MOTORS: Mirror woes aside, Toyota C-HR is reflection of improvement
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I like technology and the improvements it can bring to the quality of life. Sometimes though, it goes too far and breaks the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
In all my years of driving I’ve never thought that the interior mirror wasn’t doing its job properly. But with us now is the digital mirror where an image is projected from a rear mounted camera. It’s sensible in theory when the view through the rear window is obscured by a large load in the back but that apart it’s an unnecessarily complex and expensive piece of kit.
I drove one of the first new C-HRs from Toyota and I really enjoyed it – not least because the launch event was on the Mediterranean holiday island of Ibiza and a welcome break from Scottish weather.
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It is a more refined version of the previous car which has proved successful over the past six years. My test car was impressive over some demanding island roads but rather than showing me the following traffic, its optional digital interior mirror displayed more of the clear blue sky in the distance. I stuck with it for a while but soon reverted to a reflective mirror by tilting it back to a conventional position which was much more effective.
That apart, I like what Toyota have done with the crossover which has a tough job competing in a market populated by the likes of Kia Niro, Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot’s 3008.
Toyota believe hybrid power rather than full EV is the way ahead so that’s what they’re offering with the C-HR with plug-ins coming during 2024.
There are four grades with a limited edition Premiere available for the first year and the option of 1.8 or 2.0 litre hybrid powertrains all with e-CVT transmission to the front wheels.
The biggest seller will be in Design trim accounting for more than half the expected 18,000 sales a year, almost all with the smaller efficient engine.
It comes crammed with equipment on top of the standard spec with 18-inch machined alloys, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, power tailgate and parking sensors with automatic brake.
The front seats, covered in textile made from recycled plastic bottles, have integrated heaters and there’s dual-zone climate control. There are twin 12.3-inch displays with sat-nav and wireless phone charger.
There’s a huge list of safety features as you’d expect but some of them, such as lane departure and speed limit warning are intrusive and require some fiddling in the display to disarm them.
But it’s a well-designed, driver-orientated cockpit which is a complete contrast to what we found in the Toyota range just a few years ago. A luxury touch is the interior ambient lighting with 64 colour options and a panoramic lightweight glass sunroof with infra-red-reducing coatings to keep heat inside in winter and prevent overheating in the sunny summer without the need for a shade.
The car has been designed and engineered in Europe for European customers and looks good with larger wheels, wider stance and distinctive coupe-like design but the flush door handles throw out a disconcerting clunk as they retract when you engage Drive.
A bit of extravagance is the model name integrated in the LED rear light bar, lighting up as a welcome feature when you unlock.
On the road the steering is quite light but the handling is sure-footed and composed while still being engaging and fun. On undulating roads, Adaptive Hill Control Logic modifies acceleration according to the incline for a more natural drive and for quieter running, engine speeds during motorway driving drop by up to 500rpm, along with improved aerodynamics, vibration damping and noise insulation.
The original C-HR was a breakthrough model reaching more than 840,000 sales in Europe. But unlike the annoying digital mirror, Toyota are not looking back and this is just the car to bring a new generation of customers to the brand.
Toyota C-HR 1.8 Design
ENGINE: 1,798cc petrol with 70kW electric motor
POWER: 138 bhp (combined)
TORQUE: 185 Nm
TOP SPEED: 106mph
0-62mph: 10.2 secs
MPG: 60 mpg combined