From £31,2908

Second generation of Toyota's smash-hit crossover gains sharper styling and a new plug-in hybrid powertrain

The Toyota C-HR has long been as a sought-after crossover in the UK, sitting fourth on the brand’s best-sellers list behind the wildly popular Yaris, raised Yaris Cross and Corolla

Now, back for its second generation, the C-HR brings an eye-catching redesign along with what Toyota calls a renewed focus on driving dynamics, economy and sustainability. 

The brand says the C-HR has “European customers at heart” and it has big hopes for its second generation, targeting sales of 160,000 units on the continent per year, with 16,000-18,000 of those in the UK. 

Most significantly, the C-HR has been by far Toyota’s most successful car in winning over new customers: 59% of C-HR drivers switched from another brand.

The key to that success has been how well the C-HR was positioned in the European market. Its mix of sharp styling and coupé-crossover shape helped it to find a genuinely rare space at the small end of the C-SUV market (think Volkswagen T-Roc and Kia Niro).

So Toyota has doubled down on its approach, in terms of European-focused development and styling, with this second-generation C-HR.

New Toyota C HR rear 3

Chief engineer Toshio Kanei led development from Toyota’s Belgian technical centre and much of the styling work was done by the firm’s ED2 design studio in Nice, France.

Toyota’s customer research suggested the original’s edgy styling was crucial in winning over customers from other brands and Kanei says the goal with the new C-HR was to push that even further and make a “show car for the road”. 

This C-HR makes the old one, rightly lauded for its dramatic styling, look positively bland. There are dramatic lines, bodywork creases so sharp they look like they could cut you and dramatically sculpted headlights.

The front has been reworked with Toyota’s new ‘hammerhead’ face, first seen on the new Toyota Prius, which has now been confirmed for sale in the UK. Certain trim levels will get a stylish two-tone paint scheme too.

Notably, the bumpers and some other body elements are made of a new pre-coloured resin, so they don’t need to be painted, which reduces the amount of CO2 emitted during production. It also affords a cool two-tone appearance.

Unusually, the new C-HR is actually smaller than its predecessor. Toyota has trimmed 35mm from its length and 15mm from its height. But before you rejoice too much at a bucking of the trend for ever-growing cars, know that it’s also 45mm wider. It has bigger wheels too: up to 20in.

While it's wider than the old version, with a bigger frontal area thanks to the larger wheels, the new C-HR is around 2% more aerodynamically efficient than its predecessor.

The claim is that the wider track is better for handling, and because the C-HR maintains a 2640mm wheelbase, it has about the same amount of room for passengers.

New Toyota C HR full interior

If you’re an adult who might spend a significant amount of time in the back of a C-HR, that could set some warning lights flashing: as before, rear leg room is far from the best and that sloping roofline cuts into the head room.

Still, that didn’t exactly put off buyers before, and for those with young families, it will be less of an issue. Besides, Toyota now offers the slightly larger Corolla Cross in mainland Europe (although not in the UK) for those who want to trade some style for some space.

Engineers have also made efforts to improve the feeling of space in the back: there’s a new tinted panoramic roof that doesn’t need a shade (adding 30mm of head room) and new window cut-outs in the C-pillar are designed to improve the view out.

On the subject of those C-pillars, you'll no longer find the rear door handles hidden in them. Following feedback from customers, they're now in a far more traditional position on the rear doors, although all of the handles now sit flush to the bodywork and pop out when you push them in.

The boot remains on the small side, mind you – although Toyota has yet to disclose its exact capacity, or how much of it is lost in the PHEV version due to various electric gubbins underneath the floor.

In the front of the cabin, Toyota set out to improve the perceived quality, and it definitely feels a step up from the original C-HR.

There’s a new 12.3in digital dial display and a new touchscreen (8.0in as standard or 12.3in on pricier models, like our test car) running Toyota’s latest infotainment system, while enough physical controls remain for the key functions to keep most people happy.

The driver’s seating position is quite high, as you would expect in a crossover, and visibility is good all round. The various grades of seats all feature recycled materials, and those in our test car were certainly comfortable enough.

New Toyota C HR distance cornering

In typical Toyota fashion, the C-HR boasts an entirely electrified powertrain selection. 

The crossover is currently available with two hybrid engines in the UK: a 1.8-litre unit producing 138bhp and 136lb ft of torque, and a 2.0-litre version with 195bhp and 152lb ft. 

In 1.8-litre guise, the C-HR completes 0-62mph in a leisurely 10.2sec, but this should be enough for most drivers. The 2.0-litre, meanwhile, hits 0-62mph in 8.1sec.

Both powertrains lack distinct punch, but cope with a combination of city streets, faster highway and windier mountain roads with relative ease. The 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre deliver their power smoothly, but accelerate with more vigour and you’ll be greeted by an unpleasant growl.

