Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Two hybrid options to choose from
  • CVT transmissions for both
  • Impressive performance from 2.0-litre

Power for the C-HR comes from two hybrid engines - Toyota calls them self-charging hybrids - making use of a petrol engine in combination with an electric motor. There's a choice of a 1.8-litre that's been available from the beginning of the C-HR's life, while a more powerful 2.0-litre option was added to the range as part of the car's mid-life facelift late in 2019. 

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

The 1.8 produces 122hp and 142Nm of torque, and comes with front-wheel drive. The 0-62mph time is 11.0 seconds which isn't too slow, nor is it overly nippy. Top speed is 105mph. It's a smooth powertrain that, thanks to the electric motor, feels more responsive than those figures suggest at lower speeds. It gets going rapidly, while the CVT transmission means you don't have to worry about jerky gearchanges.

The more powerful 2.0 engine has 184hp and 190Nm of torque. It's far more eager to get going than the 1.8. More sound insulation as part of the facelift also means you're well-isolated from the noise too. It's pretty nippy, getting from 0-62mph in just 8.2 seconds, while top speed is rated at 112mph. This is the one to go for if you spend a lot of time out of town on faster roads. It feels more responsive and a lot better suited to that kind of road. Around town though, it demonstrates all the civilised and refined traits of the 1.8. 

CVT style transmission

Both engines use a CVT style automatic transmission. It feels like it runs out of puff at higher speeds, and it takes a little planning when on the motorway if you want to overtake. It's in this kind of situation where the hybrid/CVT combination produces constant engine noise. The revs soar as you put your foot down and the engine screams away. It's not quite as dramatic as some older versions of this type of gearbox, but it's noticeable if you're trying to get up to speed with any haste. 

Previously-available 1.2 turbo

Dropped from the line-up in 2019 is a 1.2-litre turbo, that was actually really rather good. It just didn't sell that well. It produced 116hp and was good for a 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. An automatic was also available, along with all-wheel drive, which was marginally slower but barely noticeable in most situations. The 1.2's torque figure was lower than that of the hybrid, so at times it could feel a little gutless. Keeping the revs up meant it was an eager option, and even sounded good. 

The manual transmission wasn't your regular manual - Toyota called it Intelligent Manual Transmission (IMT). It cleverly matches the engine revs whenever you change gear to make the shift smoother. It also increases engine torque when moving away from a standstill for the same reason. It works very well. 

How does it handle?

  • C-HR designed to improve Toyota’s handling image
  • Very well controlled in the corners – especially for a crossover
  • Steering delivers little feedback but good accuracy

For the C-HR, Toyota has expended a great deal of effort attempting to understand European driving traits and how they influence the development of its cars. The end result is a Toyota that is much more satisfying from behind the wheel - a far cry from Toyotas of old that were traditionally very easy to drive, but not especially involving.

Toyota has ensured that the C-HR changes direction with keenness, rather than the reluctance you experience in, say, an older Toyota Auris. To make such an amendment with a vehicle of the C-HR’s increased height is impressive, and shows how seriously Toyota plans to take driver involvement from now on. In fact, latest versions of the Prius and Corolla have impressed us with the balance of driver enjoyment and comfort. 

There's an impressive consistency regarding the behaviour of all the handling elements. The steering isn’t brimming with feel and feedback, but it transitions very smoothly into cornering, with little of the numbness about the straight ahead you often experience with electrically assisted systems. It's very nicely weighted and doesn't leave you feeling detached like it does in other small SUVs. Similarly, the suspension’s damping is excellent, not only doing a great job of absorbing bumpy roads effectively but also controlling the way the C-HR leans into turns – tilting gently rather than lurching. 

Toyota says it was aiming to deliver the handling enthusiasm of 'a competent hatchback'; we’d hesitate to go quite that far in isolation, but for an SUV it acquits itself commendably, and can be placed on the road with great accuracy and surprising agility. The addition of the 2.0-litre hybrid model only accentuates this, proving the chassis can handle more power, and that you can actually enjoy a series of twisty bends if you feel so inclined.