Toyota's bold move with C-HR crossover as curvy concept becomes reality
PUBLISHED: 16:22 26 November 2016
Love it or loathe it, you can't miss Toyota's new C-HR crossover and the drive lives up to the promise of those dynamic looks, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
If Toyota wanted to get noticed in the family crossover market it’s achieved it with the C-HR.
Short for Coupe High-Rider, it combines a coupe-like top half set on sport utility vehicle underpinnings with exciting exterior styling inspired by a cut diamond.
Toyota, not known for daring design, has to be applauded for being bold to maintain the concept car looks. You’ll love it or loathe it but Toyota is confident of selling 16,000 a year in the UK and 100,000 across Europe, the market it was designed for.
Under the bonnet
There’s the hybrid system, combining a 1.8-litre petrol engine with two electric motors, from the latest Prius and the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine from the Auris.
Toyota predicts up to 75% of sales will be hybrid which, mated to the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), is fine for urban driving with low emissions and high economy but not such a joy on the open road. The CVT is slow to respond under hard acceleration and accompanied by a lot of engine roar.
Keen drivers will prefer the flexible, free-revving 1.2T and saving up to £2,600 over the Hybrid. It also offers the choice of six-speed manual and CVT automatic gearboxes, the latter also available with all-wheel drive. It’s a lot more fun to drive and brings out the best of the C-HR’s fine chassis which benefits from the Toyota New Global Architecture.
So how does it drive?
Toyota engineers have put a lot of effort into the C-HR’s ride and roadholding, designing not only for European roads but the way we drive – chief engineer Hiroyuki Koba, a keen driver, says Europeans’ driving is faster and more fluid.
The aim was to make C-HR perform on a par with a good C-segment hatchback rather than a crossover and the results are impressive, particularly with the lighter, more lively 1.2 turbo versions.
The C-HR’s looks athletic and it felt sharp and agile through tricky twists and turns on the test route with good body control and plenty of grip while the supple suspension coped with broken road surfaces and wafted along motorways although wind noise is apparent at speed.
Space and comfort
What you notice first is the sheer quality with good-looking, soft materials on contact points and the cohesive design of tasteful colours and trims.
If you have to travel in the back – once you’ve found the ‘disguised’ door handle set high on the frame – there’s more leg and headroom than expected with that coupe styling.
The boot is not as large as many rivals at 377 litres but is well shaped with flat sides and the tailgate opens wide and high. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat.
At the wheel
Drivers will feel at home with the wrapround dashboard flowing into the doors, highlighted with a trim insert, and the raised eight-inch touch screen angled towards the driver.
Recessed instruments add to the sporty flavour along with swathes of piano black accents to show off the curves and contours.
The bold, eye-catching design continues inside with the diamond theme picked up on door panel patterns and some switch clusters.
All models get a package of active safety systems including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam.
Entry-level Icon includes dual-zone automatic air-con, 17in alloys, touch screen multimedia system, front fog lights, automatic wipers and dimming rear-view mirror.
More sophisticated Excel gets part-leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry, parking sensors and the ability to guide the car into a suitable space, satellite navigation, 18in alloys and systems to warn of vehicles in the blindspot or crossing behind when reversing out of a space.
Dynamic is about high design quality and innovation with metallic paint and contrast black roof, privacy glass, LED headlights and fog lamps and bespoke purple seat fabric.
The Toyota C-HR’s styling won’t suit everyone, for others it will be the key. Either way, you’ll never see Toyota in the same light again for the C-HR is an image-booster that’s going to get people talking Toyota and that’s good for the brand.