Toyota C-HR (2016 - 2023)
There's a simple philosophy behind the C-HR. If Toyota introduced just another crossover, the brand would be just another contender. But crossovers are chosen for their unique character. And so Toyota's crossover has the muscular base of an off-roader and the sleek lines of a coupé on top. That's why C-HR means: Coupé High Rider.
Without a doubt, the result is more original and more daring than any other crossover to date. But it's also apparent that Toyota faced some tough challenges. For one, a crossover is chosen for the space yet a coupé offers less headroom and only two doors.
The C-HR has four doors, but thanks to the shape of the rear windows the rear doors don't affect the coupé line, while the C-HR still offers enough headroom in the back (although not as much as a traditional, boxy crossover). The rear door handles are transformed into works of art, making this necessary evil the centrepiece of the design of the car! Do bear in mind that these original looks make it harder for small children to look out of the windows.
The space in the front is good and thanks to the high seating position visibility is better than average. The dark upholstery on the ceiling and the special layout of the dashboard add to the privileged feeling of driving a special car. This doesn't affect the ergonomics, everything works as it should. In this respect the C-HR is special and still a familiar Toyota.
The equipment is modern and rich, because even in the base model offers a wide range of safety features as standard (while optional on most competing models). For example, every C-HR is fitted with a camera that monitors the car and traffic. If necessary, a computer will warn the driver or even brake upon danger.
A worthwhile option is the JBL audio system. For a fair price it delivers more than decent sound quality.
With its daring design the big question is: does the C-HR drive as well as it looks? The answer is yes and no. At first, the drive is uneventful and too bland. Steering is light and despite the firm underpinning, feedback to the driver is minimal.
But... when the C-HR is being challenged, it turns out that handling is far above average. In fast corners or when braking hard the body hardly tilts over. Also, despite the speed the car always reacts in the same, agile way on driver input. Keeping in mind that an off-roader has a naturally high centre of gravity, Toyota did a splendid job with the C-HR.
The base engine is a conventional 1.2 litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a turbo. It delivers 116 PS / 185 Nm, which is more than adequate to keep up with traffic or even merge quickly on busy roads. However, the C-HR 1.2 Turbo isn't a particularly fast car.
Despite a very demanding route (mountains, small villages, city traffic, almost no motorways) the average fuel economy was 5.6 litres per 100 km (42 mpg) and that's almost equal to what Toyota promises in the brochure.
This very efficient drive was done with a two-wheel drive car. The 1.2 Turbo is also available with four-wheel drive, using the same technology as the Toyota RAV4.
To make the C-HR truly special, Toyota launches its secret weapon. As an alternative to the conventional engine, a hybrid version is available. Both a 1.8 litre petrol engine and an electric motor can be found under the bonnet. The two engines work together for better performance, better fuel economy and more comfort.
The secret is in the free energy. When braking with a regular car, energy is wasted. A hybrid car converts kinetic energy into electricity, which can later be used to assist the petrol engine (for example while accelerating or climbing).
This may sound familiar, because Toyota has many hybrid cars on offer. And when comparing the specs, the C-HR looks suspiciously like a Toyota Prius in drag. However, the C-HR has different underpinning, a shorter wheelbase, wider track, lower centre of gravity (-2.5 cm), other tyres (more grip, less efficient), a bespoke steering rack and a unique body (less aerodynamic).
This ensures a very different experience indeed. While the Toyota Prius focusses on comfort and economy, the C-HR is all about driving dynamics and fun.
With a crossover it's all about standing out from the crowd. Toyota understood this very well. Because while the others cross an off-roader with a hatchback, Toyota crosses an off-roader with a coupé. Toyota overcame all the challenges this brings with it, like a high centre of gravity, a fragile two-door silhouette and a high roofline.
Driving the C-HR isn't as exciting as the promising design suggests. The C-HR handles like a basic Toyota, but for a crossover this is above average. The 1.2 Turbo is engine is good, both in performance and efficiency. However, it's the hybrid drive that makes the C-HR unique. The hybrid version is quicker yet greener than all rivals. It turns out this bad boy has a good heart after all!
- Great handling
- Original design
- Quick yet frugal thanks to hybrid drive
- Poor headroom in the rear
- Poor feedback via steering wheel