First Impressions Review: Toyota C-HR Hybrid, Catering for Everyone but Small Children and Dynamic Drivers
Hello fellow CTzens! Today I bring you my moderately coherent first impressions on the Toyota C-HR Hybrid, which I got to borrow from a student and play around with, uninterrupted, for about an hour, trying its features and driving it.
I was interested in trying this hot-selling little crossover. I see many of them on the street, people obviously like them, my student likes it, so let’s see what the fuss is about!
The C-HR Hybrid wants to be ALL the cool things at once. It wants to look striking and trendy, it wants to be economical, it wants to be a family vehicle, it wants to look like a rugged little SUV, so you can park up next to a Range Rover and say “I live the same life” for a fraction of the price. It also wants to feel sporty. But, while most things that attempt to be everything at once fail, and perform subpar on each task, the C-HR succeeds in more areas than not.
Let’s start off with the design. In an age where all compact SUVs start to look more or less the same, I think Toyota succeeds in injecting this one with personality. The long headlights, the sloping back, the brake lights that seem to pop out of the car, that…thing on the roof which looks part spoiler part extended roof rack genuinely make the car interesting to look at. This particular model has the SUV package, which adds to the madness with a stone deflector that looks like a moustache or unibrow, side steps, and a rear diffuser. So all in all, I quite like the appearance.
Moving on to the interior, I read somewhere that this pre-facelift model supposedly has poor materials quality. Really? I did not observe this, sure, nothing was super premium, but I touched and pushed and tugged everything, like an overenthusiastic puppy, and found all to be of adequate quality for the class. Other things I liked are the heated steering wheel, pair this with heated seats, and you will feel warm a lot quicker than relying on the car’s engine to get warm first, and that’s nice on a chilly winter day like the one I had the keys on.
Auto-parking is a much celebrated feature of the car, and while the owner says it works well, for me it wanted to park up the sidewalk while performing 90 degree reverse parking, thinking it was a free space, and it came dangerously close to curbing the wheel on parallel parking, so I aborted it. Maybe I was the problem, maybe auto parking just had a bad day.
The infotainment system does the job, although it is not the latest technology, not supporting Android Auto and Apple Carplay. There are parking sensors and a reversing camera, but the latter does not have the “steering prediction lines”, which is a bit of a disappointment.
There are some glaring oversights in the interior design, though, especially in the back. Due to the upward sloping design of the rear windows, there is little light and visibility in the rear, instead you get a monolith of grey plastic in the sides, which is especially troublesome if you have small children. They just won’t be able to see out of the car, and as a result they will:
A: Get bored and pester you more, or
B: Grow even more attached to their smart devices, so you will be nurturing the next generation of external cyborgs.
Either way, it’s bad design and you lose. Add to this the fact that the door handle of the back doors is very high, it’s not enough that your kindergartner won’t enjoy the view, it is very possible that you will have to open the door for him every time. The coupe bodystyle, which, carmakers still try very hard to make us believe, does not necessarily mean two doors, is also a bit of a hindrance up front if you are tall. Luckily, I am not, but the owner is, and he has to do a funny little head tilt when getting in or out. To top it all off, the interior just doesn’t feel that roomy to me.
Another pet peeve I have is that the fuel door release is on the same panel as some other buttons, including auto park and the heated steering wheel. Put it somewhere else, otherwise it is going to be pressed in a moment of clumsiness or rush, a few times, and you will have to pull over and get out to fix it. Annoying.
Driving the C-HR Hybrid was a bit like driving a compact car. You don’t sit all that high, and the car feels smaller from the inside. There is more tyre and wind noise in the cabin than I would like, but it’s not that bad. Bad starts when you accelerate hard. The CVT is a very clever and economical transmission, and it does feel like a smooth auto when tootling around, I’ll give it that, but under hard acceleration the 1.8 inline four sounds like it’s revving terrifyingly high, (although you don’t know exactly, because you have an eco meter in place of the rev counter) and your every instinct tells you to upshift, which of course you can’t do. The only time the racket stops is if you finally lift off. That’s one way of not encouraging speeding! Also, the car has a “sport” driving mode, and it’s useless. All it does is increase the responsiveness of the throttle slightly, and you don’t even get red gauges or anything, just a tiny sport symbol appearing on your dash. Also, the car defaults back into normal or eco if you turn it off and on again. Toyota doesn’t want you to use the sport mode, and you won’t either.
It is worth mentioning that regenerative braking doesn’t feel strong at all when coasting, but the transmission has a special mode marked “B”, which increases it on demand, making it ideal for charging or going down a hill. That’s smart.
It is also very economical. The official figures of 80MPG (UK) or 3.5 litres/100kms in the city are not all that far-fetched, the owner ensures me. Performance is another issue altogether, with a 0-100km/h in 11 seconds and a top speed of 170km/h, it is just adequate for what it is, we can just leave it at that.
As far as handling is concerned, it feels sporty and stiff in the corners, without any noticeable body roll, yet it isn’t spine-breaking on bumps. I would say it’s a healthy middle ground, designed to cope either way. Steering is way over-assisted, and it even has a mode for parking, which assists it even more, like you need it!
All in all, in my opinion the C-HR Hybrid sets out to do many things, and achieves most of them. It is unique looking, it is economical, and as for everything else, it is a sensible compromise. I would certainly recommend it in the compact crossover segment, or even in place of a compact car. It is good value for money and is bound to be reliable, you just need to look past its aforementioned flaws, not have small children, and not like dynamic driving to appreciate it fully. As for me, if I was offered a swap, I would still keep Dormin!