On the other hand, there’s an argument that parallel hybrids such as the C-HR are at their most effective when you don’t overthink and just let it do its thing. This is especially true on those short journeys of the kind that you might undertake at a weekend when you’re doing chores – trips to the tip, the garden centre or the supermarket, for example. On around-town trips of a few miles, I’m regarding any return less than an indicated 60mpg as a disappointment.
The aforementioned visit to the garden centre for bundles of peat and bark chippings did highlight that the C-HR’s boot has an awkwardly high load lip when you’re carrying cumbersome items. True, it’s not quite as difficult as the Atlas stones test in the World’s Strongest Man competition, but if a manufacturer is positioning its car as an SUV, as Toyota is with the C-HR, it needs to be fully adept at the ‘utility’ part of that equation.
In a similar vein, since the five-door C-HR first arrived I’ve been sceptical about its generosity of space for rear passengers, but that’s proven to be a deception of its exterior styling, which is aimed at a coupé-esque look. It’s quite busy around the rear, with the roof and bodywork tapering towards each other and the door handles integrated into the C-pillar. Our testers weren’t impressed by rear head room when the C-HR was subjected to our Road Test (4 January 2017) but I recently carried four passengers, with the three in the rear ranging from a six-foot-plus, 15-stone bloke to an infant in a carry cot, and none had reason to complain.
Admittedly one could only gurgle, but what those among them who could talk did note was wind noise. Perhaps this is a by-product of the car’s quiet powertrain making other external sounds more noticeable. More likely, though, is that by coming up with a shape that is appealing to a wide tranche of would-be buyers, and by jacking up the ride height, the C-HR’s ability to slice through the air as efficiently as its sibling, the super-slippery Prius, is diminished.
Wind noise or not, I’m taking a great deal of satisfaction from cruising along on electric power at any given opportunity and enhancing the C-HR’s lifetime miles per gallon figure. You might argue (with some justification) that a considerately driven Euro 6 diesel-engined car would perform just as well in terms of frugality and that might well be true for some drivers with long and traffic-free commutes.
For me, though, there are four gnarly stop-start miles at the end of my morning drive into Twickenham where the C-HR doesn’t have to rely on its internal combustion engine at all. I appreciate that won’t solve the world’s pollution ills on its own, but it does feel like a small step in the right direction.
HOLD BUTTON Simple labour-saving device automatically applies brakes when you come to a halt. Convenient.
SAT-NAV WARNINGS Traffic alert obscures the screen and doesn’t go away unless you press ‘ignore’. Distracting.
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Life with a Toyota C-HR: Month 1
Information onscreen however you want to see it - 20th June 2018
Hunting through menus that can be shown on the digital instrument panel, I discovered you can choose a g-force meter, should the mood take you. I doubt it will. Less incongruous in a fuel-sipping hybrid is the graphic that indicates whether power is coming from the engine or motor, or whether regenerative braking is sending energy to the battery.
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Welcoming the C-HR to the fleet — 13 June 2018
Toyota’s petrol-electric hybrid powertrains have kept it at the vanguard of electrified car technology since the advent of the Prius back in 1997, but the idiosyncratic character of that model has been both a blessing and a curse here in the UK.
Although many adopters have readily embraced the powertrain’s fuel-sipping potential, the Prius has struggled to be a car with sufficient kerb appeal for owners to want to show it off outside the school gates or the yoga class.
Sure, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and their glamorous Hollywood chums drive them, thus bestowing on the Prius a sheen of A-list approval. But on this side of the Atlantic, a gazillion minicab drivers use it, too — and, to the best of our knowledge, ‘private-hire chic’ has yet to become A Thing among on-trend car buyers.
So the idea of wrapping the proven petrol-electric underpinnings in a boldly styled crossover body seems to be a shrewd one, because it gives Toyota a hybrid model that taps into the insatiable zeitgeisty thirst for slightly higher-riding, rugged-looking vehicles.
