Stylish Toyota succeeds in being just that bit different
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