New 2024 Toyota C-HR review: The successful crossover returns with a new, unconventional design
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The second-generation Toyota C-HR has great real-world competence, a well-finished cabin, solid interior tech and enough of the funky design touches that made the Mk1 so successful. But this GR Sport version is perhaps the weakest of the breed, despite having the most powerful engines. You’re paying a lot here for some styling additions and some extra power that might make the car more comfortable at speed, but don’t add any greater engagement. We’re happy to recommend the C-HR overall – but the sweet spot in this range can be found elsewhere.
Toyota may double down on its full electrification efforts in the medium term, but the company is still producing full hybrids (with great success) as more people look for a stepping stone toward a plug-in car. The Japanese brand recently updated one of its best-selling hybrids, the C-HR – and now’s our first chance to try out the more powerful 2.0-litre version of the car on UK roads.
As a reminder, the C-HR comes with a choice of 1.8 or 2.0-liter engines, each mated to Toyota’s fifth-generation hybrid system. The low-powered car has 138 hp and CO2 emissions of 111 grams per kilometre. However, the 2.0 manages 194 horsepower, while still emitting the same amount of CO2. It will even return more than 57 mpg on the official WLTP test cycle.
Car group tests
Used car tests
The last of those numbers may seem respectable rather than stellar in this day and age, but it’s worth remembering that it’s average – and Toyota actually believes the car’s efficiency will improve in urban conditions, where a regular petrol car would struggle. And, of course, this is a vehicle you’ll never have to plug in – although if you feel you can make proper use of PHEV technology, Toyota will offer a thus-equipped version of the C-HR (for the first time) later in 2024. In fact Order books are now open.
It is perhaps best to consider the dynamic behavior of the C-HR in three distinct parts. It’s at its best around town, where its relatively compact dimensions and direct, responsive steering make it easy to maneuver through traffic. The ride is well judged, as we’ve come to expect from cars on the TNGA platform; It’s stiff at times but generally well composed, with enough compliance over urban bumps and potholes.
The hybrid system excels here too; There’s enough electric propulsion so the car can cruise smartly and silently – and rolling at 20mph or 30mph is definitely in its comfort zone. As such, it’s not uncommon for a car to report that it spent more than 70 percent of short trips operating in its EV mode — and that’s with the powertrain left in Normal (rather than Eco) mode.
The difference between the C-HR and the latter is that this good behavior continues, for the most part, when you leave the city and move on to faster country roads. The old model felt exposed here, with high revs through the complex transmission at the heart of the hybrid system. But now it seems more comfortable with life.
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We’d never go so far as to suggest there’s real fun or engagement – after all, there’s a lot going on between you and the engine itself – but it’s possible to rely on the body control provided by the TNGA underpinnings, use clever right-pedal inputs to make the transmission behave like a conventional car, and keep On really fast progress.
It must be said that this does not lead to a significant trade-off in efficiency. The “percent EV” number floats a bit as you travel, but you can happily just go with the flow of traffic, without thinking about driving particularly economically. On more than one occasion, we arrived at our destination and realized that the car had spent more than half the trip running on electricity alone.
As before, highways are probably the C-HR’s weakest environment – although they’re far from unbearable, and one of the chinks in the armor is at least partly down to the GR Sport specification.
The hybrid system gives its usual flow of revs as you accelerate to join traffic, but then settles down to a respectable level, drowned out by a bit of wind noise from around the A-pillars and side mirrors. The worst offenders are the 20-inch GR tires, which transmit a fair amount of low-frequency noise from the road surface underneath; We think the C-HR at 17 will be better in this regard.
Inside, Toyota hasn’t deviated too much from the bombastic formula that had such success with the first C-HR. There’s a fully digital instrument panel, along with a massive 12.3-inch infotainment system (lesser C-HRs rely on an 8-inch screen), with wireless smartphone integration. There are high-quality, thickly padded plastics in all key areas, and sensible physical controls in the center of the dashboard for ventilation and seat heating.
However, the overall appearance means you’re still sitting in a different zip code to the base of the windshield, and the rear seats are relatively short in terms of legroom. Moreover, thanks to the small side windows and thick C-pillars, the rear appears somewhat lacking in natural light.
It’s very gloomy there, as it was in the Mk1 C-HR; Toyota did virtually nothing to mitigate one of the car’s biggest flaws, but then had to change the basic positioning of the car to do so. There’s still more space than you’ll find in many small SUVs from the likes of Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot and Vauxhall – and if you want proper five-seater practicality, your friendly Toyota salesperson will no doubt point you towards the larger RAV4 .
The C-HR’s boot is a reasonable size, at 364 liters – although as with the more conventional Corolla hatchback, you pay a penalty for full capacity by having the larger engine up front. Moving the 12V battery means the GR Sport C-HR saves just 20 liters of space compared to the regular 1.8, so it’s not a deal-breaker.
Price may be more of an issue than cargo bay, as the GR Sport is currently the only trim level where you can opt for 2.0-liter power, and it comes with a fair premium. Over £40,000 is a big chunk of change to pay for a car that’s not as practical as many family hatchbacks, and probably no more efficient in the real world than the 1.8, which starts around £10,000 less.
It may have more power, but it’s no longer fun – and it makes us wonder what you’re really spending the extra money on here.
|Toyota C-HR GR Sport
|2.0 litre, 4 cylinder gasoline hybrid
|194 hp / 190 Nm
|Automatic CVT, front wheel drive