Toyota C-HR 1.2 Turbo review
If your family has outgrown the Nissan Juke and the Qashqai is too staid, then Toyota's flamboyant new C-HR is worth a look. The hybrid version does not drive as well as the Prius on which it is closely based but the 1.2 litre turbo petrol combines style with a zestful personality. Taxation policies will make the hybrid the bigger seller. Toyota says the C-HR is a major addition its range. The company expects to sell more than 16,000 C-HRs over the next 12 months. Ninety per cent of buyers will use Toyota's Access purchase plan.
Review by Russell Bray
The new C-HR is available with a choice of a petrol engine, the lightweight and compact 1.2 litre direct injection unit from the Auris, or a 1.8 litre petrol-electric hybrid from the Prius. The petrol engine, tested here, produces 114bhp at 5,200 rpm and 137 lbs of torque. There's a strong spread of power from 1,500 to 4,000rpm thanks to the low inertia turbocharger. This gives the six-speed manual gearbox model the ability to accelerate from rest to 62mph in a sprightly 10.9 seconds. Top speed is 118mph. At times you can sense the engine increasing revs when changing down gears. This is something the driver used to have to do and was known as a heel and toe gear change. If you enjoy driving you will stay clear of the dull and noisy hybrid in favour of the sweet and enthusiastic petrol. The towing capacity (braked) is 1,300kg for the 1.2 petrol compared to only 725kg for the hybrid version. If Toyota expects 75% of sales to be hybrid it needs to improve the car which is disappointingly unrefined compared to the Prius it is based on.
The degree to which you can throw the Toyota C-HR about on a twisty road came as a pleasant surprise and well justifies the sport part of its SUV name, though Toyota prefers the 'crossover' terminology for a car which spans several sectors of the market. The C-HR is impressively agile at changing direction, has good cornering grip and the steering inspires confidence even though not brilliant for road 'feel'. Toyota has replaced some rubber bushes in the suspension with stiffer ball bushes for more direct steering feel and claims the car has the lowest centre of gravity of cars in its class. This is a big 2.5 cms lower than a Prius. The lower weight of the petrol only model, a minimum 60kg, and I am surprised it isn't more, means it rides and handles better than the battery laden hybrid. Its steering feels more genuine as well. Its smoothness over broken Tarmac was as good as Peugeot's new 3008.
Toyota has pulled off a clever trick with its new crossover model, the Coupe High Rider. Dramatically styled with huge flared wheel arches, it looks distinctive and purposeful without being aggressive and threatening, which could earn a reprimand from safety organisations and the thought police. And apparently Toyota considered other names but couldn't find one. It's a bigger car than you think; something not always obvious on a foreign press launch. The C-HR is a match for the Nissan Qashqai or the new Seat Ateca in size. Wide windscreen pillars mean extra care is needed at junctions. General rear vision for reversing – there is a camera – is pretty dire as we discovered in Madrid evening traffic. And I am not sure children are going to like the high sided rear doors unless they are completely engrossed in their tablet computers, and even ten-year-olds will struggle to reach and work the high mounted rear door handles when told to get aboard. Length 4,360mm. Width 1,795mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Ride comfort is strong with the C-HR. Despite its big 18-inch alloy wheels the 1.2 litre petrol rode well with none of the lurching or wallowing that often afflicts vehicles with extra ground clearance for a modicum of off-road ability. And on fast sweepers out in the deserted countryside there was very little 'float' over undulations despite the C-HR's height. Yes, more feedback would be better, but the car steers precisely until you build up a lot of force in the tyres. The car's six-speed manual gearbox behaved pleasantly and accurately. The light clutch was not too springy. There's plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and steering wheel but we spent more time trying to adjust them to minimise blindspots caused by the wide door pillars, small rear windows and curvy rear styling. There are some interesting, high tech looking materials in the cabin and a generally plush feeling. The satellite navigation tried to send us into a loop several times but it was a complex route programmed with a lot of way points. The adaptive cruise control was fine but the road sign assist not totally dependable. You adjust the temperature with buttons rather than a rotary dial which seems a step backwards. Overall refinement was very good though a second car had noticeably more wind noise at motorway speeds. That could probably be adjusted.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Not only is the C-HR pricey compared to rivals like the new Seat Ateca, but in petrol form it's not as fuel efficient either. On 18-inch wheels the official combined fuel consumption is 47.1 MPG with carbon dioxide emissions of 136 g/km. That puts the C-HR into band E which means annual road tax of £130. Spirited driving, to get back to the airport, saw 35.8 MPG according to the on-board trip computer.
Yes, it's a small engine but it's crammed with technology. The high (10.1:1) compression ratio is a major reason for the potential fuel economy but means were needed to prevent 'knocking' or uncontrolled combustion. Fuel and air are mixed faster thanks to a vertical vortex and pistons shaped to increase turbulence in the cylinders. The temperature of individual parts of the engine is controlled by oil jets cooling the pistons, direct injection and separate cooling of the engine block. To further improve fuel consumption the engine can switch between an Otto cycle and an Atkinson one. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 44.
By Toyota's previous standards this is a classy cabin with some good quality trim materials and a smart finish, but we were in the European equivalent of a UK top spec car and that means a price of £25,495. Standard specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, dual zone air conditioning, multimedia touch screen and rain sensing windscreen wipers. All models come with a touch screen that works the Bluetooth phone connectivity and DAB radio. Further up the range there's satellite navigation (that struggled in Madrid). The system is permanently connected to the internet so you can get live traffic updates but the price of such functions isn't yet known. My colleague and I are pretty tech-wise but found the menu and screen layout poor. The optional 10-speaker JBL system was powerful. An optional tech pack includes keyless entry and start, blind spot and rear crossways traffic alert, automatic folding door mirrors and lane change warning. There is also a leather trim pack, sport pack and various entertainment packs.
Model tested: Toyota C-HR
Body-style: Five-door crossover
Engine / CO2: 114bhp 1.2 litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine / g/km
Trim grades: Icon, Excel, Dynamic
On-road price: From £20,995. Price as tested £25,495
Warranty: Five years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars