Toyota’s Qashqai challenger brings coupe style to crossover segment
- Hybrid efficiency
- Concept car design
- Engaging to drive
- Comfortable and refined
- Well equipped
- Only two engines – and no diesel
- Not as practical as rivals
- CVT auto not for everyone
- Interior trimming very bold
- May date quickly
The Toyota C-HR is a medium-sized crossover with a twist. Rather than build an obvious Nissan Qashqai rival, with all the family friendly traits that entails, Toyota has chosen to marry the chunky stance of an SUV with a hybrid drivetrain, a sporty, swooping roofline and the looks of – quite frankly – the outlandish concept cars you sometimes see at motor shows.
Its extraordinarily bold exterior is married to an interior that features equally surprising elements and, to top it all, Toyota has worked hard to give the C-HR a much more satisfying driving experience than we’re used to from this fundamentally sensible Japanese manufacturer.
In fact, Toyota describes the C-HR as “a gamechanger” for the brand. The coupe-SUV combination isn’t unusual these days – but Toyota is the first to really bring this idea to the mainstream family crossover class, in some respects making the C-HR a potential ideal follow-on car for people who have out-grown the similarly proportioned but much smaller Nissan Juke.
Certainly, the C-HR is a breath of fresh air compared with more conventional rivals such as the Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga, Skoda Yeti and Kia Sportage – all of which also deserve a place on your shortlist; Toyota is hoping buyers will also consider it a worthy rival to more premium alternatives such as the Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman, too.
Compromised – or is it?
There are disadvantages to the shape, of course – both rear headroom and bootspace suffer by comparison, and the small amount of glass in the rear doors may lead to younger backseat occupants complaining of claustrophobia (once they’re old enough to know what the word means).
Still, it is possible to get a couple of adults in the back (three if they’re really friendly, though the middle seat is very much of the occasional persuasion), and while smaller than rivals’, the boot isn’t tiny. It’s a compromise you might be prepared to make if the rest of the package appeals.
Novel hybrid appeal
The C-HR plays the style card with impressive conviction – for a Toyota – and the hybrid drivetrain is a novelty in the crossover sector. This combination of 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor is borrowed from the latest Toyota Prius, as is the vehicle platform the C-HR is built upon.
This might not sound too promising, especially in reference to the driving pleasure claims. But not only do the Prius underpinnings give the C-HR a lower-than-usual centre of gravity for a crossover, the whole project has been engineered in Europe for Europe, with particular attention paid to European driving habits. It’s even been tested in the UK – and though we’re yet to drive it here to verify the success of this process, our initial experience evaluating it in Spain has been positive.
Limited engine choice – and no diesel
Around 75% of C-HR buyers are expected to choose the hybrid. Any shock in this stat is lessened by the knowledge that there is only one other engine choice at launch – a 1.2-litre turbo petrol. Toyota is not offering, and has no plans to offer, a C-HR diesel; it’s actually more likely we’ll see a higher-performance petrol model further down the line.
For now though the 1.2 comes as a six-speed manual with front-wheel drive and a CVT automatic with a choice of front- or all-wheel, while the hybrid comes as a front-wheel drive with the same auto ‘box only.
There are three trim levels: Icon, Excel and Dynamic. All are well equipped, with safety and technology heavily represented.
C-HR stands for Coupe High-Rider, which is straightforward enough. But is it the gamechanger for Toyota that the carmaker hopes it is?