Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid CVT18 | 11 | 2016Scotcars rating

    Toyota re-writes the crossover rules with its C-HR; but is hybrid better than the 1.2 petrol?

    TOYOTA HAS SOMETHING of a reputation for building, what most people would bracket, conventional cars. Well, that reputation has just been consigned to the waste paper bin, in the shape of the C-HR. It looks … well, wild.

    In white, and from the front three-quarters, it resembles a giant Stormtrooper’s helmet straight out of Star Wars. It’s all angles — I don’t think there’s a straight line on it — that shout, “look at me, I’m different”.

    And different the C-HR definitely is, as it bids to shake-up the traditionally boring looks of the crossover set, so beloved by mums (and dads, of course) who do the daily school run.

    If you want to ruffle the feathers of those who drive the likes of the bland-looking Nissan Qashqai, or slightly quirkier Nissan Juke or Mazda CX-3, then it’s time to pop along to your nearest Toyota dealer and check out the C-HR. The car’s on-sale now, with first deliveries in early December.

    Standing 25cm shorter, 15cm lower and 5cm skinnier than Toyota's current RAV4 mid-size SUV, the C-HR — which stands for Coupe High Rider — is a fair bit longer and wider than the successful first generation five-door RAV4  built from 1994-2000.

    There are two engine options available: a 114bhp, 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol turbo and a hybrid with a 97bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine, a 71bhp AC electric motor and a 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

    Toyota are predicting around 70% of UK sales will be the hybrid, which boasts the latest example of the two-motor hybrid system as used in the latest Prius.

    Related: Toyota starts build of new C-HR

    The 1.2 is available with either the standard six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT), and in either two- or four-wheel drive. The hybrid gets an epicyclic-based CVT front-wheel-drive system, with no 4WD option.

    Around town — where, I suspect, the vast majority of its driving will be — the hybrid extols all that is good about the power plant’s technology: it’s definitely one of the best hybrids units out there.

    It accelerates smoothly, is frugal — Toyota claim the hybrid’s capable of returning 83mpg — and does exactly what it says on the tin.

    However, when you come to accelerate briskly, planting your right foot, or try pressing on up an incline, there’s an annoying and curiously ghostly howl which emanates from the CVT. At times, over the 150-odd mile trip we had with it, it was bordering on headache-inducing, which is a real pity.

    Toyota has committed to persevering with its CVT system, in tandem with its hybrid technology; interestingly, there was a lot of shaking heads amongst the media pack after they’d stepped out of the hybrid.

    But don’t be downhearted: the 1.2-litre turbo petrol is a hoot, and most definitely my preferred choice. Ok, it can feel pretty flat at times simply because its not as positively torqued as some downsized crossovers, but because it’s available as a six-speed annual in 2WD, the driving experience is all the more enjoyable. And there’s no ghostly wail.

    Related: Roadtest — Toyota Hilux 2.4 Double Cab

    Yes, you’ll ‘only’ get around 47mpg, but while you can have an entry-level 1.2 Icon spec for £20,995, you’ll need to find £23,495 for the entry-level hybrid. That difference would buy you an awful lot of unleaded fuel.

    Performance wise, the hybrid hits 62mph from standstill in 11.0secs and carries on to a top speed of 105mph, The 1.2 six-speed manual does the sprint in 10.9s and tops out at 118mph. Mated to the CVT, the 1.2 is 0.2s slower to 62mph than the manual and loses 4mph on its top speed.

    As for emissions, the hybrid has a CO2 figure of 86g/km, while the 1.2 six-speed manual emits 135g/km.

    Built on the same Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform as supports the latest Prius, the C-HR benefits from being on the GA-C variant which results in useful rigidity. Add in the fact there’s also some innovative suspension mounting points and a low-slung drivetrain, then the C-HR is able to maximise its low centre of gravity when pushed on the road.

    Designed and engineered specifically for Europe — the car is built in Turkey — the new crossover is brilliantly accurate and responsive when driven. The C-HR has actually been under development since 2011, and in that time Toyota focused on trying to understand European driving habits and how they differ to Japanese tastes. The development car was also tested intensively on UK roads.

    Inside the cabin, there’s plenty of space for four adults. The ergonomics are excellent; the simple two-dial instrument binnacle is clear and the high-set 8-inch central touchscreen is angled towards the driver. It’s simple to use and reasonably intuitive, although you do need to learn the icons to switch between radio, satnav and phone modes.

    Related: Le Mans heartbreak for Toyota

    The front seats especially were super-comfy with electrically adjustable lumbar support for the driver on Excel and Dynamic trims. And because of the low window line, you can sit low and still see out.

    All three trim variants get Toyota's Safety Sense system with pre-collision braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control lane departure warning and automatic headlamps. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are standard on the top two models, which also have the option of a first-rate 576W JBL stereo upgrade.

    It really is a very nice environment to trade in.

    For rear passengers, despite the sloping coupe roof, there’s plenty of knee and headroom. I particularly like the high-set, partially hidden rear door handles. While some thought it a silly design, I like the fact they’re incorporated into the upper angles of the rear windows. Ok, kids might stretch to reach them, but I think they’re ace.

    Toyota has opted to do something entirely different with the C-HR, and they’re to be applauded for it. Sure, in a few years time we may look at the car and think it’s dated quickly, but I don’t think that will be the case.

    It’s certainly a breath of fresh air in the crossover sector and I can certainly see it becoming one of the ‘must have’ second cars.

    It’s screaming out for a technologically-advanced diesel engine, but that isn’t going to happen. The hybrid will see like hotcakes in the UK as the city-based ‘eco luvvies’ clamber to be seen to be doing the right thing. But I still think the 1.2 six-speed manual is the best driving car in the range to have fun in (though, we weren’t able to drive it in 4WD form).

    Related: Toyota goes all cute with Kirobo Mini

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on

    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £20,995 to £27,995 / £27,995
    Engine / Power: 1798cc four-cylinder petrol engine and twin AC motor hybrid, front-wheel drive / Total system: 120bhp, CVT gearbox
    How fast?: 0-62mph 11.0ssec; / Max 105mph
    How big/heavy?: L4360mm W1795mm H1565mm / 1350kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 74.3mpg combined / 87g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Nissan Qashqai, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3

    User Comments

    Login or register to post comments.
    Send to friend
    Click here to add message:

Car Review Finder