We say: Toyota’s crossover offering may be late, but it’s worth looking at
This was going to be a Juke rival. But its engineers, very keen drivers, decided the company’s small platform wasn’t good enough, so they shifted up a size to the brand-new global platform. The project director said he’s happy to sacrifice rear room and bootspace for the looks, but because of that growth, neither are actually terrible. Sure, back-benchers have no view to their sides, but the Rolls Phantom is the same, styling it out as “privacy”.
It’s got a manga face, bulging arches, a laid-down rear window, peaked D-posts and a detached roof. But amid this storm of line and formwork, some cohesion emerges.
If that’s not weird enough, you should see inside. Still, the new textures, shapes and colours are wrought from far better quality materials than previous Toyotas.
You can spec it with the Prius’ powertrain. Don’t, not unless you’re confined to a city. Because the C-HR is too good for that: it steers and rides well and wants to be thrown about. The hybrid’s droney engine, its dissonant relationship between rpm and speed, its inconsistent brakes? No, ta very much.
You want the 1.2 turbo petrol manual. It’s a four cylinder, and can go to Atkinson cycle at light load. They say it’ll do better real-world economy than rival triples. It might only rev to 5,500rpm, but it’s smooth and dependable in its delivery, and the ‘box is slick. The new platform has a very low center of gravity, and it shows. For a crossover, this rolls little and steers with consistent alacrity, but rides with long-wavelength suppleness. The chassis could take more than this 1.2, and the engineers tell me a higher-performing C-HR is likely.
There’s no stripped-out base car. They all have radar cruise, auto-brake with pedestrian protection, 17in wheels and a 7in touchscreen with a rearview cam. But as there’s no phone mirroring for nav, you’ll have to upgrade to get a built-in system.
You might say Toyota is tardy to this market, but I’d argue that in 1994 the first RAV4 led the world as a striking-looking but useless softy compact 4×4.
Verdict: Sure, looks are polarising, but if you want it you will really want it and the dynamic won’t dash your hopes.