Road test: Toyota C-HR
The C-HR looks great, inside and out, but space feels limited and it really needs more poke.
A rendezvous with the delivery driver is arranged for 9.30am in a Gerrards Cross supermarket car park. I’m 150 miles from home with a few appointments (both business and personal) before driving back to Mid Wales tomorrow. First impressions are positive. The C-HR looks really good – futuristic, definitely a head-turner. Not too sure about the plasticky spoiler that juts out from the rear end of the roof, but otherwise, I’m impressed. Once inside, I take a while to find exactly the right seating position.
Having not long ago spent a week driving a Prius, I immediately see similarities with the C-HR. A 1.8-litre automatic petrol engine with additional electric motor is found in both models. As I quickly discover, this combination has a lot more work to do propelling the C-HR along. However, it appears to rise to the challenge as I move through a series of local appointments in the Thames Valley.
Once done with a morning commitment in London, I am reunited with the C-HR in Marlow, having left it in the care of photographer Richard Sowersby. He’s bubbling over with enthusiasm as he talks through everything he loves about the car. The long motorway journey back to my home gives me plenty of time to get used to the performance and the interior, as well as to the noticeable noise from the engine.
The worrying thing is the rather optimistic range guide on the dashboard. Starting at 400 miles-plus as I join the M4 near Maidenhead, it’s down to a little over 100 by the time I arrive home. Ah-ha, you think – I must have been ‘giving it’ some to push the range down so much. Actually, no. I was within the speed limit, grabbing the opportunity to make progress, but never heavy on the gas. Am I on the wrong roads? Or do I need to adapt? Hopefully things will become clearer in the week ahead.
My youngest son Dylan, aged seven, is playing rugby this morning. He loves the look of the C-HR as we make ready to leave for the ground, but he can only just reach the very high rear door handle. If it weren’t for his booster seat, he would not see anything out of the small rear windows, either. As he and his team mates warm up, I take note of the CH-R’s interior layout, which is smart, dark and futuristic. The floors are black, the ceiling’s black, the seats are black and the door panels are black. The key can sit in one of the cup holders, and the start button is just to the right of the steering wheel.
A blue strip runs from the driver’s door handle, up and over the air vent. It disappears by the two big dials (the left for power, the right for speed and fuel tank), only to pick up again around the large infotainment screen, along the top of the glove box to finish on the passenger door handle.
The automatic gearshift is small but perfectly formed, the heating is controlled by four small tabs just above it. The window and wing mirror controls sit on the driver’s door.
On a quick trip to Brecon, I pay close attention to Toyota’s guide on making the most of electric power. It tells me a full hybrid is engineered to run on electric power as often as possible. This saves fuel and reduces exhaust emissions. An ‘EV’ button means I can switch to electric power for times when I’m going really slowly. I drive round Morrison’s car park in this ‘stealth’ mode, being careful to follow the instructions and to drive smoothly and gently, with minimum additional drain on the battery (no Iron Maiden at peak volume, no full blast of air-conditioning). Come to think of it, I couldn’t name a single song by Iron Maiden, as I’m more of a Bach man myself. But you get my point.
Braking early and gently maximises the power that’s recycled from the C-HR’s regenerative braking system, and it would appear best not to accelerate… at all. Or at least to keep out of the ‘power’ band shown clearly on the Eco monitor. That causes a slight problem, especially on the hilly roads around us. But I do my best.
Off to Hinckley this morning to be a delegate at the Roads Policing conference. It’s a three-and-a-half hour drive through a lot of city and motorway traffic, but I can’t fault the comfort. Chief Constable Anthony Bangham causes a stir at the event by demanding an end to tolerance for speeding, and in particular saying that there should be fines and penalty points for drivers caught at 31mph in 30 limits. This sets off a furore among journalists, as tomorrow’s papers are sure to confirm.
After glancing at the headlines made by the Chief Constable, I leave the Conference and head down the A5 for a short meeting in Stony Stratford, before striking for home. The roads around Buckingham and Banbury prove bone-shakingly rutted, with some seriously big holes that would challenge even the most sophisticated suspension system.
I have a day at home, so my wife piles Dylan and two other children into the C-HR for post-school swimming lessons in Hay-on-Wye. Feedback supports Dylan’s gripe from earlier in the week that the rear windows are too small and too high, although one child says it feels like being in a spaceship (I think that’s a compliment, but it comes from a girl aged eight, so I am not 100 per cent sure).
An early start to meet the Toyota driver at Leominster. Having been an observer of all the speeding fines debate earlier in the week, I purr through the village of Winforton at 29, as displayed by the C-HR’s speedometer. Winforton has one of those signs that tell you your speed – red if above 30 or green if 30 or below. So the car’s 29 was, according to the sign, 26. Just thought I’d mention it, without using this page as an opportunity to enter any speed-related debate. I manage a final slow march (all 22 seconds of it, according to the monitor) in EV mode to park at Leominster station and wait for my lift back home.
Need to know
We tested the Toyota C-HR Dynamic Hybrid 1.8 CVT, which is powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor.
On board safety features include the Toyota ‘Safety Sense’ programme, which features pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and road sign assist.
The Toyota 8-inch touchscreen combines a DAB radio, satnav, rear-view camera, and online connectivity. There’s also a USB port and Bluetooth.
The list of kit is impressive: dual-zone air conditioning; power lumbar adjustment on the driver’s seat, heated front seats and leather trim to the gearstick and steering wheel.
WE SAY the C-HR looks great, inside and out, but space feels limited and it really needs more poke.
AT A GLANCE:
Price: £30,225 as tested
Performance: 0-62 in 11 seconds
Economy: 72.4 mpg combined
Figures for the Dynamic Hybrid 1.8 CVT