Toyota C-HR Review

The Toyota C-HR is a stylish family car with the option of two cheap-to-run hybrid engines. It’s not quite as practical as plenty of other less eye-catching SUVs, though. 

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expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Sci-fi styling
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Frugal hybrid engine

What's not so good

  • CVT gearboxes
  • Feels quite cheap in places
  • Noisy at motorway speeds

Toyota C-HR: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

If you’re looking for a small family SUV that’ll have no trouble standing out from the crowd, the Toyota C-HR is well worth a look. It’s easy to drive and cheap to run, but the first thing you’ll notice about it is just how futuristic it looks.

Unlike some SUVs that are little more than jacked-up hatchbacks, the Toyota C-HR – its name stands for Coupe High Rider – looks like it’s taken a wrong turn off the set of Star Trek and ended up in Sainsbury’s car park.

Sure, you get a bunch of chunky black plastic bumpers and side skirts, but the Toyota C-HR’s angular headlights, strongly creased sides and swooping coupe-like roofline make it look much sportier than a conventional boxy SUV. A 2019 facelift gave the car scrolling LED indicators, new front and rear bumpers and new head and tail lights – so it now looks even more striking.

Climb inside, and you’ll find the Toyota C-HR’s interior looks just as flashy as its exterior and quality was improved slightly in 2019 with soft-touch plastics used on the insides of the front doors.

A streak of trim stretches from the front doors all the way across the dashboard and you get plenty of embossed plastics that mimic the C-HR’s diamond-patterned grille. Sadly, while some of these surfaces feel lovely and soft, the lower third of the dashboard and all the plastics in the rear seat hard.

That said, the Toyota feels like a very solid car so it’s a shame the infotainment isn’t also a solid performer. It’s nowhere near as easy to use as the system you get in a VW Tiguan, but 2019 saw Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added to the spec list, so you can avoid Toyota’s system and use the far more intuitive controls of your Apple or Android smartphone.

Toyota’s styling department really took its brave pills with the C-HR – it looks like nothing else on the road. Whether or not that’s a good thing will be up to you…

Mat Watson
carwow expert

The Toyota C-HR isn’t quite as roomy as a Tiguan, either. Sure, there’s ample space for tall adults in the front but the tiny rear windows and sloping roofline make it feel rather dark and dingy in the back. The boot’s significantly smaller than in almost all other similar-sized SUVs, too.

These small windows also make the Toyota C-HR rather tricky to see out of, but at least it comes with parking sensors to help you avoid low-speed bumps. The steering’s nice and light too, so you won’t struggle to drive it through tight city streets and the suspension does a fairly good job ironing out bumps and potholes.

It’s not quite as relaxing to drive as the Peugeot 3008 – you can blame the rather intrusive wind and tyre noise for that – but the Toyota C-HR handles twisty roads surprisingly well. It has plenty of grip and barely leans in tight corners, so your passengers shouldn’t have any reason to feel car sick.

Neither the Toyota’s 1.2-litre turbo petrol nor 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid engine feels particularly sporty, but they’re both reasonably smooth and return pretty decent fuel economy.

A new 2.0-litre petrol-electric engine arrived in 2019 and is the pick of the range offering a combination of reasonable performance and shockingly good fuel economy.  It’s just a shame that the CVT automatic gearbox you get as standard with the hybrid model makes such an annoying din when you accelerate hard.

Thankfully, the standard manual gearbox in 1.2-litre models is a doddle to use – and it’ll save you a few quid over the optional automatic, too. Speaking of saving money, check out our Toyota C-HR deals page to see the latest offers.

How practical is it?

The Toyota C-HR is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to practicality. There’s loads of room in the front and space for three adults in the back, but alternatives have bigger, more practical boots

The Toyota’s futuristic rear end might look great, but its narrow boot opening makes loading flat-pack furniture feel like you’re threading a needle

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
358 - 377 litres
Boot (seats down)
862 - 924 litres

The Toyota C-HR’s front seats are very supportive and there’s plenty of adjustment to help you get comfortable if you’re over six-foot tall. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to hit your head on the roof-mounted grab handle when you jump out if you’re very tall.

The Toyota C-HR’s sporty looks and sloping roofline mean rear passengers don’t get as much space as in the likes of the SEAT Ateca or Peugeot 3008. There’s a fair amount of legroom and enough room under the seats in front to tuck your feet but headroom is limited and the Toyota C-HR’s small rear windows make it feel significantly more cramped than a VW Tiguan.

There’s still enough room to carry three adults in the back in reasonable comfort, though. The central rear seat is wide and soft enough for anyone under six-foot to fit happily but the protruding front-seat rails may get in the way if your passengers have particularly large feet.

You’ll find fitting a child seat is a bit of a pain. The rear doors don’t open particularly wide and the low roofline (which you don’t get in many other SUVs) means you’ll have to stoop down to strap in a child. The Isofix anchor points are clearly marked, however – just try not to lose their removable plastic covers.

