1.3.2018Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid review
In a market that is increasingly crowded, Toyota's C-HR manages to stand out. The striking styling is the most immediate attribute that makes on-lookers turn their heads to take in the crossover. It's not all about the design though, since the C-HR is one of the very few models available as a hybrid. With every mainstream manufacturer looking to getting a piece of the crossover pie, how does Toyota's option stack up?
Review by Chris Lilly
Although also available with a 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol, the majority of C-HR sales to date have been the hybrid version - at a ratio of more than two out of every three C-HR's sold. Powering the popular hybrid model is a 1.8 litre Atkinson cycle petrol unit, boosted by a 53 kW electric motor. Total power available for the driver comes in at 120 hp, with 142 Nm of torque to pull the Toyota along. This means the 0-62mph time is dispatched in 11.0 seconds, which is far from sprightly - but then it's not too sluggish either. In fact, on the road the C-HR feels a bit quicker than this sprint time would suggest, no doubt helped by the instant shove provided by the electric motor. All of the power goes through an e-CVT gearbox to the front wheels, which still drones away when accelerating, but is much better than previous generation systems. The lack of 'ratios' means the performance is more difficult to gauge accurately, since there is no sense that you are picking up speed in the traditional way an engine does - a rise in engine note thanks to the corresponding increase in revs. Likewise, the stealthy performance of electric power gives an eerie impression of pace, but the C-HR manages to fit into neither of these categories. The e-CVT is often maligned by the press for its unrefined nature when pushed hard. However, it is more efficient than a conventional automatic or manual transmission, and the C-HR's refinement is improved when up to speed as a result of it. Pick up around town is good, and the C-HR more than holds its own on the open road - be it A-road or motorway. It's no crossover equivalent of a hot hatch, but you will rarely think you could do with more power. At slower speeds the C-HR is smooth to drive too and, despite it's youthful styling, the Toyota drives in a grown-up manner.
Almost in contrast to the average performance from the C-HR comes sharp handling, with a quick and precise action to the steering. It's brought back in line with the engine set-up thanks to minimal feedback through the wheel, which adds to the Toyota's refinement. The C-HR handles well despite a lack of performance focus, with stiff suspension combating body roll through the bends, but not too much so as to make occupants uncomfortable. It's a well pitched configuration that works nicely on rough surfaces, but allows the driver to have fun down a twisty road too. More practically, the C-HR is easy to pilot around town and car parks, with the lightness and accuracy of its steering making parking a doddle. It will nip in and out of side streets and traffic well too and, despite performing comfortably out of town, the urban environment is where the C-HR is at its most comfortable.
The C-HR's design is not going to appeal to everyone, but it's a striking bit of styling - and one that I like. The attention to detail is excellent from Toyota, and the C-HR certainly stands out in a crowd. With a compact footprint, the C-HR has its wheels pushed into each corner for a sportier stance and to help free up interior space. The design does have an impact on outright practicality though, since the sharply rising window line and large rear pillar do restrict visibility in certain situations. The 'hidden' rear door handles help create a coupe-like look, though this does mean they are very high up for children to open - which could be construed as a plus by some. The interior impacts aren't just limited to the driver's view either. There's a decent amount of occupant space in the back, but taller passengers will feel a bit squashed. That sense of being in a small space is exacerbated by the high window line too, as it creates a relatively dark rear. Boot space is also below par for the Toyota's class, knocking the C-HR down the list of options for those looking for a practical model. Access is good though, with a wide boot opening, and high floor to lift things onto. Up front though, there is plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room. Overall, the C-HR's look does seem a bit overly fussy from some angles and has a bit of an impact on overall practicality, but it's a nice piece of design.