The second generation Toyota C-HR shows plenty of potential in plug-in hybrid form
The C-HR is shaping up to be a strong family SUV. In plug-in form it offers competitive range, plus good refinement and comfort. Factor in practicality and infotainment that seem on a par with the class average and the new C-HR could be a real competitor if the price is right.
Toyota was a bit late to the stylish family SUV sector, but its original C-HR was a success, injecting some visual appeal into the brand’s SUV line-up. However, next to some rivals, such as the Peugeot 3008, the Toyota’s practicality was limited.
With the second generation of C-HR, however, the Japanese brand claims to have solved some of these problems, as well as boosting the car’s dynamic ability, the tech on offer and its efficiency by offering a plug-in hybrid model for the first time.
It’s this powertrain we’re testing here with our first – and very early – taste of the new C-HR in pre-production form. However, the first thing you notice is the latest car’s styling, even when covered in a funky camo pattern. It’s much slicker, less fussy and more modern. It’s more European, too; in fact, Toyota says this car has been designed in Europe for European buyers. The new C-HR has nowhere to hide, then.
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First impressions are pretty good. Our high-spec test car came with acoustic glass and this, plus Toyota’s efforts with its latest hybrid system, means the C-HR is relatively quiet. Only when you accelerate hard does the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine drone a little, but it’s not too bad.
The ride is also impressively fluid, with plenty of compliance and comfort. Plug-in hybrid C-HRs feature frequency-dependent suspension dampers, which means that as you start to push the car in corners, it responds with plenty of support and good grip. The tech allows the chassis to be soft over smaller bumps but deliver more control over larger ridges and potholes – or when driving more aggressively.
The handling has more to offer than the powertrain in this respect; at a claimed 7.3 seconds from 0-62mph, the 220bhp set-up doesn’t feel too rapid and does its best work when asked for less aggressive acceleration, where the electric motor can deliver its instant boost of torque. It also fills in for the slight lag the CVT transmission has before the engine gets into it stride. The three-level brake regen works nicely too, with the highest mode providing enough retardation, albeit not one-pedal driving.
On the whole, though, the C-HR’s dynamic side is nicely polished – from what we can tell on our short first drive. Our car covered more than 35 miles on electric power alone – the official range is 41 miles.
Toyota has paid serious attention to the C-HR’s interior. Firstly, there’s more space, particularly in the rear. Legroom is better, and despite a panoramic roof (which requires no sunshade, thanks to a special coating) headroom is good. The small rear windows mean visibility in the back, and for the driver when changing lanes, is still poor.
Up front there’s a new 12.3-inch digital dash with configurable views, while the 12.3-inch touchscreen runs Toyota’s latest infotainment, including a piece of tech that combines the sat-nav with the PHEV’s drivetrain, saving energy from the 13.8kWh battery (a 7kW charger means a home top-up will take two and a half hours) to be used in low-emissions zones. It will switch automatically thanks to geofencing technology. Toyota’s system also suggests a route depending on your state of charge, identifying possible charging spots.
Cabin materials have received a boost, and the quality of our pre-production car felt good. Much of the interior is made from recycled fibres, with seat fabrics coming from repurposed plastic bottles.
It’s a supporting point to the C-HR’s main talents, but price is also key in this class and this could determine its success. We expect this plug-in to cost less than £40,000 when sales start early next year.
|Model:||Toyota C-HR 2.0 PHEV|
|Price:||From £39,500 (est)|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl + e-motor|
|Transmission:||CVT automatic, front-wheel drive|
|On sale:||Q1 2024|
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