Toyota C-HR Hybrid Dynamic Review – An Ultra Impressive & Contemporary Hybrid Car

The Toyota C-HR stands for Coupe High-Rider, and the contemporary styling mates a smart, stylish coupe upper body with SUV underpinnings, hence; a crossover. When I first saw the C-HR, it was on a motorway journey, and as I passed it my immediate thought was what a cool, striking-looking car it was. The market is awash with crossovers and compact SUVs, and they sell in big numbers, so to make one distinctive enough to be noticed in amongst the humdrum metal flow of traffic on the roads is something praiseworthy.

Yes, the looks of a car are down to individual taste, but for the time I had the C-HR on test, it got nothing but positive comments. People liked the futuristic, sporty look of it, and with a hidden-type door at the rear – thanks to the high-placed door handles – the coupe outline stands out nicely.

Big, bold design lines rise and fall around the body of the C-HR, and I love the huge flared arches and cutouts that accentuate the LED light clusters at the front and rear, which are clearly part of that styling, rather than simply being functional. These provide the front end with a Transformers-like ‘face’ and the rear with some of the neatest light housings you’ll see on a crossover. It’s hard to make a car look interesting from the back, and it’s not something that’s thought through too well sometimes, but Toyota have nailed it here, along with every other angle of the car.

You’ve got a choice of five models; Icon, Design, Excel, Dynamic, and the Lime Edition which features special Neon Lime paintwork, among other things. I was sent the hybrid (every model is available as one) to review, in the Dynamic-spec.

Toyota offers the C-HR with two engines. There’s a 1.2 litre, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit with Dual VVT-iW which produces 114 bhp at 5,200 – 5,600 rpm and 135 lb ft (185 Nm) at 1,500 – 4,000 rpm, and that can be had in either a 6-speed manual transmission, or a CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission).

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The other is a hybrid system, featuring a completely re-engineered 1.8 litre, four-cylinder VVT-i naturally-aspirated petrol engine, which produces much better fuel economy, has lower friction to save energy, and lower noise and vibration. This produces 97 bhp at 5,200 rpm and 105 lb ft (142 Nm) of torque at 3,600 – 4,000 rpm.

This is mated to an improved hybrid system comprising of a 201.6 volt, 6.5 Ah (amp-hour) Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, which now has a higher energy density allowing its size to be reduced by 10% over the previous generation, while preserving the same amount of power. There’s also higher energy absorption capacity, taking in 28 per cent more energy in the same amount of time, which means that it charges faster than its predecessor.

The permanent magnet synchronous motor generator produces 600 volts, a 53 kW (kilowatt) and 120 lb ft (163 Nm) of torque output. The total horsepower from the combined hybrid motor and the engine is 120 bhp at 5,200 rpm. The electric motors are also smaller in size, but have a better power-to-weight ratio. Updated hybrid software has permitted a 60 per cent increase in the speed range of the electric motor (the range in which the electric motor can be used exclusively), compared to the third generation Prius, allowing improved fuel economy as well as more time driving using the batteries only.

Performance-wise, the C-HR isn’t particularly quick from zero to sixty miles-per-hour, with official figures at around the 11-second mark for whichever variant you go for. However, my own test timings of it saw it well under 10 seconds for the hybrid car. Top speeds read 105 mph (hybrid), 111 mph (1.2T CVT), 118 (1.2T manual). More discussed on performance further down. Only the 1.2T CVT auto is available with all-wheel-drive, and the 1.2T manual and hybrid get front-wheel-drive.

Fuel consumption is where it’s at for the Toyota C-HR hybrid, with official WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Procedure Test) stats quoted as (‘combined’) 55.3 – 58.8 UK miles-per-gallon, with CO2 emissions at just 86 g/km. However, I got WAY beyond those WLTP stats, and without trying hard to drive economically I still managed 70+ mpg in urban environments (I even saw eighty miles-per-gallon at times), and around 69 mpg on a motorway run driving at approximately 70 mph! Incredible. Hilariously, I found that even if you drive it as erratically as possible; accelerating hard, decelerating quickly, and repeat, I still couldn’t get the fuel economy to drop below fifty miles-per-gallon.

So if fuel economy is what you ultimately want, then the hybrid is a no-brainer over the 1.2T, as the petrol-turbo CVT version only gets a ‘combined’ figure of 34 mpg, and the six-speed manual with 35.7 – 41.5 mpg. I’m really quite surprised it isn’t higher for such a small engine.

Into the C-HR’s cabin, and I was immediately impressed by the design and styling. Toyota have somehow made it feel very snug and welcoming, while also providing contemporary, modish style throughout that looks fresh and cool. The materials have been excellently chosen and are good quality well-executed in their design (for the most part).

Toyota have used a leather-like finish for all background surfaces, with a smooth Nappa grain for any areas you’d normally touch (the dash, inner door handles and door cards, front centre armrest etc), and a ‘technical’ grain for anything functional such as the switches and buttons.

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While I personally don’t like the piano black finish any more, as it was/is used to death on some cars and can look quite cheap and nasty, the C-HR’s piano black areas actually look nice and have a real depth of quality about them, thankfully. It also has some sort of glittery stuff within the piano black trim, which I’m not too sure about really. I kept thinking it was dusty, but nope, sparkly stuff it was. See my interior tour video for that.

