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Thursday - 28 October 2021

GR Lite: 2021 Toyota C-HR GR Sport Review

First there was the GR Supra, and it was good. Then came the GR Yaris, and it blew us away. Now, a third member of Toyota’s line-up has received the handiwork of Toyota Gazoo Racing. What you see here look all rakish and aggressive is the Toyota C-HR GR Sport which sits atop the C-HR range priced from $42,990 TDP (Toyota Driveaway Price).

As we have just established, the C-HR GR Sport’s biggest difference to the naked eye is that body kit. At first you notice a shadow-chrome inset with GR Sport insignia in the centre of that aggressive looking front grill, which to be honest does have a whiff of a Rugby half-back’s mouthguard. Either side of said grill are imitation vents with fog-lights which pay homage to the GR Yaris.

Along with the two-tone colour combo of my test car and that extended sports cap-on-backwards spoiler, the most eye-catching feature would be those 19-inch alloys, which really lift the side profile. Oh, and did I mention there are plenty of GR emblems scattered around too. This is certainly a C-HR you would find hard to lose in the carpark of your local Pak n Save.

Inside, it very much is a case of C-HR déjà vu but with a few additives to continue the GR theme. The most noticeable from the get go being those delightful GR Sport semi leather and suede sports seats. Easily the most comfortable and supportive of any C-HR, these provide a tonne of support and allow you to sit low and in an optimum position to drive. The leather wrapped steering wheel also feels good in your hands and other features like sports pedals, piano black trim around the centre console and dash controls, and a GR starter button complete the ensemble.

Where the C-HR GR Sport falls short is still rear passenger entry and exit, due to the sloping rear coupe design, those of taller stature will struggle to get in and out, and once inside, head and legroom is decent but could be better. That said, the C-HR was never really about lugging the whole family around. Luggage space is rated at 311L which is average, but loading and unloading is pretty easy.

Naturally, the C-HR GR Sport gets Toyota’s Safetysense package as standard which gives you features like Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Pedestrian and Intersection Turn Assist, Radar Guided Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring and Active Cornering Assist. You also get other high end Toyota fruit like Sat Nav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

If you opt for the C-HR GR Sport, the only option you get as far as engines go, is Hybrid. The GR Sport gets the same engine and powertrain you would find in the regular C-HR Hybrid which means a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid combo producing 90kW and 142Nm of torque. This sends power to the front wheels via Toyota’s e-CVT transmission. Toyota also claim 4.3L/100km combined.

While the powertrain has been untouched by Toyota Gazoo Racing, the underpinnings have been given a rework by those GR boffins. The ride height has been lowered by 15 mm and all the dampers, struts and suspension have been tuned to give a more sporting and immediate feel.

On the move, you certainly notice these tweaks. The ride is still comfortable but the stiffer springs mean you notice those subtle changes in the road surface a lot more than before. Its not unbearable by any stretch, but things are certainly just that little bit firmer.

The natural advantage to this is when the going gets twisty, the C-HR GR Sport is a much more entertaining drive than before. Thanks to more direct steering and those previously mentioned tweaks to what lies underneath, you can turn in harder and corner quicker than the standard Hybrid. It is by far the most entertaining and engaging C-HR around. A few times I actually took the longer route home just for the heck of it.

However, when you are doing a motorway commute or negotiating the inner-city hustle and bustle while not driving exuberantly in anyway, there is very little to distinguish the GR Sport from its regular Hybrid sibling. Electric and petrol power combined give a decent amount of go and you will be emitting 99g/km of C02.

While it is disappointing that Toyota Gazoo Racing were not given free reign over the engineering of the C-HR to really distance it from the rest of the line-up, there is still much to like here. A GR Yaris on stilts it is not, but what is for certain, is the C-HR GR Sport is another well sorted and somewhat quirky addition to what was already a decent family of small SUVs to begin with. It also represents the most affordable way to say you have a GR tuned Toyota.

RATING: 7/10

Ben Selby
I have been scribbling about cars in New Zealand since the age of 17. When not doing this, I am usually found with my family, going on walks, or binging some Star Trek or classic British comedy. Yeah, I am a geek at heart.

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