Published: 16:52, 04 September 2017
Toyota’s C-HR – or Coupe-High Rider – is the firm’s attempt at grabbing a share of the burgeoning compact crossover market. Designed primarily for the European market the styling marks a radical departure from other offerings in its range and its impossible to argue that the name doesn’t suit. Though it is possible to argue that very few people will ever know what C-HR stands for. Or care.
It rides on Toyota’s new global architecture, which it shares with the Prius.
The CH-R is similar in size to Nissan’s Qashqai and sits below the RAV4 in the Toyota range, although its rakish bodywork is a stark departure from the larger model’s more conventional lines. The styling is a combination of deep creases, sweeping curves and sharp angles that doesn’t fail to turn heads.
The roofline is low, the rear windscreen steeply raked and, although it’s a five-door, the rear handles have been concealed in the C-pillars to accentuate the jacked-up, coupe-like profile.
Alloy wheels and distinctive LED daytime running lights are standard across the range while on Dynamic models the main front and rear lamps are also of the LED variety.
Toyota have been just as creative on the inside. Various lines, colours and textures have been used to give the cabin a vibrant, contemporary ambience. There’s a brightly coloured insert that traces a path across the width of the dashboard, gloss black inserts, and a textured diamond pattern that adorns the door trim, headlining, steering wheel buttons and air con controls.
Function hasn’t been sacrificed in the pursuit of form, however, and the dashboard wraps around the driver perfectly, putting all the controls within easy reach.
The fit and finish is excellent. Soft touch plastics are used everywhere while the list of standard kit is a long one. Climate and cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror and eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system are standard across the range. Excel trim adds sat nav, keyless entry, heated seats, parking assist and powered mirrors while the top-of-the-range Dynamic includes the LED headlamps and metallic paint.
Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system is standard – Excel and Dynamic models get the Go sat nav system which is a £750 option on Icon trim – with the aforementioned eight-inch touchscreen display mounted high on the dashboard making it easy to use without having to take your eyes off the road.
DAB radio and Bluetooth are standard but Toyota’s connected services and navigation are only available with the Go unit. An online subscription will give you access to real-time traffic updates and Google Street View. You can also download a number of apps including internet radio and, if you want to keep abreast of what your friends had for breakfast, social media networks.
The system functions well enough, although its smartphone connectivity is surprisingly limited in a vehicle that, stylistically at least, feels so ahead of the curve. There’s no pinch and zoom support and the display isn’t pin sharp either which, considering the attention to detail that’s apparent in the rest of the car, is a little disappointing.
Driver and front seat passenger are well catered for, with plenty of space and seat adjustment. The high seating position – compared to a traditional hatchback at least – coupled with the large glass area and low dashboard gives an excellent view of your surroundings.
There’s ample storage space in the cabin, with large front door bins, a decent-sized glovebox, and a deep storage compartment between the seats. You also get a trinket tray at the base of the centre console.
Despite the coupe-like styling there’s a reasonable – and you might say, surprising – amount of head and leg room in the rear. Access is easy thanks to door that open wide and the sloping roof will only prove a hindrance to taller people.
Once your passengers are inside they might find it a little claustrophobic thanks to the tiny rear windows and broad C-pillars but, because the rear bench is set quite low, Toyota have liberated a decent amount of headroom.
The boot is about what you’d expect in a family hatchback at 377 litres. It’s a useful shape and the large tailgate makes access easy. There’s a small amount of additional storage beneath the boot floor but to free up more room you’ll need to drop the 60/40 split/fold rear seats.
Under the bonnet of my test car was Toyota’s 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine and it proved to be an amiable companion. Responsive and refined, it provides the C-HR with reasonable performance – 62mph takes 11.4 seconds to arrive – and decent fuel economy.
It’s size also means that there’s relatively low mass over the front when and you’ll find the C-HR’s coupe-like looks are not entirely inappropriate. It rides on a new platform that strikes a reasonable balance between good handling and a decent level of comfort. The firm ride is offset by generous damping.
What you end up with is excellent body control but there’s enough compliance in the dampers to isolate occupants from broken surfaces and nasty surprises.
Because the C-HR feels so resolutely planted, you can press on through corners with reasonable confidence. It remains composed and reassuring and even small adjustments through the corners do little to throw it off balance. The steering is light, but well-judged and linear and you’ll get enough of a feel for what the tyres are doing to remain well within the limits of adhesion. The raised seating position helps you place the car accurately on the road.
The handling is helped by Toyota’s efforts at keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible. The engine is mounted low down and angled backwards.
There are three modes to select from – Sport, Normal and Eco – and as you’d expect, they alter the driving experience by changing the weight of the steering, altering throttle response as well as the behaviour of the CVT gearbox.
Toyota’s Intelligent Manual Transmission automatically alters engine speed on downshifts to smooth out changes. It also operates during upshifts. Should you want do disable it – and though it works well generally, rapid changes can catch it out – there is a button for that.
The gearbox features virtual ratios in manual mode and it works really well, feeling as natural as a standard cogged transmission.
The C-HR is a smart, refined, great-handling automobile. Toyota have been brave with the styling and produced a compact SUV that really does have the power to turn heads. There’s a decent amount of passenger space, although the rear could feel a little claustrophobic for some, and the build quality is excellent.
There is a hybrid version if economy and efficiency are you primary concerns but no diesel-engined model however, given the rising popularity of the compact crossover segment, and the impressive breadth of abilities the C-HR brings to the party, it’s hard to see it being anything other than a sales success, and deservedly so.
Toyota C-HR Dynamic 1.2CVT
1.2-litre 4-cylinder turboEngine:
114bhp @ 5,600rpmMax power:
185lbft @ 1,500 – 4,000 rpmMax torque:
www.toyota .co.ukFor more information visit
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