Toyota took their time getting into the very fashionable and high selling compact SUV market sector leaving customers with just their hard-core RAV4 as the option, but now that’s all changed, says David Miles.
UK sales of what the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders call Dual Purpose vehicles, what we know as 4x4s/SUVs and including some Crossovers increased in the UK by 23.3% last year with 437,931 sales making the sector the third largest behind Supermini (Ford Fiesta type) and Lower Medium ( Ford Escort type). That figure didn’t include some Crossovers where 2WD models are the mainstay of the type. These include the Nissan Qashqai and Nissan Juke which Nissan designate as Lower Medium and Supermini cars. In Europe it was much the same story with SUV/4×4/Crossover sales growing by 21.4%.
For 2017 Toyota are now firmly in the game with the arrival of the futuristically styled five door C-HR (Coupe High-Rider) compact Crossover. It is available with the choice of a 1.2-litre 115hp turbocharged petrol engine with manual or auto gearbox options with 2WD or 4WD models or the likely most popular 1.8-litre 122hp petrol-electric hybrid automatic with 2WD, the same power unit as used in the Prius Hybrid.
|Prices start at £20,995 and range up to £27,995 through three levels of specification – Icon, Excel and Dynamic. This makes the 1.8 petrol-electric hybrid auto models £1,400 more expensive than the 1.2 turbo automatic 2WD and £2,600 more costly than the 1.2 manual transmission 2WD versions.
Toyota in this buoyant market sector expects over 100,000 C-HR sales in Europe over the next 12 months and 75% of these will be for the hybrid versions due to their lower running costs. For the UK market Toyota GB expects to sell around 16,000 C-HR’s in a full year making it their third best selling range behind the Yaris and Aygo models.
The new C-HR in both engine forms sits on the latest Toyota New Global Platform as used for the latest Prius. Its radical styling has a coupe-like upper body with the muscular lower wide stance of an SUV.
With a length of 4,360mm it is similar to the best selling Nissan Qashqai SUV but with its coupe cabin it comparable with the smaller Nissan Juke. Look on it has a high stance Prius in a radical suit of new clothes.
The front end is a combination of multi-layers of aerodynamic bodywork with a wide slim grille flanked by sleek headlights and below that centrally mounted in the strong looking bumper is a large grille and below that what looks like a skid plate.
| In the UK the C-HR with CO2 emissions for the 1.2 turbo models range between 134 and 144g/km so the VED road tax is either £130 or £145 each year and company car Benefit-in-Kind tax 23 to 25% depending on the gearbox and 2WD/4WD configuration. On the other hand the 1.8 hybrid has CO2 emissions of 86 or 87g/km, VED costs are £0 and BIK is 15%.
However the UK tax rates only run up to the end of March 2017 because from 1 April VED road tax levels increase significantly for new cars bought from that date onwards. The 1.2 petrol models will be £200 First Year rate and £140 each subsequent year with BIK going up to between 25 and 27%. The 1.8 hybrid will cost £90 for First Year rate VED and then £130 onwards with BIK tax being 17%. As always with any new car my advice is buy now and make sure the vehicle is registered before the end of March.
My test car had the main body in white and a black roof and upper rear quarter panels which added to the impressive styling. I’ve seen a couple of other C-HRs in a dark solid body and the same roof colour and they do not look quite so striking.
A steeply raked windscreen leads to a coupe style roof which in turn leads to a steeply raked forwards rear tailgate window and above that is a large roof spoiler. The side profile has a rising high level waistline and there are deeply sculptured styling lines running over the wide front wheelarches along the lower door panels and then over the wide rear haunches.
Inside at the rear the seat space is reasonable but with the low coupe roof line, small rear window and tiny rear side windows it will be claustrophobic for some passengers. With the ‘pinched’ styling over the rear wheelarches it reduces the interior width so it’s more of a two seater for adults in the rear than providing three seats.
At the rear is a lift up tailgate giving access to a compact 377-litre boot, about the same size as Audi’s new Q2 small SUV. Unfortunately the boot doesn’t have an adjustable height floor so items have to be loaded over a deep sill. The rear seat backs fold 60/40 to give further load space.
Inside at the front the radical styling continues with a sweeping multi-layered dashboards linking nicely with the sculptured interior door panels. Showing its eco credentials the hybrid version has a sweeping blue styling trim line running the full width of the fascia panel, over the centrally positioned 8-inch touchscreen and down into the door trim sections.
Beneath the infotainment touchscreen are easy to reach and see heater and ventilation controls. The seats are comfortable and the trim throughout including soft feel plastic is a big improvement over what we have experienced in the past with some Toyota models such as the Prius. Whilst the rear interior of the C-HR is cosy the front is roomier and generally provides a nice futuristic classy environment.
The level of spec is impressive as well with even the base Icon level have dual zone air con, 17-inch alloys, Toyota Touch 2 touchscreen multimedia system, front fog lights, rain sensing wipers, Toyota Safety Sense pre-collision system with adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, auto high beam lights, road sign alerts, electric parking brake and electrically operated front and rear windows.
The best selling mid range Excel additions include part-leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, smart keyless entry, parking sensors and park assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, sat-nav and 18-inch alloy wheels. The top level Dynamic spec additions include metallic paint with a contrast black roof, privacy glass and LED headlights and fog lights.
Of course there are options and option packs for personalisation. These, depending on the grade of model chosen, include Tech Pack, Leather Pack, Premium Pack, Entertainment Pack and Sports Pack.
In real-life driving conditions covering nearly 500-miles my test car returned an overall average of 55.1mpg covering all types of roads including some long motorway mileage. At best for some 50mph cruising speeds I did see 62.5mpg on the computer but a combination of 70mph motorway speeds and some slow local driving brought it down to the mid 50s. It is exceptionably easy to drive; get in, seatbelt on, push start button, select Drive and it silently pulls away before the petrol engine smoothly and quietly chimes in.
Given it has a 1.8-litre petrol engine with a power-sapping CVT continuously variable auto gearbox it was acceptable but the low tax costs offset the mediocre performance. Generally the petrol-electric hybrid system worked smoothly enough but under acceleration there was a constant drone. I’m told the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engined versions are more lively and agile but of course less tax efficient but cheaper to buy. The handling was composed and surefooted during cornering with reasonable steering feedback and the ride comfort was good overall.
Those past, or potential future buyers, of a Toyota Prius who want something significantly more visually exciting with more ‘street-cred’, a much higher interior quality of the front cabin and are not too worried about the space given over to rear seat passengers should give the C-HR serious consideration.
Toyota C-HR Dynamic Hybrid 1.8 CVT £27,995
Engine/transmission: 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder normally aspirated petrol with electric motor, total power output 120hp, CVT auto gearbox, front wheel drive
Performance: 105mph, 0-62mph 11-seconds, Combined Cycle 72.4mpg (55.1mpg on test)
CO2 87g/km, VED £0, BIK company car tax 15%
Insurance group: 16A Warranty: 5-years/100,000-miles
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,360mm, W 1,795mm, H 1,565mm, boot space 377-litres, 5-doors/5-seats
For: Radical eye catching exterior styling, futuristic front interior design, well equipped, low tax costs, a much more fashionable choice than a Prius Hybrid.
Against: Costly to buy in this compact Crossover sector but cheap to run, limited rear cabin space, restricted rear/rear quarter visibility, needs an adjustable height boot floor, noisy engine under acceleration, no 4WD Hybrid or diesel options.
© David Miles