Toyota C-HR Review
"Proof that mad scientists sometimes do great work"
Toyota C-HR review - front view, orange, 2020

Toyota C-HR review: funky style, hybrid performance

  • Published 24 April 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Dr Ian Malcolm was speaking talking about the resurrection of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park rather than the Toyota C-HR, but you have to wonder whether the world really needed a compact crossover with the styling of a coupe and petrol-electric hybrid power.

But life, or rather, Toyota’s engineers… uh… found a way, and the car has been successful enough to be granted a mid-life facelift. This particular crossover is showing no signs of going the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As mad science experiments go, it's rather fetchingToyota C-HR review - side view, driving, orange, 2020 Available to lease from £248 per month Lease Now

Isn’t it great when a car manufacturer tries something a little different? It’s like entering your favourite coffee shop to be greeted with the chance to try a new blend. You can’t accuse Toyota of going through the motions.

The fact that you’ve made it this far suggests the styling hasn’t put you off, so read on to discover why the C-HR could be the crossover for you.


Looks, tech and design

The C-HR – that’s ‘Coupe High-Rider’, apparently – arrived in 2016 in a blaze of “Woah there, Toyota, are you sure about this?” Once the dust had settled, we soon realised that Toyota had created something bold and interesting.

There’s little point complaining that the compact crossover segment is guilty of delivering dull and uninteresting cars if you criticise a manufacturer for thinking differently. The Toyota C-HR is certainly different.

A coupe? Reeeeeeally?Toyota C-HR review - rear view, orange, 2020 Available to lease from £248 per month Lease Now

It’s not a coupe, but who cares? Note the disguised rear door handles and the way the roofline integrates with the rear spoiler. Also note the rear light clusters and the LED headlights at the front. Proper thought has gone into the C-HR.

It’s a similar story inside, where the C-HR looks wildly different to the Toyota you may have rented on a recent foreign holiday. The dashboard is angled towards the driver and dominated by a touchscreen display perched atop the centre console. Following the 2019 facelift, the media unit now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a welcome relief, as Toyota lags behind the class leaders in this department.

So far, so good, but you’d be correct if you sensed a ‘but’ was coming. The problems start in the back, where the C-HR is more coupe than crossover. It’s not that it’s particularly cramped in the back, more the fact that it feels that way.

The sloping roofline, the small side windows, the narrow rear doors and the dark headlining combine to create rear accommodation that feels decidedly claustrophobic. The 377-litre boot is also too small for a car of this size. For some context, the Seat Arona offers 400 litres, there’s 405 litres in the Audi Q2, while the Renault Captur offers between 422 and 536 litres.

If you’re leasing a C-HR for you and your significant other, I doubt you’ll have a problem, but the Toyota doesn’t give you much room to grow. It’s worth bearing that in mind before you sign a four-year contract.

Don't be fooled by this picture: the interior is actually rather excitingToyota C-HR review - interior Available to lease from £248 per month Lease Now

Elsewhere, the Toyota C-HR boasts an excellent level of standard equipment. A reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and a suite of safety systems are standard on the entry-level Icon model. The Design is arguably the range sweet-spot, offering heated front seats, sat-nav, park assist, automatic lights and wipers, plus stylish 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Dynamic and Excel trim levels are positively lavish, while new for 2020 is the Orange Edition. As the name suggests, it’s finished in Scorched Orange, and features 18-inch matt black alloys, a black two-tone roof and a JBL premium audio system. Just 500 will be built. Thank goodness.

A word about safety. The fact that the Toyota C-HR was awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating in 2017 will come as no surprise, but the 95% it received for adult occupant protection puts it on par with the Volvo V90 and Porsche Cayenne. Also, 78% for safety assistance tech placed it eighth highest overall in the same year. This should provide some reassurance.

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Driving

There are two petrol-electric hybrid powertrains to choose from: a 1.8-litre and a 2.0-litre. For most people, the 1.8 will be perfectly adequate, as it offers a strong blend of performance and economy. However, I’d recommend upgrading to the 2.0 if your monthly budget will stretch to it.

Not only does the bigger engine offer a terrific turn of pace, it also makes great use of the C-HR’s surprisingly good chassis. Without going full ‘motoring journalist’ on you, the C-HR was developed on European roads for European drivers, which means it’s good fun to drive.

A Toyota hybrid that's fun to drive? You'd better believe itToyota C-HR review - front view, driving, orange, 2020 Available to lease from £248 per month Lease Now

For you, this means it’ll change direction with the eagerness of a housefly, which translates to great manoeuvrability in the city. On a country lane, the CH-R turns smoothly, with nicely weighted steering and suspension that falls somewhere between firm and supple. Even if this sounds meaningless, you will appreciate how sweetly it drives once you get behind the wheel.

Both engines are mated to a CVT automatic gearbox, but before your eyes start to glaze over, it’s actually one of the better versions of this much maligned type of transmission. This is especially true in the 2.0 version, which has smoothness and refinement you won’t find in a rival crossover with a diesel engine.

Or try: Our Range Rover Evoque review


Cost and economy

The hybrid powertrain also translates to some impressive economy figures. The 1.8 version will supposedly deliver 54.3mpg to 57.6mpg while emitting just 86g/km CO2. Meanwhile, the 2.0-litre is only slightly less efficient, returning 49.5mpg to 53.2mpg, and CO2 emissions of 92g/km.

Perhaps not the most practical choice...Toyota C-HR review - boot space, 2020 Available to lease from £248 per month Lease Now

It’s worth noting that the 2.0 powertrain isn’t available in conjunction with the entry-level Icon trim, so you’ll have to upgrade to the Design model. Leasing a 1.8 Design will cost upwards of £263 a month, while a 2.0 Design is slightly more expensive at £281 a month. However, given the enhanced driving experience and small dent in the fuel economy, I think it’s worth the extra.

Insurance groups range from 14 to 22, so getting covered on the C-HR shouldn’t break the bank.

Or try: Our Volvo XC40 review


Verdict

As you may have guessed, I rather like the Toyota C-HR. I appreciate the bold styling, the 2.0-litre powertrain and the fact that Toyota has tried something different. The C-HR is unmistakable, and I applaud that.

It’s not perfect. I know of two people who have travelled in the back of a C-HR. One vowed never to set foot in the car again, while the other person was physically sick. If you like the feeling of light and airy cabins, DO NOT climb into the back of a C-HR.

Up front, things are much better. The driving position is great, the dashboard is interesting and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is most welcome. Having proper smartphone integration removes one of the reasons to avoid the earlier version of the car, too.

Cutting to the chase, if you like the styling, you’ll find much to like about the C-HR. If you don’t approve of the styling, there are plenty of generic, vanilla and plain rivals to choose from instead.

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