When the opportunity to test-drive a brand new Toyota CHR came up at work, I put my hand up – because who doesn’t want the chance to drive around in luxury for a bit? With three busy kids involved in sport (including two teenagers) and a dog who likes to stick his head out windows as we travel down the highway, I figured we’d put this vehicle through its paces and see how it stacks up as a family-about-town vehicle.
- Tips for long trips
- Why you should have a Big Weekend with your pre-teen
- Parenting is a bit like flying a kite
These days I seem to spend more time in my vehicle than in my house, with the kids’ after-school sports trainings and activities requiring me to embrace my role as designated Taxi-Driver. I try to look at this drive-time as a chance to connect with the kids, so it doesn’t feel like time lost in transit but talk-time gained. At home the kids might disappear into their rooms but in the car they are a captive audience – we’re all thrown together in a small space going places, with nothing better to do than shoot the breeze.
Some days I’m driving back and forth for two hours solid, picking up and dropping off kids. We navigate through rush-hour traffic and know all the backstreet routes to get us where we need to go as quickly as possible, which usually involves lots and lots of speed bumps. Often after all that driving I limp out of my car feeling like my poor back has been put through the wringer – my people-mover just doesn’t handle speed bumps too well. But the Toyota CHR? So smooth over the bumps I hardly feel them.
We connected our phones to the Bluetooth speakers and the kids played DJ while I drove. Usually we just have our phones sitting in a cup to try and amplify the sound. In the CHR I can control the music from my steering wheel, turning the volume up or down, skipping tracks. Forget messing about with CDs, plugging stuff in or tinny phone-in-cup music.
Driving it I feel younger and cooler and for once, the kids don’t mind being seen getting into the car with me. (Usually my eldest makes me stop up the road when I drop him off, so his friends don’t see our daggy minivan). Anyone need a ride somewhere? I want to know. I needed to return a mail order package that was the wrong size, and I found myself considering driving it in person all the way up to Waipu, just so I could drive the car for longer.
The question remains though – can this car stand up to the rigors of a family with a hairy dog? Is it just pretty and smooth and tricked out with cool gadgets – or can it also handle football boots, dog hair and kids’ general clumsiness? In the five days we had the car we made multiple trips all over Auckland, from Mt Albert to Glenfield, Henderson Valley, Pakuranga, Mission Bay and all around the town, here there and everywhere. We put it through its paces, not holding back anything that we’d usually do in our own car.
We loaded the car up with rugby players, hairy dogs, muddy boots, camping chairs and shopping. There was plenty of room for everything and everyone. The CHR handled everything we threw at it, and when I vacuumed it to return it, there was no evidence any of us had ever been there – the upholstery fabric is hard-wearing and easy to clean, so that’s a big tick right there.
The kids were sad to have to hand the car back. We really bonded with the CHR, driving at times just for fun. On Friday night we were pulling into our street singing away with the tunes playing when someone said, “Mum, do we have to go home? Can we just keep driving?” and everyone else shouted, “Yes, can we?” So we did. We got drive-through hot chocolates and turned the music up loud, singing at the top of our lungs as we drove along the waterfront. Family bonding at its best.
Our verdict on this car? As if you couldn’t tell. If someone handed me the keys to one and said, it’s yours, do you want it? I’d be the happiest girl on the planet.
The Big Weekend – hosted by Petra Bagust and Pio Terei – is designed to start conversations about sex and puberty for you, preparing you and your child for the teen years ahead. It is designed for both boys and girls and is available for purchase on CD, alternatively, visit iTunes or Spotify and search for ‘The Parenting Place’.