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First Drive

Toyota C-HR

The story:
Toyota enters the incredibly popular crossover segment with one of the most distinctive models in the sector, and one of the most extravagantly styled models it has ever produced
Category:Crossover
Key rival:Renault Kadjar
Toyota C-HR 1.2 Excel
Price:£23,810
MPG:55.4mpg
Emissions:136g/km
On sale:January 2017

Everyone wants a crossover. It’s true of car buyers in increasing numbers, which means it’s also true of manufacturers desperate to ensure their product line-up reflects the latest consumer trends. Basically, the trend-setting Nissan Qashqai has a lot to answer for.

Toyota has traditionally been more into ‘proper’ off-roaders like the Land Cruiser and Hilux, while even its small off-roader RAV4 is among the more durable compact 4x4s.But with the C-HR – standing for Coupe High-Rider, it’s moving right into the populist crossover heartland.

The C-HR is deceptively large, measuring a 4.36 metres that makes it a centimetre or so shorter than a Qashqai or Seat Ateca, though it is noticeably narrower and lower than all of its rivals. That translates into a boot that is well short of the main crossovers, and will be compromised for family use. Rear space is adequate, with a slight issue around headroom for larger passengers who will also find the large C-pillar gives them a small window and restricted view out.

The styling is certainly dramatic, especially from a brand not renowned for dynamic or pioneering design to its cars. The C-HR turns heads, and in a positive way. The looks could easily be divisive given there’s a lot going on, but in our experience responses were universally positive.

Powertrains are an interesting one, with no diesel available in the C-HR. As well as the 115hp 1.2 petrol driven here, there’s also a 1.9-litre hybrid using the same powertrain as the Prius. At 87g/km (or 86g/km for the entry Icon model) it’s a crossover efficiency champion, but there’s a hefty premium with is costing over £2600 more than the petrol. But the efficiency gap is massive – the petrol is 49g/km worse off at 134g/km-136g/km, a figure that also puts it well above its rivals, led by Seat’s Ateca at 120g/km. That, combined with Kwik Carcost predicting the hybrid will retain its residual value to the tune of four percentage points better, means the hybrid is 4.1p per mile better over three years and 60,000 miles at 50.2p, a figure only the Ateca beats from a pool of petrol rivals.

But the 1.2 shouldn’t be discounted, as it seemed to be unusually close to the official 47.1mpg figure, and that price gap will be an issue for what is a car already price positioned at the top of the crossover segment. The petrol model can also be had in all-wheel drive form rather than the more popular front-drive on higher trims, but it costs an extra £1300 and adds another 9g/km to the emissions figures.

The petrol engine is a real pleasure to drive, and the C-HR surprises all-round on the driving front. A good gearchange, nicely weighted steering and minimal body roll combine to create a genuinely fun-to-drive crossover. The interior is also designed with more flair than Toyota is traditionally known for, and completes what is a very appealing car.

It looks good, inside and out, drives nicely and offers decent residual values and running costs. The bad news is that the petrol engine is off the efficiency pace, and the hybrid is expensive up-front, though running costs compensate well. But overall, the C-HR is a success for Toyota, and the brand’s high hopes for big sales volumes are far from misplaced.

The verdict

Not the cheapest or most practical, but the C-HR is good to drive and looks great, making for a refreshing new entrant to an increasingly crowded sector of the market.