to announce your arrival.

Or you can choose from a pearl white, a black, a grey/platinum and a bronze. They all come with a standard colour-matched roof, or you can choose an optional contrasting roof if you want to.

For the most part, the contrasting roof colour is black, which looks fantastic, but the Electric Teal  and Black get a white roof as their contrast, which is meh. Too jogger for us.

A chunky, angular body gives way to sleek, sweeping glass, thick pillars and a racy, sloping roofline. A flared rear end, protruding tail lights and a spiky spoiler look built for speed, yet overall the Koba’s body also has a sense of weight and stability. And quality.

At the front the shape is low and mean, with a face like a robotic panther. The LED headlights curve pleasingly across most of the front panel and, with the daytime running lights on, create yet another angle on this bonkers manga sneaker. Ahem, small SUV.

Inside, the wraparound faux leather and gloss dash is a big departure for those used to the straight, rather agricultural lines that Toyota usually favours. It brings a touch of luxe to the Koba, which it does need, priced, as it is, above its competition.

The leather seats are extremely comfortable, though, disappointingly, mostly manual in adjustment. This thuds you back to earth briefly, but the adjusters on both seat and steering wheel do a nice job of accommodating all drivers.

We also felt that a head up display wasn’t too much to ask for in the Koba and would step it up from the entry level C-HR. But no, apparently not. The SatNav is basic but effective (very Toyota), with clear, well timed instructions.

The smallish 6.1-inch infotainment system is quite basic too, and the virtual buttons sometimes need a forceful plant of the finger. There’s also no niceties like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Fingers crossed for 2019.

The dials are stylish and easy to read. The steering wheel is quite racy, compact yet chunky. Storage up front (and throughout) is minimal. Drinks are well catered for with holders front and back but the centre console and glove box are both super small.

Our black matte leather (and faux leather) was complemented by high gloss black panels and an out-of-the-box choice for the door panels – 3D, diamond patterned, and satiny plastic in a warm brown. We were unsure at first but ended up liking it.

All up the front ride is very pleasant. It feels a little tight at first but that’s the result of all those curves tucking you in snugly. There is actually pretty impressive head room and leg room, and visibility front and sides is good.

Which is just as well because you’re not going to see what’s chasing you until it’s caught you. The rear vision mirror may as well be discarded as, like most cars in this class, the back window is a glorified porthole, particularly with passenger heads in the way.

The beautiful sweep of those rear side windows also means you have a massive c-pillar to contend with. Luckily you have a really good reversing camera and indispensable blind spot monitors.

There’s also four front and rear parking sensors, though they were a little jumpy for our liking. In the back seat it’s a perfect ride for your little VIPs, or your little day release prisoners. Leg room is good but there’s no view.

A car seat plus two tweenagers fit fairly comfortably but the very small windows makes the back feel confined. High mounted door handles are also tough for smaller passengers to access.

The boot is a generous 377 litres but it’s quite high. The rear seats fold flat in a 60:40 split giving you a lot more space – enough to transport two Ikea Poang armchairs, though partially dismantled to accommodate the sloping tailgate. Towing weight is 600kg.

While the Koba is a lot about looks it’s also a great drive. It’s extremely agile and responsive with fabulous steering; a perfect vehicle for zipping around town. It’s only got a 1.2-litre four cylinder engine, but the turbocharger brings a lot of satisfaction.

This is probably why we didn’t get the fuel economy of 6.4-litres that Toyota claim. It was just too much fun giving the Koba a regular kick in the guts. You get a quick response and a pleasant roar. We managed 8.6L/100km.

The 7-speed auto Koba handles an open road well too, as long as you don’t have too much weight in the back. The engine produces 85kW of power and 185Nm of torque, so for a weekend away you just want overnight bags and your favourite (smallest) child.

Having said that, at speed a little extra weight might be a good thing. The Koba weighs in at just 1,375kg and you can get a bit of movement on a windy motorway. A definite contrast to its substantial feel during suburban driving.

The Koba comes with a raft of features, including Toyota’s excellent and comprehensive ANCAP five star rated safety package, standard across all C-HR models. You get seven airbags and a heap of crash avoidance technology, including auto braking.

There’s also dual-zone climate control (with “Nanoe Technology” on the Koba), heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors (also featuring automatic power fold), rain sensing wipers, auto dipping headlights, smart entry and start, and a push button park brake.

You have a choice of alloy wheels (ours looked like ninja weapons), sticker packs, skirts, under runs, protectors and racks, as well as the colour choices and interior options. In all, the most custom features available on any Toyota vehicle (unless it’s a Hilux).

The Koba, despite a couple of misses, is a great compact SUV for a couple or a small family who want a bit of “wow”. It stands out from the crowd and drives well.

And, if the Aichi lads decide to add Apple CarPlay, a sunroof and head up display next time round, it will be five star. The Toyota Koba starts at $36,988 plus on road costs.

Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Toyota C-HR Koba, contact your local Toyota dealer. Images courtesy of Tim Brand Photography.


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


Pros – looks fantastic; handles well; fun to drive; great safety features; good suspension; custom options.
Cons – rear windows; one standard colour; lack of interior storage; boot a little awkward; phone connectivity; infotainment system; pillar mounted rear door handles.
Michelle Cutler
Michelle Cutler
Growing up Michelle Cutler spent a lot of time at the newsagent, waiting for Prix Editions to hit the shelf. That young F1 nerd (with a bit of Dick Johnson thrown in) grew into a writer, graphic designer, and a general car lover with a fondness for some smooth European wheels. Her dream car is actually an XK140, but to fulfil that dream she’d have to sell her children. So for now it’s all about a spacious boot and a spicy ride.


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<strong>Pros –</strong> looks fantastic; handles well; fun to drive; great safety features; good suspension; custom options.<br> <strong>Cons –</strong> rear windows; one standard colour; lack of interior storage; boot a little awkward; phone connectivity; infotainment system; pillar mounted rear door handles.Auto Review: 2018 Toyota C-HR Koba