Toyota’s C-HR is an undeniably striking car. But the overwhelming sense of something different goes far deeper than the amazing body styling – so stunning it makes the hugely popular Nissan Juke look conservative.
As soon as you clamp eyes on the C-HR, which Toyota bills as an SUV, your lids will widen.
But it’s when you get in the car that the adrenalin really starts to pump. You might wonder how this could be so with just 1.2 litres of petrol engine and an automatic gearbox to dull its senses.
But modern technology means this combination is no longer the kiss of death when it comes to enjoying a car.
You know that everyone will be looking at your C-HR but when you’re in it you can’t see that stunning exterior although, to be fair, the interior is pretty whacky, too.
The first trip suggested the test car was the hybrid version such was its eagerness to respond to accelerator inputs.
But, no, it’s the standard 1.2 litre petrol engine with no battery pack and system to recycle the energy that gets wasted during deceleration and braking.
The stark figures of a 111mph top speed and 0-62mph time of 11.4 seconds might not sound impressive. But it’s how the car feels as it responds that stimulates the senses.
The CVT automatic transmission drives all four wheels, another brave move from Toyota.
All-wheel drive can be power sapping, as can a conventional automatic gearbox. But CVT works on a belt system that constantly adjusts so there are no step changes between ratios – there are no fixed ratios, after all. Perhaps it’s this efficiency that helps overcome the effects of AWD. Whatever it is, it works for us.
Not only that. As well as feeling decidedly frisky, the C-HR also delivers good fuel economy. Bear in mind that it’s a petrol engine doing a lot of work and you, like us, will be impressed by the constant 36mpg average the car achieved. It makes running a C-HR quite an affordable proposition, as do the group 15 insurance premiums.
This car, in top-level Dynamic trim, is so full of features (with a £27,995 price to match, before the test car’s options including pearlescent white paint lifted it to £30,135) that it would make sense for Toyota to market it under the Lexus brand, at least where the hybrid version’s concerned.
There’s enough going on to convince Lexus buyers that it’s the small car for them and the quality equally reflects everything that Lexus stands for. The good news is that it’s a Toyota that looks like a Lexus, allowing a starting price of £21,065 for a manual model for those who are stunned by both the looks and the price of the higher-spec versions but have a tighter budget.
The car sits on Toyota’s New Global Architecture Platform although it’s doubtful there’s much around the globe that can match the C-HR for looks. Every day it was on the driveway it inspired long, lingering visual caresses just because of the sheer intricacy of its features.
Some of its eye candy appeal is down to clever use of paint lines and graphics on a shape that’s maybe not as complicated as your eye believes. But there’s no escaping the drama of the front end or the sweeping upwards of the waistline as it passes through the rear doors.
There is a downside to that for rear seat passengers because much of the area beside them that would normally be glazed is in fact filled with metal. That might suit shy people – but if you’re that shy it’s a car you won’t be contemplating.
The distinct coupe suggested by the shape belies the fact that inside the C-HR’s headroom is good, particularly in the rear and even for tall people. There’s also a decent boot enhanced by folding rear seat backrests; the production car is far more practical than the two door concept on which it’s based although it manages to maintain more than a passing resemblance.
It proves that a dramatic show car can result in something far more practical but Toyota is a past master at achieving such feats.
Get behind the wheel and the blue framing that runs along the doors, splits for the instrument binnacle and then continues over the integrated touchscreen in the centre of the fascia adds another interesting dimension. It’s fair to say that even standing still in traffic won’t be boring, in no small part thanks to Toyota never standing still with its approach to enlivening its cars.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Toyota C-HR Dynamic 1.2 AWD
Does it fit your ego…
0-62mph: 11.4 secs
Top speed: 111mph
PS: 115 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 185 nm @ 1,500 rpm
…and your wallet…
CO2 emissions: 144g/km
Best bits: Toyota at the top of its game