The C-HR's lead engineer, Hiro Koba, sets off in this manual, two-wheel drive 1.2-litre petrol model. This model is expected to be the second most popular C-HR after the 1.8-litre hybrid. A larger 2.0-litre version will be offered in markets like Russia, where displacement and overall reliability are prized over fuel economy, but Toyota isn’t bringing that engine to the UK because of its high CO2 emissions.
A plug-in hybrid version – based on the same technology which already features in the Prius – is apparently possible, but isn’t part of Toyota’s immediate plans.
Benchmarked against the VW Golf
The driving dynamics of this prototype are 90% representative of the final car, Koba says. Toyota’s development team have benchmarked the car against a variety of key cars, including the Audi Q3 and Volkswagen Golf, while steering feel was modeled on that of the Skoda Yeti.
Our route takes in country roads and cobbled urban streets. The C-HR feels well planted on the road, with a tight turning circle considering its size. There’s still work to be done when it comes to NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), Koba admits, and certainly there’s more than a fair share of wind noise in the cabin – not helped by the camouflage wrapping applied to our test car.
Koba puts the 1.2-litre engine through its paces on the open road. It whines a little, but feels strong enough to pull the C-HR without too much effort, at least at moderate speeds. Koba says he wants to see higher capacity engines, including a turbocharged 2.0-litre variant, make their way into the C-HR at some point.
As we reach a particularly fine set of bends, Koba puts his foot down, and it’s clear this area of performance is where Toyota’s engineers have focused. The C-HR feels as capable here as any hatchback, and as we ascend the French hillside, the C-HR turns into corners well, feeling balanced and well controlled.
The braking force comes quickly and evenly, and the ride is supple and comfortable even over broken surfaces. Our test car has 18in alloy wheels – again, this is likely to be the best-selling option in the UK – although smaller 17in wheels will also be available.
We also try a model with the same 1.2-litre engine in combination with a CVT transmission. Toyota engineers insist on sticking with CVT units, even though traditional automatics and dual-clutch automatic gearboxes can be smoother. While it feels more at home in the C-HR than it does in an Auris hatchback, we’d still recommend the manual. Indeed, that’s Koba’s preference too.