This is Toyota showing it’s not asleep at the wheel by actually putting some effort into designing a car for once. In actual fact, it’s a small crossover hatch based on the new Prius’s platform and available with either hybrid power or an underpowered 1.2-litre turbo which is, nevertheless, the engine to go for.
But in the main, this is a car all about the design, from its willfully OTT bodywork to the cabin, which is Toyota’s best effort since the Supra. And because the Coupe High-Rider’s chassis was set up by a racing fan, it’s actually sweeter to drive than most of Toyota’s other cars, despite being a tall, not especially lightweight faux-SUV.
Bad, predictable news out of the way first: the hybrid is no cop whatsoever to drive. The 1.8-litre engine and e-motor only develop 120bhp, and with over 1400kg of Toyota to shift and a CVT getting in the way, progress is neither swift nor refined. Though it can be economical if you’re careful.
The 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo with its slick six-speed manual is undoubtedly the best showcase for the C-HR’s rather deft handling, though it’s about 50bhp short of making the best of its talent reserves. The ride’s smoother than a Mazda CX-3’s or Audi Q2’s, so you can get away with the 18-inch rims of the speccier trim levels. You can’t get a diesel C-HR because Toyota doesn’t like them.
On the inside
There are lots of ideas colliding inside the Toyota C-HR, not all of them successful. The fundamentals are strong – there’s a comfortable driving position with more adjustment than a Nissan Juke’s, and the 7in touchscreen offers plenty of functionality, if lacking in resolution. Some of the materials, particularly on the doors, are horrid, but the switchgear has been thoughtfully arranged. To get the required design coherence, there are unique climate controls with diamond-shaped buttons, instead of a parts-bin control panel. That must have been an expensive decision, but it shows how much love and care this Toyota team has put into the C-HR.
On the downside, prioritising form over function means rear visibility is pretty poor, even if space, surprisingly, isn’t. Even the boot’s a good size, at 377 litres. Pity the wing-shod tailgate is so heavy. Those ‘hidden’ rear doorhandles are pretty fiddly as well.
Toyota expects the C-HR Hybrid to be the top-selling powertrain. And for businesses, that’s fine: the CO2 is an impressive 86g/km. That’s the ideal tax-reducing company car right there. It is the system from the Prius, after all. However, we found it’ll do a real-world 47mpg, not the 72mpg claimed. It’s also around three grand more expensive than the turbo petrol, which claims 47mpg and should do high-30s, so think if you’re going to be offsetting that any time soon before you go petrol-electric.