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Long-term tests

Toyota C-HR Excel long-term test: hybrid SUV’s safety tech is accidentally put to the test

First report: safety tech saves our new C-HR from a prang in a car park

Verdict

It's a case of so far, so good for our Toyota C-HR. We like the hybrid’s economy and safety features, but are already aware of its issues with practicality. Whether these become more of a problem remains to be seen.

  • Mileage: 793
  • Efficiency: 54.4mpg

Studies have shown that we form a first impression within fractions of a second, our brains making immediate judgments about whether we’re going to like something or not. Things got off to a good start when the nice man from Toyota dropped off my new C-HR test car; the small hybrid SUV arrived in range topping Excel spec and finished in attractive Midnight Teal bi-tone paint that complements the car’s strong lines and dramatic creases.

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C-HR actually stands for Compact High Rider in Toyota speak, but in the metal it has a squat, sporty appearance that works well – albeit with the slightly elevated ride height that buyers seem to crave nowadays. Nonetheless, the C-HR is a good-looking car, although a quick look inside revealed a mixture of materials, from the premium feel of the suede-effect trim on the doors, to the disappointingly cheap-looking plastic on the centre armrest and across the top of the dash – a strange decision in a cabin that otherwise left me pretty impressed.

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The C-HR’s crossover design, combined with its sloping coupe-like roofline, means that interior space is a little tight. While it’s not too bad up front, recent road trips with my wife, two young children and our sizable Labrador have highlighted the shortage of rear passenger space. The smallish 388-litre boot isn’t the most generous either, and is trumped by those in the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro. Given that the Toyota will be used as a family car, it’ll be interesting to see over the next few months whether it offers up as much substance as it does style.

Toyota has done a fine job of ensuring the C-HR looks the part, with my model featuring 19-inch machined alloys, rear privacy glass and a panoramic glass roof, while the cabin includes configurable ambient lighting and premium sports seats.

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There’s certainly no shortage of standard kit, with lots of useful features such as keyless entry, a powered tailgate, cornering lights and heated seats. The dual 12.3-inch displays up front look great; the central screen controls the infotainment system, while the digital driver’s panel – although a little fussy looking – does a good job of providing all the information you need.

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The C-HR is already proving to be one of those cars you can just jump in and drive; little touches such as the wireless phone charging pad and a memory function for the driver’s seat position make for a quick getaway with the minimum of fuss, while the premium sports seats offer decent support and are comfortable.

Toyota offers the C-HR with either a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre hybrid engine, or as a plug-in hybrid. Mine’s the smaller hybrid version with 138bhp and, after the near 800 miles I’ve completed across various A-roads, B-roads and motorway driving, I’m wondering about the benefits of the extra oomph that’s on offer with the 197bhp 2.0-litre model. 

My car’s perfectly fine around town and at a cruise, but it huffs and puffs a little when you put your foot down to overtake. Things aren’t helped by the CVT automatic gearbox, which creates the infamous drone from the engine under hard acceleration. However, I’m seeing excellent fuel efficiency, with my current average of 54.4mpg edging towards Toyota’s 57-60mpg claim.

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So, with all that said and done, I probably need to explain the picture on the right. I haven’t been involved in an accident, nor do I feel the need to warn you off the C-HR. Quite the opposite, in fact. My car’s Excel spec comes with Toyota Safety Sense, which is a full suite of active systems designed to help prevent the worst happening on the road – and when I say full suite, I mean everything but the kitchen sink. I have never driven a car that has as much safety technology as the C HR. It’s staggering. 

The system has already saved me from a car-park prang – not just by alerting me to an unseen bollard, but by automatically braking when I nearly reversed into it. I can see Safety Sense being a strong theme in my ongoing reports. Yes, it’s intrusive, but I still appreciate it being there. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re still friends in a few months.

Model:Toyota C-HR Excel
Rating:3.5 stars
On fleet since:April 2024
Price new:£38,160
CO2:105-111g/km
Tax:£185
Options:None
Insurance*:Group: 22 Quote: £1,298
Mileage:793
MPG:54.4mpg
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Executive editor

Paul was employed across automotive agency and manufacturer-side sectors before joining Auto Express in 2020 as our online reviews editor. After a brief sojourn at a national UK newspaper, Paul returned as executive editor where he now works closely with our commercial partners.

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