Designed in Japan, built in Turkey and now on sale in the UK, Toyota£€™s new C-HR model is a blend of exciting styling and clever everyday practicality. Known as the Coupe-High Rider, the car dramatically illustrates how important looks have now become to Toyota.
Even the cabin is stylish though some people might find the high level door handles a nuisance and the high sides make it rather dark in the rear. With expected sales of 16,000 in the UK next year the £€˜crossover£€™ C-HR is off-roader below the waist and sports coupe higher up.
The car, at prices from £20,995, is an important addition to Toyota£€™s line-up as it attracting most inquiries from people who never previously considered a Toyota. A huge 90% of buyers are expected to use Access Toyota finance to fund the car with a 21 to 26% deposit and then from £229 per month for private buyers.
Drivers can choose from a 1.2 litre four-cylinder turbo charged petrol model which uses the same engine as the Auris or a 1.8 non turbo with electric motor assist. Prices of the hybrid start at £23,595 and Toyota reckons they will take 75% of UK sales.
With Lamborghini-size flared wheel arches, snazzy lights and a rear roof spoiler you don£€™t notice at first in some colours, the C-HR is striking looking. Extra care is needed at road junctions because of the wide windscreen pillars and you will be glad of the rear camera and big door mirrors when reversing.
Two days testing in cold but sunny Madrid showed the turbo model was much more fun to drive than the hybrid which gets most of its mechanical gear from the Prius. With 114bhp from 1,500 to 4,000rpm the petrol six-speed manual will accelerate to 62mph in a brisk feeling 10.9 seconds. Top speed is 118mph.
You feel the engine automatically increasing revs when changing down gears to help smooth gear changes. The hybrid is noisy and dull in comparison. The Prius is a more refined hybrid. If you tow it£€™s worth noting the towing capacity (braked) is 1,300kg for the 1.2 petrol compared to only 725kg for the hybrid.
The C-HR (petrol) responds well to an enthusiastic driving style and changes direction with enthusiasm. Toyota has stiffened some of the rubber bushes in the suspension for more direct steering feel and says the car has the lowest centre of gravity of cars in its class and 2.5 cms lower than a Prius.
The lower weight of the petrol only model, a minimum 60kg, lets it ride and handle better than the battery laden hybrid. The C-HR£€™s smoothness over broken Tarmac was as good as Peugeot£€™s new 3008 but again the non hybrid felt better.
On 18in wheels the official combined fuel consumption is 47.1mpg which means annual road tax of £130. Brisk driving saw only 35.8mpg according to the on-board trip computer. We were curious about a scent in the cabin and were told it was part of a system that not only deodorises the cabin but moistures the skin!
Standard specification includes 17in alloy wheels, front fog lamps, dual zone air conditioning, multimedia touch screen, DAB radio and rain sensing windscreen wipers. Further up the range there£€™s satellite navigation permanently connected to the internet so you can get live traffic updates. A tech pack includes keyless entry and start, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, automatic folding door mirrors and lane change warning.
Also consider Nissan Qashqai, the new Seat Ateca and Renault Captur.
Verdict A new style direction for Toyota £€“ and a hybrid