Prius-based crossover looks great and handles with aplomb – but makes its hybrid power train feel hopeless
Are you “a young customer driven by emotional considerations, as well as by style and quality, who wants their car to serve as an extension of their personality”?
You are? What a stroke of luck. We’ve found your next motor.
That’s Toyota’s description of the sort of person who will buy its new “coupé high-rider”. You’d think the sort of person who will buy the C-HR would also be the sort who has never been told that this is what the name stands for, but there you are.
Toyota C-HR Hybrid Excel
Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, petrol, plus electric motor
Torque: 105lb ft
Top speed: 106mph
Economy: 72.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 87g/km
There’s a 1.2-litre turbo available, but we’re testing the 1.8 hybrid model here as Toyota says it will account for some 70% of UK sales. So that’s a Prius engine, then, in a car based on a Prius platform.
Problem is, the C-HR is heavier than the Prius. And you don’t half feel it. You have to bury your foot in the carpet to make it accelerate, or indeed just to hold your speed on the way up hills – and around town, where surely it should be able to run on electric power alone, it’s rare to get the car moving properly without the engine kicking in.
Toyota is open about seeing hybrids as a good future bet as the world turns its back on diesel, and for sure there’s no shortage of refinement here. But there’s no shortage of screaming revs from the engine, either, which kind of kicks that into the weeds.
So we’re already looking forward to driving the 1.2 turbo. Not just because we don’t like the hybrid, however, but because in the C-HR we see a car which, with a better drivetrain, could really live up to its looks. It steers with plenty of feel and keeps its body shape with assured composure in corners, while at the same time riding with a supple calm that can hardly help but impress.
You’ll be taken with its cabin, too, whether or not you’re “driven by emotional considerations”. A pleasingly tidy layout is finished in glossy trim materials which not everyone will like but no-one will mistake for anything else, and it’s all put together with the stoutness for which Toyota is renowned.
We’d have preferred better proportioned seats up front, though – and those in the back are best suited to younger members of the family. Headroom is particularly limited, thanks to the dramatic lines of the C-HR’s roof, and the narrowing side windows mean it does feel a bit like riding around in a pill-box. Something that strays dangerously close to cute-but-stupid territory is that if you’re tall enough to reach the top-mounted handles for the rear doors, you’re not far off being too tall to fit in the rear seats.
So it’s not without its irritations. But the C-HR does something that people yearn for in a crossover, and that’s get attention. Those looks might suggest a sporty nature which, certainly in the hybrid, is not there. But with a funky petrol engine and a manual gearbox to put you in charge of proceedings, we fancy this could still be quite the package.