By Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Toyota C-HR Excel Hybrid 1.8 CVT
Fuel: Petrol-Electric Hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 72.4 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 8/10
The Toyota C-HR has dramatic looks compared to most Toyotas, it’s also good to drive, and if you want maximum miles per gallon, then the Hybrid powertrain is the one to go for.
Car manufacturers believe that they can no longer sell boring saloons or hatchbacks, so they have to create cars that look like off-road Dakar racers – which is exactly what the Toyota C-HR looks like. But does it drive like an off-road racing machine?
You’ve got to give Toyota’s designers credit for their boldness with the styling of the C-HR, which is a futuristic take on a crossover coupe. You’re left with the feeling that it would look better in the same colour as a Stealth Fighter rather than white.
An effort has also been made with the design of the interior, which predictably features a large touchscreen as a central feature, and which generally works well overall, although we’d prefer a lower driving position.
Children in the rear seats struggle to see out of the side windows as they’re so high, especially at the back. This also results in a very strange position for the rear door handles. The coupe-like roofline also means that the boot could be a reasonable size, but it’s robbed of potential space in the height department.
Our Toyota C-HR featured a hybrid powertrain; this is comprised of a 4 cylinder, 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor powered by a battery, and an electric CVT transmission CVT with front-wheel drive.
The C-HR is one of the better Toyotas of recent years to drive. With the exception of the GT86 – one of our favourite cars – most Toyotas have felt overly light to drive in terms of controls, but all the main controls such as steering and brakes in the C-HR are well weighted. The C-HR also handles and rides well, and under normal driving it’s relatively quiet. So it’s all good news – apart from one thing…
Our test car came with the hybrid powertrain option, which we’ll talk about in terms of efficiency shortly. This means that it also came with Toyota’s CVT gearbox, which in turn means that when you need to accelerate quickly, the result is lots of revs, lots of noise, and a minimal increase in the rate of forward progress.
This may sound familiar to anyone who has read Green Car Guide reviews of Toyota hybrids over recent years, but then things improved with the latest Prius. However for some reason the C-HR doesn’t seem to have shared these improvements evident in the Prius. Trying to gain speed when joining a motorway on a slip road is a particularly painful process. You’re left with the feeling that you desperately want to lock it into a gear, or even change down a gear, but there is zero ability to do this.
The spec sheet for the test car stated that it has normal, eco and power drive modes, but we couldn’t see any power buttons anywhere.
Unlike many new cars, the C-HR has heating controls that are separate from the touchscreen, which is excellent news. However the buttons around the edge of the touchscreen are very small and are on very slippery plastic, so as with many other new cars, the touchscreen design could be better. You also can’t zoom out on the satnav map for more than a few seconds before it reverts back to the scale that it wants to show you.
A permanent display on the main instrument panel in front of the driver showing the hybrid battery charge would also be useful.
The official combined fuel economy figure for the Toyota C-HR Hybrid is 72.4mpg (equating to 87g/km CO2 emissions). Extra-urban fuel economy is less than the combined figure, at 68.9mpg, and the official urban fuel economy figure is an incredible 80.7mpg, which is the opposite way round to conventional petrol or diesel cars, which are most economical in extra-urban driving.
So did our real-life figures match this data? In short, no. The best economy we enjoyed was an indicated 69.0mpg on slow B-roads. Driving at a constant 70mph on the motorway resulted in an average of 62.7mpg. The worst we recorded was 46.3mpg up and down the Pennines, and our urban driving figure wasn’t far off this figure. Overall, after a week of mixed driving, we averaged 49.2mpg. This is considerably short of the official 72.4mpg.
Hybrids can be very economical if driven very carefully. Our driving is representative of real-life driving, rather than being driven in an eco-marathon, therefore it would be possible to achieve better economy if you were prepared to drive very carefully.
It’s worth noting that the C-HR’s battery capacity is very limited, like most (non plug-in) hybrids; you’ll be able to run on electric power when at a standstill and when driving short distances at low speeds, or when coasting; beyond that there’s usually insufficient battery capacity to sustain more prolonged periods of all-electric driving.
However Toyota’s hybrid system does offer the potential to be more economical than a traditional car, especially with lots of stop-start driving, and it has advantages over petrol – and especially diesel cars – in terms of local air quality.
The Toyota C-HR Excel Hybrid 1.8 CVT costs £27,995. Our test car had the options of pearlescent paint (£545) and Premium pack (£1,595), taking the total price to £30,135.
The Toyota C-HR is also available with 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine, and at £23,995, it’s also cheaper than the C-HR Hybrid.
The Toyota C-HR is essentially a good car to drive, and better than most other recent Toyota models, with the obvious exception of the GT86. All the basics are there, for instance in terms of handling and weights of its controls. And we think it looks good, although we acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
If you like the sound of the C-HR so far, and you want a powertrain option that’s likely to give you the lowest emissions in stop-start urban driving (although we found A and B-road driving most efficient), then consider the Hybrid model.
However if your driving isn’t confined to city limits, we’d recommend giving the 1.2-litre petrol a try. We’ve not driven this ourselves yet, but we’re sure that it will be a more direct driving experience, ie. an improvement on the revvy acceleration of the Hybrid.
So the C-HR is a good car; buy the Hybrid if your driving is primarily urban stop-start cycles, and otherwise buy the model with the petrol engine. Both options will be relatively green, but do either of these powertrain choices live up to the expectation that is created by the car’s racy off-road appearance? No. So perhaps Toyota should consider an option that may not be as green, but which would result in the C-HR’s driving experience living up to its looks. Howabout if the C-HR body was dropped onto a GT86 chassis and running gear? This would provide a driving experience in keeping with a crossover coupe, whilst also offering a practical five-door body style. And for good measure, why not also offer a four-wheel drive version of the GT86’s chassis to go with the off-road looks?
As it is, the Toyota C-HR Excel Hybrid 1.8 CVT gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10. The 1.2 petrol could potentially score a 9 out of 10. With the GT86 chassis and powertrain it would definitely be likely to score a 10 out of 10.
Fuel economy extra urban: 68.9 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 80.7 mpg
Test economy: 49.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 87 g/km
Green rating: VED band A
Weight: tbc kg
Company car tax liability (2017/18): 15%
Insurance group: tbc
Power: 121 bhp
Max speed: 105 mph
0-62mph: 11 seconds
Torque: 142 Nm