The new Toyota C-HR attracts a lot of attention.
For a mid-sized family hatchback to draw this amount of attention it is either: a) Very noisy b) Very unusual or c) Very much on fire.
I’m glad to say that the C-HR I’ve been driving around in is neither very noisy nor very much on fire.
It is most definitely unusual though because on first looks it appears to have out-origamied Lexus when it comes to folding-paper inspiration. It has more angles than a box of Pythagoras’s favourite 3-sided shapes.
But are people looking in admiration or disbelief? Well, everyone that engaged me in conversation about the Coupe High-Rider loved how it looked. And so do I.
You have to admire Toyota for going out on a limb and producing a crossover that shakes things up a little – even though calling the C-HR a coupe is a bit of a stretch. It’s a 5-door hatchback with a crossover stance. Hiding the rear-door handles in the top of the frame doesn’t make it a coupe in my book but it’s a fine piece of design nonetheless and way better looking than one its main rivals – the rather ugly Nissan Juke.
Thankfully, Toyota’s boldness also extends to the interior where you’ll find a lot to like – such as the diamond-shape textured door trims and the flashes of neon blue trim that are both refreshing and stylish without being overbearing.
To reinforce the link between the interior and exterior design, many switches have a similar shape, reflecting the diamond motif of the bodyshell. The same diamond theme can be seen in the door trim pattern, the JBL audio speaker grilles, the shape of the tweeter and even the needles on the analogue instrument dials.
The 8in touchscreen rises out of the dash and at first seems to be a little “in your face” but the fact that it is easy to reach without being distracting makes a lot of sense. Pity about that 1980s digital clock to the left of it though . . .
The front seats are adjustable enough to get comfortable and are definitely a little on the sportier side – hugging you well without being too narrow. Driving position is very good and visibility through the front and sides is good. It’s not so good through the rear though where the narrow screen and thick C-pillars obscure your view somewhat. Luckily, all models come with a rear camera so it’s no deal-breaker.
I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a more pleasing Toyota – and I like the new Prius very much. The C-HR feels and looks so much more modern than what has gone before and the only quibble I would have about the interior is the space for rear passengers which is a little claustrophobic.
The problem is that the rear windows are simply too small – they look great from the outside and the door handle integrated into the top of the door is a great talking point but I’m afraid your kids aren’t going to like being sat in there for too long. Or anyone else for that matter.
There is enough head and leg room in there to get comfortable but there just isn’t enough light – which is a great pity because the front of the cabin is such a delightful place to be.
The C-HR is available with just 2 engine choices – the 1.2 litre, turbo-charged petrol or the 1.8-litre Hybrid. The petrol version is available with a 6-speeed manual or an automatic gearbox and if you want 4WD then you have to go with the petrol auto.
There are three trim levels: Icon, Excel and Dynamic with the Hybrid engine being available on all three. Prices start at £21,065 for the 1.2 FWD Icon with a 6-speed manual gearbox or £23,685 if you want to go Hybrid.
The Excel is available from £24,065 and the Dynamic from £25,565. All models are well-equipped with an excellent array of safety features and driver-aids with even the base Icon model getting 17in alloy wheels, Toyota Touch 2 Multimedia system with an 8in touch-screen, a reversing camera, auto headlights and auto wipers, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering control, road-sign assist, auto high-beam, dual-zone auto air-con and adaptive cruise control.
Step up to the Excel model and you also get intelligent parking-assist, heated front seats, blind spot monitor and lane-change assist, rear cross traffic alert as well as 18in alloy wheels and privacy glass in the rear. For £26,550 you can also have the auto gearbox and 4WD.
Range-topping Dynamic buyers get mostly cosmetic enhancements such as fancier alloy wheels, a metallic black bi-tone roof and LED front and rear lights with sequential indicators at the front. There are also front LED fog lights. The 4WD auto will cost you £28,050 and the Hybrid (FWD only) comes in at £28,085.
I’ve been driving the C-HR Dynamic 1.2 petrol with CVT auto gearbox and I consider you should think long and hard before spending extra on a Hybrid. The 1.2 drives so well and returns almost 48 mpg on the combined cycle – I was getting a reasonable 44 mpg. The Hybrid has an official combined figure of 74.3 mpg – but I doubt that you will get anywhere near that as the 1.8 engine appears to kick-in at the merest hint of acceleration. Maybe if the majority of your mileage is around town the Hybrid may make some sense but for me the 1.2 turbo petrol was more than up to the job whether it was scooting around town or blasting down an A-road.
I found the handling to be better than expected with lumps and bumps handled very well and very little body roll around faster bends. I’d say the C-HR is as almost as much fun to drive as SEAT’s class-leading Ateca but not quite as practical.
Steering is light but not without feel and I found on the motorway the C-HR certainly didn’t “wander”. It was quiet too with a little wind noise from around the door mirrors and a barely noticeable whine from the CVT box that certainly isn’t intrusive.
Toyota have achieved a very good-looking, well-equipped and fun-to-drive crossover with the C-HR which they say has been designed specifically for the European market. It certainly rides our less-than-perfect roads very well and it also appeals to the European sense of individuality that some manufacturers overlook.
Toyota C-HR Dynamic 1.2 CVT
OTR Price: £25,565
Engine: 1.2 turbo petrol
Power: 114 bhp
Transmission: CVT Automatic
0-62mph: 11.4 secs
Top Speed: 111 mph
Combined Economy: 47.9 mpg