We’ve had the new Toyota C-HR compact urban SUV, complete with entry-level 1.2T petrol engine and mid-range Excel trim, in for review. A worthy contender?
There is a school of thought that says the only things left on the planet after Armageddon will be cockroaches and Toyotas. The trouble is, until quite recently, the price of Toyota’s indestructibility was often blandness.
But recently that’s started to change, and there’s no better example of how much Toyota’s design focus has changed than this, the 2017 Toyota C-HR.
It’s nearly a year since the C-HR was revealed, looking like a grown-up take on the Nissan Juke (although closer in size to the Qashqai) and with a choice of the (predictable) hybrid setup or the one we have this week, the 1.2 litre 4-cylinder petrol.
We’ve got the C-HR 1.2T with mid-grade Excel trim, but Toyota has fitted the Premium Pack to this car which means we get full black leather for the seats and the JBL Premium audio. Which is very nice.
So will Toyota’s C-HR hit the sweet spot for urban SUVs? We’ll find out.
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Excel Inside and Out
Apparently, C-HR stands for ‘Coupe High Rider’, although that hardly does justice to the way the C-HR looks with its bulges and creases, angles and curves conspiring – just as they do on the Lexus NX – in to a remarkably cohesive design statement. This really is new Toyota style territory.
The design has sacrificed a little in practicality, with that statement roof line cutting down light, and a bit of headroom, in the back, and compromising rear visibility a bit too. But the C-HR is far from alone in making those sorts of sacrifices for the sake of style. Here, it’s worth the trade-off.
On this C-HR, the (optional) Pearlescent White Paint makes the 18″ dark alloys stand out even more, and the lower black panels on the side give additional emphasis to the deep angles and bulging rear wheel arches.
The statement front lights sweeping right back along the front wings, and the rear lights looking like a pair of claws gripping the tailgate, complete the C-HR’s looks, and although we’ll accept they may be Marmite looks, there were no dissenting voices here – we love how the C-HR looks.
Thankfully, although not quite as funky, the C-HR’s interior is a match for its exterior.
Yes, it’s a bit dark and a bit claustrophobic in the back, thanks to the swooping roofline, but the kids will be fine – and you can get three of them in – and proper-sized adults can live with it too. Even the boot’s a decent size, although there’s a bit of lip to lift your shopping over.
Up front – especially with the Premium Package adding Leather and JBL Sound – it’s a really nice place to be with its wraparound dashboard, good-looking Toyota Touch 2 infotainment screen bang in the middle and some properly upmarket materials in evidence.
There’s no shortage of tech either, with Sat Nav, Bluetooth, rear view camera, USB and Aux all part of the Touch 2, auto lights and wipers, Climate, heated front seats, Park Assist and Parking sensors and more all part of the package.
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Performance on the Road
There are, of course, exceptions, but Toyotas – especially ‘family’ Toyotas – and dynamic road manners have rarely gone together, especially if you’re talking about a high-riding urban SUV.
But the C-HR’s underpinnings use the new Toyota Global Architecture Platform which, despite a high ride height, means the centre of gravity is low down and the structure quite stiff, especially for an SUV. And that shows in how the C-HR performs.
You might expect the C-HR to be a bit roly-poly in the bends and a bit lacking in feel. But it actually manages to tell you pretty much what’s going on through the steering wheel and stays surprisingly flat, and surprisingly neutral, even when you tackle back road bends at probably less than sensible speeds.
Now that could mean the ride’s a bit hard and choppy, but not a bit of it – it’s actually a very comfortable ride, and the C-HR really does soak up bumps you’d expect to set up a bit of a shimmy. It’s rather impressive.
Of course, you’re never going at truly silly speeds, because under the bonnet is a 1.2 litre four-pot with a relatively modest 114bhp and 136lb/ft of torque, good for 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, a top speed of 118mph and official economy of 47.1mpg (we got 36.6mpg).
The engine doesn’t get out of bed properly until you’ve got a couple of thousand revs wound out, but if you keep it in that sweet spot it is very responsive, very smooth and zings the capable C-HR around with real alacrity. It’s properly fun.
It’s easy to get a shift on, it changes direction well, the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and accurate and it’s a real pleasure to drive.
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Excel Verdict
The Toyota C-HR may be a design departure for Toyota – inside and out – but it’s a proper success.
Not only is the C-HR properly funky and current, it’s managed to achieve that and feel upmarket and appealing too.
But its appeal goes beyond its looks, because although a high-riding urban SUV with a 1.2 litre engine and front-wheel drive shouldn’t be fun to drive, properly neutral and comfortable, the C-HR really is.
Toyota designed the C-HR for European markets, and they’ve hit their target perfectly. Yes, it does give up a little bit of practicality for style, but what style it is.
Who’d really have expected Toyota to deliver a properly funky urban crossover /SUV, and in delivering it produce a car that is a great drive, and with a zingly little 1.2 litre four pot turbo too?
Toyota reckon they’re going to shift 100,000 C-HRs and more a year in Europe, and if anything we’d be surprised if they didn’t manage a great deal more.
Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than, say, a mid-range 1.0 litre SEAT Ateca, and the back seats aren’t the most appealing place thanks to the shallow greenhouse and statement roofline. But the C-HR has real appeal.
If you’re looking for a compact-ish SUV, you’d be barmy not to add the Toyota C-HR to your list.
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Excel Review Photos
Toyota C-HR 1.2T Excel Review Tech Specs
- Engine: 1197cc, 114bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 10.9 seconds / Top Speed 118mph
- Economy: 47.1mpg – Official / 36.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 136g/km
- Price: £23,995 / Price as tested £26,300
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK