Toyota C-HR Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Toyota C-HR

£ 29,940 - £ 32,420
Published: 07 Nov 2019
C-HR handles well and looks quirky, but hybrid and infotainment systems let the package down

Good stuff

More powerful engine, CarPlay arrives, handling as good as ever

Bad stuff

Noisy hybrid system, dated infotainment, more expensive base price


What is it?

Bad news! Toyota has killed off’s favourite drivetrain in the C-HR. Yep, whilst it may not seem like it, the coupe/crossover type thing has been on sale for two years already. So, whilst giving it a slight facelift and a few updates here and there, Toyota has taken the opportunity to axe the 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo with its slick six-speed manual ‘box. Booo.

Much as we liked it, almost nobody bought the dinky petrol-only engine in the UK. In fact, less than 10 per cent of the roughly 270,000 C-HR sales so far have featured that combination – all of the rest are 1.8-litre hybrids.

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Those sales figures gave Toyota a mandate to make the C-HR a hybrid-only model on our shores (the 1.2 remains on sale in the rest of Europe), bringing it in line with the RAV4. Customers still need choice, though, so in comes a 2.0-litre four-cylinder hybrid system similar to one we first saw in the new Corolla.

The C-HR’s looks may be polarising, but they clearly worked with the British buying public. It’s no surprise to see that very little has changed with this facelift then. Squint hard enough and you might just notice the bolder grille with repositioned fog lights, or the ever-so-slightly different light signature at both ends. There’s also a new body-coloured front splitter and chrome-infused rear diffuser, but the awkward rear door handles remain.

Thankfully the interior gets a few updates, which we’ll come to later on, and there’s an upgraded suspension setup as well as an apparently improved power steering system. 

Toyota says the refreshed C-HR is the first car to be fully designed and developed at its new European facility in Brussels. We reckon the 200 or so employees might have slightly more to do when the next call comes, though.

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Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

C-HR handles well and looks quirky, but hybrid and infotainment systems let the package down

You might have guessed by now, but we’re genuinely upset about the loss of the 1.2-litre petrol setup. It’s not all about the engine of course, in fact it’s mainly because the C-HR now only comes with those CVT auto gearboxes. The CVT hinders acceleration and makes the engine sound droney at anything more than half-throttle or when scaling any incline.

The new 2.0-litre hybrid is the one to have, though. With almost 50 per cent more power than its 200cc smaller sibling, it’s able to mask the shortcomings of its gearbox better. Economy is still mightily impressive, too. Toyota actually reckons that, in town driving, the C-HR will run on EV power alone for 80 per cent of the time without you even pressing the corresponding button, so having a bigger internal combustion engine attached shouldn’t harm your day-to-day mpg by too much. It’ll make overtakes and motorway driving a far more satisfactory experience too.

Elsewhere, the mid-life updates have improved the rest of what’s on offer from the C-HR, but it’s still very much a Marmite car. The new soft-touch surfaces give the cabin a more premium feel, whilst it still retains the unique touches and quirky shapes of before. Plus, the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is huge news, especially for the younger demographic that the C-HR inevitably targets. The looks are similar and the Orange Edition paint is a nice shade, although at over £32,000 it does seem a little steep for the full package - that’s getting in to BMW X2 and base-spec Audi Q3 Sportback money - and at that price point you’d expect a much slicker and slightly larger infotainment screen.

If you’ve been sold on the coupe-crossover thing as a whole (lots of people have been), the C-HR will tick a lot of boxes. Plus, if you’ve been sold on Toyota’s hybrid power units it’ll do the same. And anyway, nobody listened to our advice last time, so we’ll just sit in a corner and cry about that four-cylinder engine/manual gearbox combo by ourselves...

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