They say it’s what’s underneath that counts, but maybe in the case of the C-HR and Prius it really isn’t. Both are built on Toyota’s TNGA architecture and both use the manufacturer’s latest iteration of the petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, which features an Atkinson-cycle 1.8-litre petrol combined with an electric motor, driving the front wheels via an elasticky continuously variable transmission.
These aren’t the only hybrid vehicles in Toyota’s line-up in the UK; you can also get the Yaris, Auris and RAV4 in such a specification. Of them all, though, we think the C-HR looks the most dashing, especially when finished in an eye-catching metallic body colour like our test car’s Nebula Blue (a £545 option).
Customers seem to agree. In 2017, the first full year on sale, 10,760 examples of the C-HR hybrid were sold, establishing it as the brand’s second-best-selling petrol-electric model behind the Yaris hybrid.
We’re late to the party in welcoming a C-HR to our fleet, but we’ve not been ignorant of its appeal. When subjected to our full road test in January 2017, it elicited a solid four-star rating from our experts.
Just three variants make up the UK range, two of which are powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol. The entry-level model is front-wheel drive and has a manual gearbox, and there’s also a four-wheel-drive version with an automatic transmission. But the smart money — not to mention ours — is on the range-topping C-HR with the hybrid powertrain.
We plumped for a high-spec Dynamic model, which starts at £26,100 and comes with 17in alloy wheels, a reversing camera, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, dual-zone air-con, Isofix points and Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system, which is based on an 8.0in tablet-style touchscreen integrated into the top of the centre console.
With all that kit as standard, we didn’t feel the need to add any cost options besides the aforementioned snazzy paint.
There are three key reasons why I’ve been charged with running our C-HR. First, five years ago I ran an Auris Hybrid, so I’m well placed to assess how far Toyota has moved the game on.
Second is convenience. This type of low-hassle electrified powertrain, in which the engine, battery and motor are left to do their own things, suits my lifestyle more than a pure electric or plug-in hybrid because I have nowhere to install a charging point at home.
Third, my varied daily journey will give the crossover a decent test. It will start and end in the C-HR’s urban comfort zone, where the slower speeds and start-stop traffic regularly bring the quiet and smooth electric motor into play, but in between the car has to endure the M3, where the petrol engine is called on more readily.
Can the around-town benefits of running on electric power cancel out the need to use the internal combustion engine so frequently on the motorway? I’m quite encouraged by the early signs.
Toyota’s claimed combined fuel consumption for the hybrid C-HR is 72.4mpg and the best I’ve tickled out of it so far is an indicated 60.5mpg for my 43-mile commute home down the M3. However, I’m confident that even better figures will be possible when I’m fully in tune with the driving style required to get the best out of the hybrid powertrain.
A dramatic improvement over the Auris that I’ve already come to appreciate is the interior, which is a welcome change over the dour sea of black that greeted me in the hatchback. Full marks to Toyota for lifting the ambience with some bold colour inserts and some downright funky textures and flourishes. I’ll pick out some of the highlights in future updates.
I’m also pleased with how nice the C-HR is to amble about in. It rides and handles rather well, with an entirely appropriate emphasis on comfort rather than any kind of misplaced sporting pretensions, and it doesn’t feel compromised by any weight penalty conferred by the electric motor and battery pack.
A big thumbs-up so far, then, not least because nobody has yet mistaken me for a minicab.
A car of contrasts. Edgily aggressive in exterior design (I’m less sold on the interior), yet its hybrid powertrain best suits a relaxed, calm driving style. Exercise discipline in not mashing the accelerator too often and you’re rewarded with a pleasant drive and decent fuel economy.
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Toyota C-HR Dynamic Hybrid 1.8 CVT specification
Price New £28,695; Price as tested: £29,160; Options: Metallic paint (£545)
Engine 4 cyls, 1798cc, petrol, plus electric motor; Power 120bhp; Torque 105lb ft; Top speed 106mph; 0-62mph 11.0sec; Claimed fuel economy 72.4mpg; Test fuel economy 56.7mpg; CO2 87g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
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