The apparent determination of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda to take the shackles off the designers for the C-HR is to be applauded.

With the smart C-HR, Toyota banished the visual drudgery of the old Auris, while at the same time setting the tone for the curvaceous Corolla, among others. The distinctive crossover has been key in changing buyers’ perception of the Toyota brand, which for too long majored on the stolid and sensible.

Our test car caused admirers to stop us and demand to know what it was. And which was the last Toyota to do that?

Whether or not the stylists succeeded in their aim is open to interpretation, but there’s no question that the Coupé High-Rider, to give the Toyota its full name, represents a proper swing for the fences.

The indulgence of the coupé part of the equation – that swooping roofline and rear three-quarter – is enough to ensure that the model gives up some practicality to a raft of crossover-shaped opposition, a fact that Toyota acknowledges with the assertion that it is targeting a customer chiefly driven by “emotional considerations” with this car.

But are we to expect this mash-up of a crossover to be as exciting to drive as it is to look at? It isn’t clear.

The C-HR’s powertrain – a familiar tie-up of Atkinson-cycle petrol engine and electric motor assistance – is the very latest iteration of the Toyota hybrid, meaning that it is lighter, sharper, more powerful and more efficient than before, with a CO2 output as low as 110g/km.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Explore the Toyota range

Back to top

But the hybrid’s familiar calling cards are smoothness and economy, rather than the mid-range punchiness that is so often the hallmark of the diesel-powered compact crossover.

There’s a choice of 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre displacements for the internal combustion element of the drivetrain, The former delivers a system total of 121bhp with the aid of 53kW electric motor. For the larger unit there’s a bigger 80kW motor that helps provide an all-in output of 181bhp. There’s also more torque with the 2.0-litre (140lb ft plays 105lb ft) although it’s delivered at a heady 4400rpm. 

As with the Prius, the C-HR drives its front wheels through Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive transmission. Effectively a continuously variable set-up, rather than a series of belts it uses a planetary gearset to balance the inputs from both the electric motor and internal combustion engine.

The C-HR shares the GA-C variant of Toyota’s new TNGA modular architecture with the Prius, along with its front MacPherson struts and rear double wishbone suspension, although it gets a slightly shorter wheelbase and wider tracks. Toyota also says the underpinnings enable the car to have a lower centre of gravity than any direct rival.