The Observer Magazine - - WHEELS -

With its in­vis­i­ble rear doors and dra­matic swooshes, Toy­ota’s compact coupé is all set to di­vide pub­lic opin­ion Gerry from Slough wrote to me last week and asked why we bang on about top speeds and 0-62 times when few of us can ever legally or safely reach th­ese fig­ures. On top of that, he added that “diesel­gate” proves emis­sions and econ­omy fig­ures can be fudged. So what’s the point of them? He’s right. It’s time we in­vented some far more rel­e­vant meth­ods of com­par­i­son. For in­stance, I have a per­pet­u­ally bad back so I’d find “num­ber of hours un­til your back is agony” use­ful and I’ve also got end­lessly car-sick children so “ease of re­mov­ing vomit from seats” would be a very help­ful mea­sure.

If ever a ve­hi­cle was cry­ing out for a new set of in­dices, it is Toy­ota’s C-HR. It’s an all-new cross­over hy­brid that dares to think right out­side the box. Ev­ery as­pect has been rethought. It’s a brave de­ci­sion – car mak­ers get caned for be­ing dull and ham­mered for be­ing dif­fer­ent. But now and again one breaks from the flock and be­comes an in­die hit. Just look at the af­fec­tion Fiat’s Mul­ti­pla, Nis­san’s Juke and Citroën’s Dyane are held in – ugly duck­lings which all took a bat­ter­ing when they first ar­rived.ed.

The styling of the C-HR is eye-pop­ping. It’s a riot of swooshes and curves, with more scoops than a fam­ily bucket of ice cream. In­side you’ll find a re­fresh­ing blend of un­ex­pected tex­tures, shapes and colours. A kite mo­tif has been stamped into the roof and the door pan­els are made of a weird pim­ply plas­tic. The cen­tral con­sole coun­ter­bal­ances that with swirls of a su­per-tac­tile ve­neer. The cli­mate con­trols have di­a­mond-shaped but­tons and the touch­screen rears out of the dash­board, like the mon­ster in the Alien. Did I men­tion, it’s very dif­fer­ent?

The drive, how­ever, is not very dif­fer­ent. As proven with the Prius, Toy­ota is the world’s hy­brid mas­ter and this car comes with a se­lec­tion of de­light­fully peace­ful pow­er­trains. The en­try level is the 1.2-litre petrol hy­brid with man­ual gear­box, but Toy­ota ex­pects ev­ery­one to stump up the ex­tra £2,500 for the all­con­quer­ing 1.8 petrol auto which will cover an in­cred­i­ble 74.3 miles to a gal­lon of fuel with barely a whiff of car­bon. As you’d ex­pect the C-HR is loaded with safety fea­tures, but sit­ting in pride of place is the new “Safety Sense” which will slam on the brakes for you in a col­li­sion sce­nario.

The C-HR is fun and funky and will no doubt earn a warm welcome. My one dis­ap­point­ment is the baf­flingly bor­ing name. It stands for Coupé High Rider. I’d have sug­gested the Scoopy Coupé…

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