I actually quite like the C-HR’s bold styling, with all those modern, angular lines. It stands out from the pack which, speaking as a photographer, I’ll always welcome. I particularly like the pronounced wheel arches and tapered lines over the rear haunch, which are offset nicely by the two-tone paint(I really liked the Nebula Blue colour and reckon the £545 metallic paint option is worth ticking). Like the Prius, the C-HR looks different, bold and futuristic, but unlike the Prius, it doesn’t bring to mind private cabs on their way to Heathrow.
I also wanted to know what it’s like to live with a hybrid powertrain. I consider myself a petrolhead and I’ve been sceptical about whether a full hybrid powertrain such as the C-HR’s could be engaging to drive. But much of my daily driving is on tight, congested roads. Matt lives in Basingstoke and was using the C-HR for his motorway commute, which wasn’t showing the powertrain at its best. In the city, with stop-start driving, I hoped the system would come into its own.
The C-HR’s powertrain won’t win over every petrolhead: the engine drones when it kicks in under hard acceleration, and the weight of the car means it’s never the most responsive when you put your foot down. But if you accept what the car is and shape your driving style to suit, you become more accepting. It rewards smooth, economical driving, in particular not hitting the throttle too hard in order to remain under electric power when accelerating. And once you’re on-board with that, the C-HR is a relaxing place to be.
City driving in combustion-engined cars can be a clunky affair, especially if that engine is less than smooth at low revs, but the C-HR starts off under battery power and so keeps the journey smooth – so much so that it became a challenge to avoid getting on the throttle too eagerly so as not to cause the engine to kick in before it was really needed.
When travelling to shoots I spend a fair amount of time on motorways, where the hybrid system doesn’t get to do so much work. The car is a reasonable cruising machine, though, and even over longer distances it encourages you to drive smoothly and efficiently. On my urban and motorway mix I averaged 51.9mpg, which is fairly decent if not ground-breaking for a car of this size. And I could hone that further, given more time behind the wheel.
I wasn’t entirely taken with the interior. There was a little too much plastic dash for my liking, but there are some nicely sculpted lines and colourful accents which give a futuristic look and convey a feeling of new technology. That seems fitting for a car with a hybrid drivetrain, although I’m not sure it would work so well with the conventional petrol-engine C-HR. Still, I’ve always enjoyed Toyota’s functional approach to interior design, and it’s no surprise that the ergonomics are right and everything is easy to use.