I really do like the interior on the C-HR. It’s got much more room on the inside than you’d think from looking at the exterior, the front seats are really very comfortable, and the rears surprised me with a good lean angle for comfort, plus way more legroom than you would perhaps assume as well as good elbow and headroom. The boot was, again, more spacious than I’d expected, and you could easily fit a couple of decent-sized suitcases in there with the rear seats up. The rear seats also drop in a 60:40 split, giving you a total of 1,160 litres of stowage capacity.

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Every panel and button is bolted down well, and there are zero rattles from it, even over bad sections of road. The only real gripe I have is those purple plastic inserts on the inner doors. The colour is fine (they also come in dark grey and black/brown), but the plastic just felt scratchy and cheap. If Toyota had used that rubberised-like coating on it, as they do with the switchgear, then it would have felt much better. Aside from that, I’ve no issues.

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The range-topping Dynamic model I tested was packed with both interior comforts and tech, as well as driver safety aids. As standard though, even the base Icon version (starts at £22,435) gets Toyota Safety Sense (Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; Adaptive Cruise Control; Lane Departure Alert; Automatic High Beam; Road Sign Assist), airbags all-round, traction and stability control, hill start assist, electric parking brake, auto wipers and headlights, dual-zone air conditioning, electric and heated door mirrors, and Toyota Touch 2 (8 inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system with DAB tuner, Bluetooth, rearview camera, Aux-in and USB port.).

Toyota have given the C-HR an 8-inch touchscreen system offers slick graphics, well-laid-out and intuitive menus, various apps and ways to connect to your phone, as well as a good satellite navigation system, which I found not only easier to use than its Lexus counterparts’ (such as the fantastic Lexus LC 500) system, but also with nicer graphics too. Its driver display also benefits from a 4.2-inch colour menu TFT display, which again has plenty of settings, options and screens to select from.

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On to the driving, and as mentioned earlier I had been sent the front-wheel-drive hybrid version. Let’s start with the acceleration. No, it’s not quick from a standstill to 60 mph, but who uses that as a standard, really? And in actual fact, the rolling acceleration, especially on sliproads to the motorway, or for overtaking at motorway limits, is absolutely fine. It does what it needs to, and cruises fine at seventy and eighty miles-per-hour.

Watch my driving review of the C-HR Hybrid below!

Toyota have made a bit of a mistake actually. There are three driving modes; EV (electric), Eco, and Power. While there’s a button for the EV mode, and the car automatically reverts back to Eco once out of this, should you want to use Power (maximum EV motor and engine combined power) for quicker acceleration, this is buried deep in the driver display menu system (see interior video)! I don’t understand why they didn’t simply include a button for it somewhere. Strange one, that.

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The ride quality is good, as is the handling, thanks to Toyota developing the C-HR’s chassis on European roads with a European driving style (fluid, and based on acute observation of traffic, apparently) in mind. I enjoyed driving the C-HR on winding country roads, as the steering, suspension, and chassis all act really harmoniously to provide positive steering reaction, nimble handling and decent low-to-mid range power.

I own an older hybrid – a 2006 Lexus RX 400h – and even after thirteen years and 133,000+ miles, and the hybrid system still works impressively well. The C-HR is obviously far more advanced, and works beautifully, as you’d expect from a company that has been designing and producing them since 1997. The transition between the petrol engine and the hybrid system is utterly seamless, and much of the time it’s hard to tell which is working unless you use the neat display on the touchscreen.

As mentioned earlier, the hybrid system is now much more efficient, switching over to full electric mode often, especially on urban runs. I found it highly satisfying that it’ll happily sit at 40+ mph on battery use, and on even a slight downhill section it can be driven at 50 mph. Battery range is approximately a mile, but a very common misconception is that that is the complete range per journey. This is not the case, as the hybrid system is constantly recharged by either the engine or regeneration from braking or decelerating.

I was massively impressed by just how quickly the battery regained charge, and it’s a big leap over even the previous generation hybrid system in every way.

The Toyota C-HR starts at (prices correct July 2019) £22,435 and tops out at £30,495. The price difference between the 1.2T manual and the hybrid version is around £2,500, while the 1.2T CVT auto with AWD is actually around £300 more expensive than the hybrid.

Watch my full interior tour of the Toyota C-HR below!

I believe the hybrid is well worth the extra £2.5k over the 1.2T manual. The hybrid absolutely feels like you’re driving the future, plus the fuel economy is so much better. But when it comes to the having the CVT and all-wheel-drive on the 1.2T, the advantage is there over the front-wheel-drive hybrid, should you want to be a bit more adventurous or live in an area when it gets bad winters.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Toyota C-HR Hybrid, and I could absolutely see myself owning one at some point. I’ll do a separate report on the 1.2T when I’ve tested it, but should you want to own a hybrid and want to go with something less conservative than the Prius, that has edgy looks, fun handling, a nice interior, plus superb fuel economy, go and test the C-HR – you won’t be disappointed.

Words: Chris Davies | Photography/film: Chris Davies

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