Toyota C-HR

Youthful-looking Qashqai rival

7.3
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 4 reviews
  • Eye-catching looks
  • Funky interior
  • Decent entry-level petrol
  • Not the greatest-to-drive in class
  • No diesel engine
  • No conventional automatic
 

£20,995 - £28,990 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

44 - 74 MPG

Review

The Toyota C-HR is a family SUV that rivals crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, and Toyota RAV4. It’s a sharply styled car that’s designed to really stand out from the competition, if that’s your thing.

The C-HR’s interior features ambient lighting and piano-black plastic for a more upmarket feel compared to its more utilitarian-looking rivals. The large infotainment screen, mounted high up, matches up with a raised driving position that gives great forward visibility. It’s not all perfect though – the 370-litre boot is significantly smaller than all of its rivals but hey – those looks don’t come free.

Another potential worry is the lack of a diesel engine from launch, instead, you can choose between a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol (borrowed from the Auris), which is available with two or four-wheel drive, and a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid. The latter uses proven tech (and, sadly, the droning CVT gearbox) from the Prius to achieve a fuel consumption of 74mpg and low CO2 emissions, making for free road tax.

Like most of Toyota’s range, the C-HR comes in Icon, Excel and Dynamic trim levels. Icon gives you the basics such as air-con and an infotainment system, Excel adds sat-nav and a plethora of safety systems and Dynamic tops the range with LED headlights and bespoke interior upholstery.

Toyota’s really pitched the C-HR at a younger audience than its other cars, and the interior design follows the brave exterior forms. It’s very distinctively styled and the few buttons in the cabin aren’t shared with other Toyota models, making this feel like a fresh start for the brand.

Sit in the driver’s seat and the wraparound dashboard makes you feel in command of everything around you, while the repeating diamond theme in the design adds an air of sophistication that’d feel at home on a Lexus… The materials used are also of higher quality than you’d expect in a Toyota – soft-touch plastics and gloss black inserts add class almost everywhere you look.

The main design element is a coloured strip that runs the whole width of the dashboard and can range in colour from a blueish purple to the more traditional brown or silver. Storage areas are also pretty decent in the C-HR – the door bins will comfortably swallow half-litre bottles, the glovebox is roomy and the small cubby in front of the gear lever is perfect storage for your smartphone.

Toyota C-HR infotainment

All models come with a touchscreen infotainment system with a seven-inch screen called Touch 2. It’s mounted high up on the dashboard so it’s easy to see and use, but the basic C-HR does without sat-nav. There’s also no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support, so despite having a touchscreen infotainment system there’s hardly anything to do with it if you go for the cheapest C-HR. That said, it still has DAB digital radio and you can connect your phone as music storage.

Move up to one of the two other trim levels and you get the Go upgrade, which adds online connectivity as well as sat-nav. The graphics aren’t the best looking in class, but setting a route and following the instructions is super easy, hindered only by the lack of pinch-to-zoom functionality.

A nod from Toyota to younger buyers is the optional JBL soundsystem. It fills the cabin with 576 watts of sound and is really worth the money if you’re an audiophile. If you go for the mid-spec models and above then the connectivity features will let you download a range of apps including internet radio and social media favourites.

Toyota C-HR passenger space

The C-HR’s near-concept-car looks makes it appear smaller than it actually is. OK, it may look like a Nissan Juke’s brother from another mother, it actually has the same footprint as the larger Qashqai.

This means that, despite the coupe lines, there’s more than enough space up front, although if you’re a budding basketball player you’ll find the VW Tiguan more accommodating. What impresses is that the driving position has a wide range of adjustment – depending on your preference you can sit quite high for that commanding view of the road ahead or adopt a more sporty, closer-to-the-ground driving position – it’s up to you.

Passengers in the back aren’t so well treated because the drawbacks of the stylish raked roofline are most keenly felt in the rear seats. The small windows lend a feeling of claustrophobia and the seat can’t accommodate three adults as comfortably as the Seat Ateca can. Rearward visibility is also quite poor, but all models come with a reversing camera. Mid-range Excel trim adds all-round parking sensors, while top-of-the-range Dynamic models come with park assist.

Toyota C-HR boot space

Obviously such a distinctive design will have impact on practicality and as a result the boot space is competitive against small hatchbacks rather than family-focused rivals such as the Renault Kadjar. The Toyota’s boot measures 377 litres which should be enough for the weekend luggage, but you can fit quite a bit more in a Seat Ateca with its 485-litre boot.

The shape of the boot is roomy and square with minimal intrusions, but there’s very limited underfloor storage and very few clever storage features – there’s just two tether points and that’s it.