This noise is particularly evident in the 2.0-litre version and, sadly, the soundtrack doesn’t quite match the performance. At higher speeds, the C-HR can sound strained, although you’ll have no problem speeding up to overtake on a motorway. 

A more powerful 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid, based on Toyota’s fifth-generation hybrid system, will be available from January 2024. It uses the same 150bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine, combined with a new 161bhp electric motor (because of the way these things work, they can send a maximum of 220bhp to the front wheels) and a much larger, 13.8kWh battery. 

We drove the PHEV earlier this year and it is well tuned, with a smooth transition between electric and combustion power sources. It offers instant zip in EV mode, while the engine has good response too, with nice pick-up and acceleration and good response to your inputs.

That said, if you’re after improved performance, you might be disappointed to hear the PHEV’s top speed is no faster than the regular hybrid’s and it is only 0.8sec faster to 0-62mph. 

It has an official electric-only range of 41 miles, although we got closer to 30 on our test drive. As is common with PHEVs, you can stick this C-HR in EV mode or use a hybrid option that will mete out the power and, in sync with the sat-nav, can employ geofencing to use electric power in clean-air zones.

You can also adjust the strength of the regenerative braking, up to a B mode that actually offers close to one-pedal driving. 

The PHEV, like the two other hybrid options, sounds a bit flat and very occasionally a bit gruff, although it does without some of the annoyances of the old regular hybrid’s powertrain.

New Toyota C HR mountain road

Another part of the development team’s focus was on improving the new C-HR’s dynamics. Toyota’s TNGA-C platform, also used by the Toyota Corolla hatchback and estate, is a strong base but there are some notable changes from the first version.

While the suspension retains MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, both are reworked and tuned, the latter with elements from the set-ups in the Camry saloon and RAV4 SUV. 

The changes are impressive. The C-HR is softly damped and rides nicely across most road surfaces. It passes over bumps with genuine poise both in the city and at motorway speeds, although things do become slightly more unsettled at lower speeds.

The PHEV uses new twin-piston brakes, while new ZF frequency-sensitive shock absorbers can soften to improve the ride over high-frequency bumps, while firming up elsewhere. 

The C-HR can handle corners too. It circuited Ibiza’s mountain roads with good levels of control, thanks to decent grip and reduced body roll. The C-HR’s handing is best described as agreeable, but don't expect GR86 levels of dynamic performance. It's slightly let down by a hint of understeer on the curviest of corners and is instead in its element in town, where it feels nimble. 

New Toyota C HR cornering

Whichever hybrid option you choose, you're unlikely to be disappointed by the Toyota C-HR’s economy, with the firm claiming an official combined 60.1mpg for the 1.8-litre and 57.7mpg for the 2.0-litre. 

On our extended economy drive, which took us just shy of 50 miles, the 1.8-litre C-HR returned 54.7mpg, likely not particularly helped by our mountainous route prompting more strained acceleration.

The 2.0-litre version, meanwhile, beat Toyota’s official rating, displaying a consumption of 60.3mpg, so both cars offer genuinely impressive economy. 

The new C-HR starts from £31,290 and orders are open now, but you’ll have to wait a few months for the plug-in hybrid variant, which goes on sale in January with pricing still to be announced. The C-HR is offered with five specification levels at launch: Icon, Design, Excel, GR Sport and the limited-run Premiere Edition.

It's worth noting that the Icon, Design and Excel trim levels are available with only the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain, while the 2.0-litre hybrid we're testing here is limited to the two range-topping specification levels: GR Sport and Premiere Edition, which cost from £40,645 and £42,720 respectively. PHEV trim levels have yet to be announced.

That brings us to one of the C-HR’s catches. It’s not cheap, and compared with rivals like the £29,795 Hyundai Kona hybrid and the £27,849 Suzuki S-Cross, prices do look steep.

The C-HR does come with plenty of equipment, which makes some attempt to justify its price. The standard Icon specification includes 17in wheels, a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen and smartphone mirroring as standard. 

The next-step Design, which Toyota says will be the most popular in the UK, costs from £34,685 and offers 18in wheels, a more powerful 12.3in touchscreen, wireless phone charging and a panoramic sunroof. Excel trim, from £38,150, comes with 19in alloys, a JBL sound system and front sports seats.

Whether you opt for the PHEV version might well depend on price and whether you are a company car driver (that 41-mile electric range puts it in the favourable 8% benefit-in-kind tax bracket).


New Toyota C HR front lead

Toyota’s Eurovision for the C-HR has certainly paid off, and the firm has taken a winning formula and improved it in most areas. The model offers an accomplished ride, plus enjoyable handling and economical benefits, which are likely to help sustain its impressive sales position in the brand’s line-up. 

The cons of the package are the C-HR’s gruff powertrain, its shortage of interior space and - biggest of all - its price, which is higher than many of its equally accomplished rivals here in the UK.