It doesn’t seem that long since Toyota launched its bold C-HR crossover on the world but a quick glance at the diary reveals it’s been doing its standing-out-from-the-crowd thing for three years now and is therefore due the inevitable mid-run facelift.
Even by the usual mild standards of such refreshes, the visual changes to the C-HR are tiny. There’s a new grille and rear diffuser, with new painted spoiler elements to emphasise the car’s width. There are new light signatures front and back and that’s about your lot.
That’s not a bad thing, however. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but the bold styling has always been the C-HR’s biggest selling points and it still looks as fresh and individual as it did when it launched.
The interior, likewise, has been largely left alone. Some of the materials have been upgraded and there are more soft touch surfaces than before but the overall look and layout has been left the same – a good thing in my eyes. The biggest change inside is a new infotainment system, still wrapped by the lovely trim line that swoops up from the passenger door, along the dash and across the screen top. The new system brings a new look, improved features plus full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration as standard. That’s great news as even the updated Toyota system is no match for them in looks or operation. It also features physical buttons – an admission at last that full touchscreens aren’t always easier to use.
The biggest change for the C-HR is in what gets it moving. Europe continues to get the perky 1.2-litre petrol but the UK market has gone full hybrid. As well as the 1.8-litre petrol/electric hybrid that’s been available from launch, the updated C-HR gets a more powerful 2.0-litre setup.
It is the same system used in the Rav4 and Corolla and brings a welcome added punch to the C-HR. The 1.8 is fine for economical plodding but has never been much fun to drive. The 2.0-litre offers a more responsive and significantly more powerful (182bhp v 120bhp) proposition as well as tweaked suspension to improve its dynamics.
The extra power is abundantly clear on the road, giving a much livelier performance that’s more in keeping with the car’s bold styling. The 0-62mph run takes 8.2 seconds with the electric motors giving instant response and support to the petrol engine.
Toyota C-HR Excel
Price: £31,750 Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol with 80kW electric motor Power: 182bhp Torque: n/a Transmission: CVT Top speed: 112mph 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds Economy: 49.6-54.3mpg CO2 emissions: 119g/km (WLTP)
The big question around hybrids like this is how much time you actually spend in EV mode and the C-HR handily has a big display to tell you just that. On a hateful rush-hour slog through city centre and motorway traffic it spent an impressive three quarters of the time under electric power. On a more challenging route among mountains and along motorways that dropped to around a third, with economy falling from around 54mpg to 44mpg.
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While the 2.0’s performance gains are clear, the changes to handling are less obvious. The C-HR remains moderately entertaining to chuck around and rides well over most surfaces but it still won’t worry a decent hatchback for B-road dynamism.
Toyota say the C-HR is a C-segment SUV, which, theoretically, puts it in the same class as a Nissan Qashqai or Seat Ateca, but it’s not really aiming for the same market. For a start, it’s closer to the all-new Juke in size and practicality. The stylish coupe-like roofline makes getting in and out of the back tricky for even average sized adults and there’s limited rear headroom. Add to that a massive C pillar and tiny windows and it’s enough to give a submariner claustrophobia.
The second element is the price. The C-HR starts at £25,625 and rises to an eye-watering £32,595 for the limited-run Orange Edition while larger alternatives like the Qashqai and Kia Sportage start at £20k, although a hybrid Sportage will set you back close to £35,000. The C-HR’s trick is to offer a more premium and more stylish approach as well as that fancy drivetrain and high standard levels of specification. All models get dual-zone climate control, the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver aids, LED headlights and an eight-inch media screen. Goodies like heated seats, adaptive LED lights, leather upholstery and smart two-tone exterior finishes come with the Dynamic and Excel grades.
If you’re happy paying that sort of money to stand out there’s plenty to like about the “new” C-HR. It carries on the good work of the original, sharpening it here and there with new technology and better materials and the 2.0-litre drivetrain gives it performance to match its dynamic looks.