The revolution is well underway at Toyota. Those of us used to seeing the company produce dependable, but rather unexciting models are having our expectations well and truly shaken up.
The new Toyota C-HR is a good example. It is an exciting, futuristic design full of dynamic creases and folds. I can imagine it won’t be to everyone’s taste. But, the new Toyota seems willing to gamble on losing a few of their more conservative customers in the interests of winning over a new generation of Toyota devotees.
The avant garde, futuristic looks are very deliberate. After all, the flagship Toyota C-HR models will be hybrid powered and much of the underpinnings of the C-HR are shared with the Toyota Prius. The test car, however, was conventionally powered with a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine.
The diverse powertrain options make it clear Toyota is looking for the C-HR to have wide appeal. The design, also is aimed at satisfying quite a bewildering range of tastes. The C-HR combines elements of crossover, SUV, hatchback and even sports coupé. That might sound like a recipe for completely missing the target, but somehow the end result seems appealing.
Another thing that works is the visual trickery to make the C-HR’s look more like a sports coupé. The trickery fooled me. At first glance what I saw parked outside was a quite compact two-door. This concerned me as its first duty was to transport a full complement of passengers and some substantial luggage on a 250-mile round trip.
Concern turned to relief when, on closer inspection, I found the rear doors, with their handles hidden behind the rear side window – a design ploy pioneered by Alfa Romeo.
It’s more than just the doors that trick the eye. The CH-R looks quite compact. I envisaged my rear seat passengers with their knees tucked under their chins and overflow luggage piled on their knees. In reality, what I got was positive comments about rear seat space and the load area had no problems swallowing all of our luggage.
The downside of the sporty coupé looks, however, is the way the rear windows rise to meet the sweeping roof line. My adult passengers muttered about feeling a little enclosed. I suspect small children would find it even more so.
The interior of the C-HR is a revelation for those of us used to previous generations of Toyotas.
This looks a much sharper and more upmarket place to be. Use of piano black and silver brightwork gives the C-HR a more high-tech look.
While the 1.8-litre hybrid model may grab the limelight, my test car was its conventionally powered sibling with a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine. There is no diesel option – something that may not be so much of an omission, given current diesel emission concerns. The test car was front wheel drive, but there are two models in the C-HR range that feature four-wheel-drive – both with automatic transmission.
Like so many of today’s smaller capacity engines, the performance is pretty good and this C-HR kept up a good pace on the motorways, just occasionally running a little short of puff on long uphill sections. The upside is in fuel economy and, overall, I recorded more than 40 mpg without any conscious effort at economy driving.
Toyota says that the design of the C-HR means it has a lower centre of gravity than most crossovers. That’s perhaps why it feels remarkably good on twisty roads, roundabouts and slip roads where the steering is precise and well balanced.
There was quite a bit of motorway driving during my time with the C-HR and I found it quite quiet, apart from a little weather-related noise from the wind and rain.
The Toyota C-HR Excel is well equipped, coming with goodies that include a sat-nav and adaptive cruise control. The latter is such a godsend, particularly on motorway journeys – although it did appear to be confused, switching off in heavy rain.
At the end of my time with the C-HR, I had grown quite fond of it.
I’m not always a fan of some of the ‘look at me’ folded metal designs coming from Japan, but I did like the boldness of the C-HR design. It also won me over in terms of practicality.
The sporty crossover market is growing, and the C-HR strengthens Toyota’s hand in tackling the growing competition. Toyota C-HR Excel
Carbon dioxide emissions: 136 g/km
Combined fuel economy 47.1 mpg
Top speed: 118 mph
0-62: 10.9 secs
Power 115 bhp
Engine size 1197cc petrol
Boot capacity 377 litres (back seats up)