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The same attention to design taken for the exterior is carried over to the inside too. The cabin is focused on the driver, with the touchscreen and air-conditioning controls angled to the main seat in the house. The dials are deep set too, and the steering wheel is a nice size and shape to feel as though you are the centre of attention when behind it. There are lots of nice little touches about the place too, including the diamond motif that Toyota has used as a key part of the C-HR's design. The switchgear is in a diamond shape wherever possible, and trim details on the dashboard and doors use the shape as a pattern as well. Cabin quality is good, but the controls used feel a bit old-fashioned now compared to some of its rivals - with a smaller screen and interface that isn't as slick to use. The C-HR's interior is not at the top of its class, but it's far from being at the bottom either, and the design available inside will win over some buyers.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Naturally, the C-HR Hybrid scores well in this category since frugal running costs are the main reason for its existence. The official economy figures from Toyota come in at emissions of 86 g/km CO2, and fuel efficiency at 74.3 MPG. With these taken from the NEDC test cycle, they are naturally rather optimistic, but the C-HR scores highly in terms of fuel economy in the real world. After almost 400 miles, the C-HR's average fuel economy was 57.6 MPG, and that after covering a range of roads and driving styles. The best I saw was more than 60 MPG after a decent run of more than 60 miles, while the worst figure displayed by the trip computer was in the mid-40s MPG. As such, the C-HR is more than a match for rival diesel offerings in terms of running costs, and cleaner too when taking emissions into account. Tax costs are set to go up slightly soon, with new hybrid C-HR owners due to be charged Â£130 a year, thanks to its qualification for the Â£10 Alternative Fuel Discount. The first year cost will be Â£95, though this is included in the car's OTR.
As the most efficient model in the C-HR range, there is plenty to talk about in this Green Credentials section. Based on Toyota's latest platform - the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) - the C-HR is built on a stiff but lightweight platform, one that it shares with the Prius. Electrified components are easily built in to the TNGA, and the car's centre of gravity is lower than it would have been previously too. Work on aerodynamics, means the C-HR is more slippery through the air than you would expect a crossover to be, and the platform's low weight improves efficiency as well. The Atkinson cycle engine is one of the most thermally efficient units on the market, and has a heat recovery system to reduce the time taken to get up to optimal temperature. This also means that the auto stop/start system fitted can kick in sooner in the trip than would normally be the case. The e-CVT transmission is more efficient than a conventional set-up thanks to not having any set ratios, and Toyota has put in plenty of effort to keep weight down overall, with smaller and lighter parts fitted. Low friction parts and components that improve air flow are other 'behind-the-scenes' elements that make the C-HR an efficient car. That's all ignoring the electrified powertrain, with the motor able to drive the car for short periods on electric power alone. Brake energy recuperation tops up the battery under deceleration, with a B mode available on the gear selector to ramp that up further. Toyota also has an EV Mode button to keep the car in electric drive for as long as possible, and there is a drive mode select that includes an Eco option, which lessens throttle response. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
The C-HR comes with a good level of standard equipment, with even the entry specification model fitted with a suite of Toyota active safety systems, including pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beam, and road sign assist. The drive mode select is also standard across the board, as are electric windows all-round, automatic wipers and lights, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity, air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, and 17-inch alloys. Excel models get 18-inch alloys, heated front seats, part-leather trim, rear privacy glass, park assist, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring are added on top of entry-level Icon trim. Top of the range Dynamic trim includes the option of an excellent JBL 10-speaker audio system, plus dynamic - purple - cloth upholstery, LED lights front and rear, metallic or pearlescent paint, and a contrasting roof.
The C-HR Hybrid is a crossover that will appeal to a large number of buyers. It's not the most practical car around, but it drives well, handles nicely, and is extremely frugal. For those that don't use the rear seats much - or mainly seat children - and don't particularly need a load-lugger, the C-HR makes plenty of sense, particularly if the style appeals. For a car that has such striking styling, it behaves surprisingly sensibly; but then that's a good thing for buyers. The crossover market is a congested one, but the C-HR is worthy of its place.
Model tested: Toyota C-HR Hybrid Dynamic
Engine / CO2: 1.8 litre petrol and electric motor / 87 g/km
Trim grades: Icon, Excel, Dynamic
On-road price: Hybrid range from £24,215. Price as tested: £28,615
Warranty: Five years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars