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7 Nov, 2019 7:45am Alex Ingram
Can a mid-life facelift help the Toyota C-HR shine in the congested crossover segment?
It’s a tough task to stand out in the family crossover class, but Toyota managed to get the formula pretty close to spot on with its debut attempt back in 2016. The C-HR offered striking looks and a fuel-sipping hybrid option to set it apart from the likes of Skoda’s Karoq and Renault’s Kadjar.
Three years and roughly 50,000 UK sales later and the C-HR has received a mid-life refresh. The updated model brings improved interior tech, revised styling and a new hybrid engine to the party. Toyota reckons that it’s both more refined and more engaging to drive, too.
Even a few years on from its debut, the C-HR manages to cut a distinctive figure, so there wasn’t much need to fiddle with the styling. As a result, the new car’s external spruce-up is mild: reshaped bumpers front and rear give a cleaner look, while the lights at both ends now use LED tech. There are three new colours to choose from (including the orange in our images) and a couple of different 17- and 18-inch wheel designs.
The dashboard gains a couple of new trim pieces here and some extra soft touch plastics there, but the interior looks largely the same as before. The cheap digital clock has disappeared, but unfortunately the huge C-pillars – and the awful over-the-shoulder visibility and dark, gloomy back seats they create – remain. A 377-litre boot is well down on other crossover rivals, but about the same as a VW Golf-sized hatchback.
Previously, Toyota owners had to endure one of the weakest infotainment systems on the market. Despite minor improvements, they will still have to – it’s fussy to look at and fiddly to use. At least it’s not as much of an issue as it once was, as Toyota has finally integrated both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
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More significant news comes under the bonnet. With over eight out of every 10 UK C-HR buyers opting for the hybrid, Toyota has dropped the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit.
That means that the range now kicks off with the existing 1.8-litre hybrid. The piston element is largely the same as before, but the electrical system now draws energy from a lithium-ion battery that’s smaller, lighter and more powerful than the previous nickel-metal hydride item.
And now there’s a new range-topping hybrid to choose from, too: a 2.0-litre, twin e-motor system with 182bhp and 202Nm. The level of clever tech the 2.0-litre utilises could take up the entire space of this review, so all we’ll say here is that the various innovations conspire to make the 2.0-litre unit the most thermally-efficient combustion engine on the market, a fifth lighter than Toyota’s previous 2.0-litre, and 50 percent more powerful than the 1.8, yet only 10 percent less fuel efficient.
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And on the road, it manages to impress – for the most part, at least. Performance is strong enough and the powertrain is very smooth in everyday driving, but under hard acceleration it’s still blighted by a similar drone of revs to the 1.8. Blame the CVT gearbox for that. However, its extra muscle means that it doesn’t need to be worked hard as often as the smaller unit (so the unpleasant noise happens less often), and it’s refined at gentler throttle openings, thanks partly to soundproofing enhancements throughout the updated C-HR range.
Toyota has tweaked the steering and the suspension of the 2.0-litre models to adjust for a little extra weight up front relative to the 1.8. However, without testing the pair back-to-back there are few obvious differences. In other words, the C-HR is still one of the sharper handling crossovers on the market while delivering a fairly controlled ride, too. The steering doesn’t offer up much feel, but it is precise.
But what of its efficiency? On our Portuegese test route, the C-HR managed an indicated 59mpg – at least until we encountered motorways, where that figure dropped into the forties. Do plenty of town driving, and Toyota claims that it’s possible for up to 80 per cent of mileage to be covered in electric power alone. We logged a score closer to 60 per cent.
With CO2 emissions of 92g/km, the 2.0-litre releases just six grammes more CO2 per kilometre than the 1.8, and places it well below pretty much any rival in this class – a big plus for company car users.
As an ownership prospect, the Toyota is close to the top of the class, too. A 5-year/100,000-mile warranty is among the most generous available. Not that you’re likely to need it, as our Driver Power survey shows that the C-HR hardly ever goes wrong anyway.
Prices for the 2.0-litre – available in all but the entry level Icon trim – start at £29,645. Like-for-like it’s £1,620 pricier than the equivalent 1.8 model – a price that we’d say is well worth it for the extra performance on offer. The Orange Edition driven here, which features 18-inch alloy wheels, a black/orange two-tone paint job, leather seats and a JBL sound system, is the priciest model at £32,595, but only 500 will be sold in the UK.
Those numbers place the C-HR at the pricey end of the class. It’s roughly on a par with the equivalent Peugeot 3008 – a car that’s more spacious and feels more special inside, but can’t match the Toyota’s fuel economy and emissions figures. However, you could buy another of our class favourites, the Skoda Karoq, for significantly less, and a Renault Kadjar for less still. Of course none of them have the Toyota’s hybrid tech.
4 Distinctive, fun to drive and promising tiny fuel bills, the Toyota C-HR has much to set it apart from many SUV rivals. The new 2.0-litre hybrid is a welcome addition to the range, while the adoption of smartphone integration circumvents one of the car’s previously major weaknesses – a poor infotainment system. Other problems remain, however, including a dark, claustrophobic cabin, poor rearward visibility and a high purchase price. Look past those issues, and the C-HR is worth consideration among the class leaders.
- Model: Toyota C-HR Hybrid 2.0VVT-i Orange Edition
- Price: £32,595
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
- Power/torque: 182bhp/202Nm
- Transmission: CVT auto, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
- Top speed: 112 mph
- Economy/CO2: 49.6mpg/92g/km
- On sale: Now