Toyota's C-HR is one of the trendiest compact Crossover model choices you can make. Now it's been improved. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
What if you want a fashionable little Crossover - say, something like a Nissan Juke? If that's the case, you may have been a little put off by the cramped interior and rather average build quality you get with models of that sort. So what if another brand were able to offer you a contender that was even trendier, better made, more efficient and not that much more expensive? You'd be interested wouldn't you? Well that's apparently exactly what's being offered here in the form of Toyota's C-HR.
'C-HR' is supposed to stand for 'Coupe High-Rider' and sure enough, this car has a very coupe-style look. More importantly, we're told that it drives in a coupe-like way too. Sounds promising doesn't it? Let's check this model out.
The C-HR is being offered with two petrol/electric hybrid engines from Toyota's Corolla hatch, the original 120bhp 1.8-litre self-charging unit now joined by a perkier 182bhp 2.0-litre powerplant. Either way, you're looking at front wheel drive and a CVT auto gearbox. For the C-HR, Toyota has made its hybrid system lighter and more efficient, and engineered it to give sharper performance. The brand has worked hard on giving these two powerplants high levels of thermal efficiency and the various hybrid components have been made light and small, while being positioned for tight packaging.
As for handling, well this Toyota aims to set a fresh standard in a segment not noted for sharply-responsive models. The engineers realised that the major issue with taller Crossovers of this sort related to bodyroll and its detrimental effect on ride comfort. Huge efforts have therefore gone into structuring this model's TNGA platform and giving it a low centre of gravity so that the car doesn't pitch about through the corners. Steering feel has been emphasised too, something else that tends to be lacking on this class of car. As a result of all this effort, Chief Engineer Hiroyuki Koba is convinced that a C-HR handles up to a standard comparable with any conventional Focus-segment hatch.
Design and Build
Toyota's first proper entrant in the Crossover segment has caused quite a stir, styled with a combination of a coupe-like upper body and the powerful underpinnings of an SUV. This improved version gets front lights are upgraded to premium LED technology, with the daytime running lights and indicators combined in one frontal projector that emits a single smooth line above the main beam. At the rear, restyled combi lights are connected by a gloss black spoiler creating a single clean shape. As before, coupe-like elements include disguised rear door handles, integrated into the rear pillars. At the rear the strongly tapered cabin features a top-hinged tailgate that gives access to loadspace big enough to carry luggage for five people. This styling contrasts with the pronounced flaring of the wheel arches which gives C-HR a wide and powerful stance.
Inside, the key change is the addition of a new multimedia system that upgrades connectivity, allowing full smartphone integration and supporting the latest versions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Otherwise, it's as you were, with layered architecture for the instrument panel that aims to create a warm and welcoming feel. Because the touchscreen stands proud of the dashboard, rather than being enclosed by it, the upper section of the dash is considerably shallower in depth, helping secure good field of vision for the driver. The two-tiered front seat design combines a slender, sporty upper section with a more strongly bolstered and supporting lower part. The difference between the two is emphasised by the use of different tones, textures and patterns in the upholstery. Overall, there's a high quality feel to the cabin and decorative parts around the dash are finished in high-quality piano black and satin silver trim.
Market and Model
Prices in the UK for this improved C-HR start from just over £26,000 for the entry-level Icon model. Customers can also choose from Design, Excel, Dynamic and GR Sport grades, all available with either 1.8 or new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrains. The range-topping "Orange Edition" rounds off the line up.
The proposition here gives you slightly less space than models like Nissan's Qashqai and Renault's Kadjar but more fashionable looks and better on-road dynamics. It's a formula will can see quite a number of potential buyers liking quite a lot. Equipment levels fit with this approach. Top level models may be specified with heated front seats, a smart entry system, rear privacy glass, bespoke upholstery (including part-leather), a Park-Assist system, 18-inch alloy wheels and bi-tone metallic paintwork.
In addition, the C-HR can be equipped with a tailor-made JBL premium audio system, comprising an eight-channel, 576W stereo amplifier and nine speakers, including two newly-patented acoustic JBL wave guides - known as horn tweeters. More importantly, the Toyota 'Safety Sense' package is standard across the range. It includes a Pre-Collision System with pedestrian warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with steering control, Automatic High Beam and Road Sign Assist.
Cost of Ownership
Hybrid engines are rare in the Crossover segment. In fact, only Kia's Niro can offer petrol/electric technology in this class and that model looks pretty frumpy in comparison to this one. It'll be less efficient too, for a 1.8-litre Hybrid-powered C-HR can return up to 58.8mpg on the WLTP-rated combined cycle and up to 109g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. The 2.0-litre hybrid manages up to 53.3mpg and 119g/km of CO2.
The Japanese maker describes the C-HR's Hybrid technology as being of the 'self-charging' variety, which means that it isn't of the currently popular Plug-in variety. The brand of course has this technology (it's available on top versions of its Prius model) but currently feels it isn't necessary for the C-HR line-up. What else? Well, the five year 100,000 mile warranty is extremely good and even after that runs out, you'll find that most spares are relatively inexpensive. There's also three years warranty against rust and 12 years of anti-corrosion protection.
We can continue to see a ready market for this C-HR. Plenty of people attracted by a model like Nissan's Juke in the Crossover class would rather like a contender that'll be slightly bigger, more sophisticated and better-finished. This is that car.
We think the styling will attract many, but there are other product strong points too. Proven hybrid technology brings the potential for impressive efficiency and the addition of the perkier 2.0-litre hybrid unit will please those seeking more performance from this model. Plus C-HR buyers will like the sharp handling and the strong standards of safety and media connectivity. Style and sense combined then? Quite a few buyers in this segment may well think that.