Stylish Toy­ota suc­ceeds in be­ing just that bit dif­fer­ent

Bath Chronicle - - ROAD TEST -

IT pays to be dif­fer­ent. Stand­ing out from the herd is the goal that car de­sign­ers strive for. But not so dif­fer­ent that the car looks out­ra­geous or is un­ac­cept­ably im­prac­ti­cal. And that’s where the in­tu­itive skill lies – tread­ing the del­i­cate path of fash­ion with­out sac­ri­fic­ing too much in the way of ev­ery­day use­ful­ness. One of the best re­cent ex­am­ples is the Toy­ota C-HR. The clue is in the name...c-hr stands for Coupe High Rider. And that’s ex­actly what the small SUV is, so don’t ex­pect fur­ni­ture van-like car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity or lounge-size di­men­sions for rear seat pas­sen­gers. Yet de­spite its multi-var­i­ous an­gles, flared wheel arches and fussy de­tail work, the lit­tle cross­over is rea­son­ably prac­ti­cal with com­fort­able room for four and space for 377 litres of lug­gage which is about par for the course in this sec­tor. But it’s not just the rak­ish lines that make the C-HR stand out. There’s the op­tion of a hy­brid ver­sion which slashes tax, par­tic­u­larly for com­pany car driv­ers, and presents a for­ward-think­ing char­ac­ter. It was this ver­sion I drove pow­ered by a 1.8-litre four cylin­der en­gine al­lied to Toy­ota’s hy­brid syn­ergy drive. To be hon­est, if you hadn’t read the in­struc­tions on the tin you wouldn’t have been aware of the dif­fer­ence be­tween a con­ven­tional en­gine. The petrol-elec­tric power unit is smooth and un­ob­tru­sive with low noise lev­els and good re­fine­ment. It’s hardly a ball of fire with ac­cel­er­a­tion to 62mph in a leisurely 11 sec­onds and a max of 105mph. The re­laxed na­ture of the Toy­ota is un­der­lined by the CVT gear­box which lacks the ‘steps’ you get in a con­ven­tional auto trans­mis­sion. Cor­ner­ing is neat and roll-free with plenty of ad­he­sion avail­able across a va­ri­ety of road con­di­tions. This is matched with ex­cel­lent steer­ing that of­fers a nice meaty feel. It is a well bal­anced car partly thanks to the fact that it is built on Toy­ota new Global Ar­chi­tec­ture plat­form. This qual­ity be­comes more ap­par­ent the more it is pushed through bends. The cabin is no­tice­ably high end with plenty of soft-touch ma­te­ri­als and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of high gloss black plas­tic on the dash­board. The ef­fect is gen­er­ally pleas­ing. A seven-inch touch­screen dom­i­nates the fas­cia and con­trols are log­i­cally laid out. While front seat pas­sen­gers are well catered for with com­fort­able and sup­port­ive seats, those in the rear may feel a lit­tle claus­tro­pho­bic due to the ta­per­ing side win­dows. There is how­ever a de­cent amount of head­room and legroom is sim­i­lar to most ri­vals. The semi-hid­den rear door han­dles are a bit fid­dly – more a styling gim­mick than much else. There are plenty of stan­dard good­ies on board in­clud­ing front and rear sen­sors, rain-sens­ing wipers, LED day­time run­ning lights, rear pri­vacy glass and sat nav. The of­fi­cial com­bined fuel con­sump­tion is an im­pres­sive 74mpg, but as with most hy­brids few testers are able to get near that fig­ure. My av­er­age of 47mpg over 450 miles mixed routes seems to mir­ror what most own­ers achieve. A big plus to com­pany car own­ers will be the ben­e­fit in kind rat­ing of 86 per cent which keeps their tax re­ward­ingly low. Its snazzy styling at­tracts co­pi­ous ad­mir­ing glances and the C-HR’S re­fined na­ture hold con­sid­er­able ap­peal to buy­ers trad­ing down to smaller cars.

By JON SMITH

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