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Toyota C-HR SUV engines, drive and performance

2017 - 2023 (change model)
Performance rating: 3.8 out of 53.8

Written by Murray Scullion Published: 10 November 2023 Updated: 13 November 2023

  • Two hybrid options to choose from
  • Automatic transmissions for both
  • Impressive performance from 2.0-litre

Hybrid engines

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. 

The 1.8 is smooth and feels faster than its 11.0-second 0-62mph time suggests. It gets going rapidly, and the type of automatic gearbox it has means you don’t have to worry about jerky gearchanges.

The more powerful 2.0 engine is more eager to get going than the 1.8. It’s pretty nippy and 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. 

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 hums away busily.

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Toyota C-HR rear
The Toyota C-HR is neat and tidy in bends, and feels like it could handle more power.

What’s it like to drive?

  • C-HR designed to improve Toyota’s handling image
  • Very well controlled in the corners – especially for an SUV
  • 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.

But it’s a comfortable car to drive. Indeed, on rougher sections of road, the shock absorbers exhibit a fine ability to deal with bumps quickly and smoothly. The C-HR’s platform has been reinforced in key areas with the aim of making it especially rigid, which helps in these circumstances. It does also make for a rather heavy vehicle, though, with top-spec models weighing more than 1,500kg. Our only criticism here is that the C-HR tends to shake laterally slightly when driving over straight bumpy roads.

The C-HR changes direction keenly enough but it 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. 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.