Underneath that eye-catching exterior actually lies a platform that’s shared to a large extent with the Toyota Prius. Now, a car such as the Prius doesn’t immediately scream handling prowess or fun behind the wheel, but the C-HR is actually really good fun to drive.

Toyota really wants to win over European customers so a lot of time went into making the C-HR ride and handle just right. It’s in fact one of the best small crossovers to drive thanks to an agility that’s been missing from the latest rivals. The Seat Ateca might be equally fun to chuck at a corner, but the rest of the time its firm ride is just a bit annoying. The C-HR manages to be both engaging and cosseting at the same time courtesy of the Prius platform that has a very low centre of gravity which also reduces body roll.

All models are front-wheel drive as standard with a four-wheel-drive system called Dynamic Torque Control being optional on the 1.2-litre petrol, equipped with the CVT automatic. The system is really a last resort, because it only engages the rear wheels on demand and never sends more than half the engine’s power there. So in the real world, 95 per cent of the time, you’re ferrying around the extra weight without getting any real use out of it – a set of good winter tyres will probably be a better investment if you’re concerned by winter grip.

As it’s now customary there are driving modes to choose from and unlike Audi’s dizzying seven settings, here you get three – Sport, Normal and Eco. They alter the weight of the steering, the throttle response and on models equipped with the CVT gearbox – the severity of the shifts. Even Though the selectable driving modes let you tailor the driving experience to your needs and mood, the C-HR feel best left in Normal.

Where the C-HR falls down a bit is the engine choice. What is available is frugal and modern, but with just two options, both petrol, you may be better off looking elsewhere if you do lots of miles.

The cheapest C-HR comes with a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine that makes 114hp. Its pulling power is available from low in the rev range so it doesn’t feel sluggish and the overall refinement of the engine is what impresses the most. It won’t set your pants on fire, but it moves the C-HR around just fine – the light, progressive clutch and positive feel of the standard six-speed manual gearbox make it easy and enjoyable to drive. The small petrol returns 47mpg on the combined cycle and emits 134g/km of CO2 for a £130 annual road tax bill – or slightly behind a like-for-like 1.2-litre Nissan Qashqai that returns 50mpg and is £20 cheaper to tax.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid

However, where most customers are expected to go is towards the hybrid model which promises some impressive running costs. Part of the reasoning why there’s no diesel engine in the line up is that if you go by official figures, the hybrid is just as frugal as rival diesels while being kinder to the environment. Toyota claims an average consumption of 74mpg with headline-grabbing CO2 emissions of just 87g/km making road tax free. The low BiK of 15% also makes the hybrid C-HR a great proposition as a company car.

The trouble is, in the real world, the hybrid C-HR doesn’t perform as admirably as its Prius origins might suggest. In the C-HR Hybrid you can travel for about a mile on electric power alone, but even the faintest application of the throttle wakes up the 1.8-litre petrol and the cabin fills with an annoying drone thanks to the CVT automatic. Keen drivers will find the manual 1.2-litre petrol a much better engine for the C-HR.

Toyota knows young customers like to express their individuality so there’s a contrasting black roof option as well as a protection pack that adds buff skid plates to the front and rear bumpers.

Toyota C-HR Icon

The Icon is the entry-level model, but it’s well equipped.. Yes, the C-HR isn’t exactly a bargain when compared to rivals, but the generous standard equipment makes up for that somewhat. There’s a dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, and the aforementioned Touch 2 infotainment system with an integrated reversing camera. Autonomous emergency braking is standard with only leather upholstery missing from this otherwise great kit list.

Toyota C-HR Excel

Move up to mid-range Excel trim and you get soft leather seats that can also be heated. There’s more safety kit as standard such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-change assist. Sat-nav gets added to the infotainment system, rear passengers get tinted windows and all-round parking sensors are standard too, making this the best value trim level.

Toyota C-HR Dynamic

The top-spec Dynamic model builds upon the Excel with larger wheels, finer leather for the interior, hands-free parking and LED headlights but it’s hard to justify next to the well-equipped cheaper models. Unfortunately, at this point the C-HR is pretty expensive.

Conclusion

Toyota might be late to the small, stylish crossover party but the C-HR has a lot going for it – it’s a small, stylish crossover that’s also good fun to drive, a lot like the original RAV4 was back in 1994. It’s just about practical enough to meet the needs of a young family and it has a classy cabin that’s up there with any of its rivals.

It may be an alternative to mainstream models but it should also definitely be near the top of your shortlist.

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