UNTIL NOW, TOYOTA hasn’t had a proper rival to the unfeasibly popular Qashqai, or trendy new arrivals, such as the Seat Ateca and Audi Q.2.That’s about to change, though. Although the new C-HR looks a bit like the love child of a Honda Civic and a Nissan Juke, it’s bigger than it appears. In fact, it’s almost the same size as the Qashqai, aside from having a lower, more coupe-esque roofline.
Prices start at a whisker less than £21,000 for the 1.2 petrol. That’s about £3000 more than you’ll pay for an equivalent Ateca, although the C-HR comes with more goodies as standard. However, Toyota expects three-quarters of buyers to go for the Hybrid version. It costs £2600 more, but pumps out as little as 86g/km of CO2, making it a cheaper company car than all key rivals.
Prius’s wacky sibling
It’s best to think of the hybrid C-HR as a Toyota Prius in drag. Both cars sit on the same platform and are powered by the same 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor, which send their combined power to the front wheels through an automatic gearbox. It’s a recipe that works remarkably well in the latest Prius, but the C-HR’s taller stance and heavier body spoil things a bit. How so? Well, for starters the C-HR takes longer to get up to speed than its fuel-sipping sibling, and its petrol engine is always working that bit harder, which means you have to put up with more of a drone whenever you’re accelerating.
Our test car was shod with 18in alloys (17s are standard on entry-level Icon trim), and on the urban part of our test route we felt more of the road than we’d like, although the ride did improve a lot on faster roads. There’s better news through corners, where the C-HR stays pretty upright and isn’t too flustered by quick changes of direction. The steering is accurate, but it could build weight more consistently turning in to bends.
The lighter 1.2-litre C-HR is far better to drive. It’s faster, quieter smoother riding and sharper handling. Even its steering is lighter and more natural-feeling. True, it isn’t as agile as an Ateca or as comfy as a Qashqai, but the C-HR strikes a genuinely impressive balance, and its more feel some brakes (the Hybrid’s are a bit grabby) make it easier to drive smoothly in town.
The C-HR’s low roofline means rear head room isn’t as generous as in a Qashqai or an Ateca. A couple of kids or even teenagers won’t moan about out right space, but they will feel claustrophobic; the tiny rear windows makes you feel a bit like you’re trapped in a pillar box. The boot is better. It’ll fit about as much luggage as an Audi Q2 (but still less than a Qashqai or Ateca). However, the boot floor isn’t height adjustable, there’s a big load lip and a hefty step in the floor with the rear seats folded down.
Toyota isn’t famous for its classy interiors, but the C-HR is a genuine step in the right direction. It’s no Q2, but most of the plastics around the driver and front passenger are nice and dense, and everything feels more solidly screwed together than it does in the Prius. The ‘layered’ dashboard also makes the heater controls easy to see and reach, although we’d prefer dials rather than buttons to adjust the temperature.
Meanwhile, the touchscreen infotainment system is high up on the dashboard, making it easy to reach without stretching. The interface could be more user-friendly, though, because even punching in an address takes long than it should. The touch-sensitive shortcut buttons that flank the side of the screen are also poorly labelled.
How does it stack up?
Fuel economy and CO2 emissions aside, the 1.2 petrol is much the better version of the C-HR. In the cheaper trim levels it’s definitely worth considering if you can live with the claustrophobic rear seats and so-so boot However, it’s up against some tough competition, including the Seat Ateca 1.0 TSI and Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T, both of which are cheaper, more efficient and much more practical. The C-HR Hybrid, meanwhile, offers lower monthly tax bills than any of its rivals -diesel or petrol- and it promises lower fuel bills, so even though it’s a bit disappointing to drive, there’s a very genuine reason to choose it.