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First drive: 2024 Toyota C-HR. Image by Toyota.

First drive: 2024 Toyota C-HR
Will the new, hybrid-powered, C-HR take the fight to its growing selection of credible competitors?

   



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2024 Toyota C-HR

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Amidst a glut of mid-size crossovers arriving on the market, many of them electric, Toyota launches the second-generation C-HR as a hybrid-only model (with a plug-in hybrid waiting in the wings). As with the old C-HR, this one has striking styling ó even more so than the first generation, we reckon ó and a high-quality cabin, but it hasnít become so expensive as to make it unaffordable. The previous C-HR was a delight to drive, so has this one managed to keep that tradition going?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid Excel
Pricing: £38,150 as tested (C-HR starts from £31,290)
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid
Transmission: eCVT automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 140hp
Torque: 142Nm (engine) + 185Nm (electric motor)
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Fuel consumption: 60.1mpg
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 108mph
Boot space: 388 litres

Styling

The C-HR really does live up to Toyota's promise to give it concept-car styling. While the old C-HR was chunky and handsome, this one is really quite dramatic to look at. At the front, there are huge C-shaped LED headlights which almost meet in the middle of the snub nose, above a big radiator grille. The front wheel arches are really puffed-out, and down the sides you get a combo of a complex Y-shaped crease-line and door handles that fold flush against the body (helpfully, unlike the old one, the ones in the back can now be reached by children). At the rear, it gets even more dramatic, especially if you've bought one with the optional bi-tone paint that covers everything aft of the back doors in a glossy black finish. The rear screen is so fast-angled that it's virtually flat, and the C-HR looks great in one of the stronger colours Toyota offers, such as the metallic gold 'Solar Flare.' This is most definitely not a car for shrinking violets.

Interior

The C-HRís cabin is really well made, well laid out, and hugely comfy. And yet thereís a faint tinge of disappointment about it. The previous model had a cabin that was so nice to look at and so well made that it actually seemed more like a high-end Lexus interior. This one is good ó really good, in fact ó but you sense that Toyota has held back a little, especially now that Lexus is making its own small crossovers.

All but the most basic models get a pair of 12.3-inch digital screens. The one that makes up the driverís instrument panel is especially good. You can customise the style and the layout, and it manages the neat trick of giving you lots of information, but without overloading the screenís Ďreal estateí. Itís also backed-up by an optional head-up display.

In the centre, the infotainment touchscreen is decently slick, with expensive-looking graphics and a cloud-based sat-nav that can alter course around live traffic conditions. Thereís also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Kudos to Toyota for keeping proper, physical controls ó really high-quality ones, too ó for the climate control, which is a two-zone system as standard.

The front seats are squashy, high-backed items and are really very comfortable, and the driving position is excellent.

Practicality

The C-HRís cabin is pretty practical. You get slightly narrow door bins, a good under-armrest storage box, two cupholders, a wireless phone charging pad (thatís an option), and a rubberised shelf in front of the passenger seat, as well as a decent glovebox.

Sadly, things arenít quite so great in the back. As with the old C-HR, the rear of the cabin, with its small side windows and down-sloped roof, feels very dark Ė even claustrophobic. And thatís a big six-footer saying that ó how kids will feel back there is another story again. Actually, space isnít too bad. There was just enough legroom and headroom for me to get comfortable, so itís roomier than it looks.

The boot isnít, though. At 388 litres (364 litres for the 2.0-litre version) itís definitely on the small side, and although the shape and flat-floor are good, thereís no getting away from the fact that the likes of the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro (and even the Ford Puma) offer way more load space than this.

That sharply-raked rear screen means that visibility isnít great when youíre trying to look behind you, either, although Toyota does offer an optional digital rear view mirror, which is helpful.

Performance

The C-HR arrives, initially, with a choice of two hybrid engines that will be familiar if youíve driven a Corolla recently. They are the 1.8-litre engine, with 140hp, or the 2.0-litre engine, with 197hp.

Surprisingly, given the disparity in power output, both engines are within a hair of each other in terms of economy, both claiming to deliver 60mpg, and both ó in our hands on this test drive ó living up to that claim in the real world.

The 2.0-litre version offers a 0-62mph time thatís almost two seconds quicker than the 1.8 ó 8.1secs versus 9.9secs ó but in truth the two cars feel far more closely matched on the road. In fact, thereís really little enough point in upgrading to the more expensive 2.0-litre, as the power and performance rewards only really become apparent if you shove your boot to the floor and keep it there. If youíre just driving like a normal person, the 1.8ís overall performance is absolutely fine, and you wonít miss the extra oomph of the 2.0-litre.

Both engines have a slight issue with noise. Toyota has dramatically improved the performance of its eCVT automatic gearbox, but it does still allow the engines to rev up and hold those revs when accelerating. If youíre hauling up a long incline, then those revs can get a bit tiring, but the rest of the time itís not an issue. As ever with Toyota hybrids, itís also impressive when you notice just how often the little green ĎEVí light winks on to tell you that youíre driving around in engine-off, zero-emissions mode.

Ride & Handling

This is where the C-HR pulls out a pretty big lead over its Hyundai and Kia rivals. It's genuinely enjoyable and engaging to drive, especially when you find a truly challenging, twisty bit of road to put that to the test.

There is a caveat to that, and that's the steering, which doesn't feel as sharp as that of the old C-HR, but which is still leagues ahead of the new C-HR's crossover rivals, with the exception of the super-fun Ford Puma.

On a corner-heavy mountain road, the C-HR leaps happily between the apices of corners, with excellent body control and a mostly well-controlled ride. We say mostly because if you've gone for the 20-inch alloy wheels, those can set up an unpleasant porpoising motion over certain bumps, especially gnarly truck-ruts worn into the surface.

Value

The new C-HR is slightly more expensive than its key rivals from Kia and Hyundai, and quite a lot more expensive than a Ford Puma (which is, in fairness, a smaller car despite offering better boot space and a comparable driving experience). That said, the C-HR is very well equipped, and includes lots of safety equipment ó such as adaptive cruise control and lane-tracing steering ó as standard.

Verdict

The new Toyota C-HR is genuinely striking to look at, and almost as enjoyable to drive. Avoid the 20-inch alloys and the 2.0-litre engine, and you'll have an exceptionally frugal crossover that'll keep a keen driver happy when the road turns turn-y.



Neil Briscoe - 20 Nov 2023



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