There’s plenty of space in the Toyota C-HR to hide away a range of family bits and bobs. The glovebox is roomy and there’s a large storage bin under the front armrest that comes with a 12V socket as standard. The cupholders moulded into the centre console are big enough to hold a large bottle and, if you remove their plastic inserts, they’ll safely support the tallest of bladder-bursting beverages with ease.

Space for odds-and-sods is less generous in the back. You get cupholders built into the rear doors instead of more practical bins, but they’re so shallow a small cup can easily tip over if you take a sharp bend quickly. A pair of aeroplane-style seat-back pockets come as standard but you can’t get the Toyota C-HR with a fold-down rear armrest. Why not, Toyota?

The Toyota C-HR’s steeply angled rear windscreen and sloping roofline all cut into the boot space. As a result, it’ll only swallow 377 litres of luggage with five seats and the parcel shelf in place. For comparison, the Peugeot 3008 and VW Tiguan can both carry more than 50 per-cent more luggage than the rather cramped Toyota.

It’s still big enough to carry a baby stroller and a few soft bags, however, but loading a set of golf clubs is a very tight squeeze. There are a few tethering points and some shopping hooks to stop smaller items rolling around but there’s no room under the boot floor to store any valuables out of sight.

There aren’t any handy catches in the boot to fold the rear seats so you’ll have to lean forwards to flip them down in a two-way (60:40) split. The large boot lip and significant step in the floor makes it difficult to slide in heavy items and there’s no adjustable boot floor option, either. As a result, it’s tricky to make good use of the Toyota C-HR’s 1,160-litre load bay.

Unlike the VW Tiguan, you can’t get a Toyota C-HR with three-way (40:20:40) split-folding rear seats. It’s still roomy enough to carry a bike with both its wheels attached, but the Tiguan has significantly more space with all its rear seats folded.

What's it like to drive?

The Toyota C-HR manages feel pretty sporty without sending every bump in the road into the cabin. Unfortunately, it’s pretty noisy on the motorway

Avoid the automatic gearbox – it’s about as annoying as having a wasp trapped in your ear and sounds pretty much the same, too

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can get the Toyota C-HR with a 1.2-litre petrol engine or with a hybrid system that combines either a 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack.

Pick the 1.2-litre model if you spend most of your time driving around town. It’s quiet, smooth and just about punchy enough to keep up with faster traffic if you venture out onto a motorway. Models fitted with a slick manual gearbox return around 41mpg.

The cheaper of the two hybrids uses the same tried-and-tested 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor as the Toyota Prius to return around 70mpg. Unlike the Prius, however, it isn’t exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The 2.0-litre model isn’t either but its hybrid tech means that 80% of town driving can be handled by the electric motor alone, it also feels a good bit quicker than the 1.8 and still has no issues returning fuel economy of around 50mpg.

Both hybrids come fitted with a CVT automatic gearbox that makes the engine drone noisily when you accelerate, both around town and on the motorway. It’s available on the 1.2-litre petrol model, too, for an extra £1,200 but it’s well worth avoiding – the six-speed manual is easily slick enough to make light work of heavy traffic. The leather around the gear knob can squeak annoyingly when you change gear though.

You sit lower in the Toyota C-HR than you do in the likes of a SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008. As a result, you don’t get such a raised view of the road ahead – it’s a sort of halfway-house between a conventional hatchback and a full-blown SUV.

The pillars where the doors meet the windscreen are punctuated by some handy extra windows by the wing mirrors, so there aren’t any awkward blind spots to worry about at junctions.

Unfortunately, the Toyota C-HR’s low roof, minuscule back windows and small rear windscreen give you a terrible view rearwards. Thankfully, all C-HR models come with a reversing camera as standard while Excel and Dynamic models also come with front and rear parking sensors and a self-parking system that’ll steer for you into bay and parallel spaces.

The Toyota C-HR’s controls are reasonably light which helps make it fairly easy to thread through tight city streets. It’ll cope with rutted British roads reasonably well too, but the larger 18-inch wheels fitted to mid-range models can highlight larger bumps and potholes.

The Toyota C-HR has loads of grip and doesn’t lean much in tight corners. It’s sportier than most SUVs but not quite as fun to drive as a SEAT Ateca. It isn’t as relaxing to drive as a Peugeot 3008, either, thanks to the loud wind noise and intrusive tyre roar you’ll hear at motorway speeds.

Euro NCAP awarded the Toyota C-HR an impressive five-star safety rating in the strict 2017 tests, making it one of the safest family cars you can buy. It performed particularly well in the safety assists category thanks to all models coming with adaptive cruise control (to automatically match the speed of the car in front), lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and road sign assist as standard.

What's it like inside?

Stepping into the C-HR’s cabin is like climbing into a car from the future. Unfortunately, it’s let down by some cheap plastics and dingy back seats

Next Read full interior review
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