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MOTORS: Toyota C-HR is agile while having clever technology

By Alan Douglas

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Toyota C-HR.
Toyota C-HR.

If you’re going to try out a new car, there are worse places than the south of France.

While I’m still to be a convert to full electric power, I’m happy to go for the compromise of hybrid, combining the performance and cleanliness of electric power with the security and range that comes from a fuel tank.

It helps to sample one of the latest plug-in hybrids from Toyota on the roads of Provence on the French Mediterranean coast, in some welcome spring sunshine.

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The Japanese brand has embraced electrification but they focus on hybrids and I drove the 2-litre plug-in version of the coupe-like small SUV the C-HR – which stands for Compact High Rider.

It joins the standard hybrid but by being able to plug in the battery, it gives potential all-electric driving of just over 40 miles which should be adequate for most daily commutes before an overnight recharge.

Apart from being agile in its performance it’s also got some clever technology. Not only will it automatically kick-in the petrol engine when the battery is drained, but through its Predictive Efficient Drive makes the best use of the battery, analysing traffic conditions to ensure there’s plenty in reserve when approaching Low Emission Zones.

Toyota C-HR.
Toyota C-HR.

One of the drawbacks of an electric car is that power can be drained more quickly when you switch on functions like lights, wipers, heating and air conditioning. To reduce battery use and improve the EV driving range the PHEV uses a pump to draw heat from air outside the car and engine heat to support the air conditioning system in winter.

The optional panoramic sunroof has thermal glass which reflects infra-red rays in the summer and in winter keeps the heat inside the car to reduce the need for climate control.

On the road, the car is surprisingly lively and being 100kg heavier than its standard hybrid brother, feels more sure-footed and secure through the bends, thanks to the low centre of gravity and rigidity from the battery under the cabin floor.

It’s a car designed and engineered for the European market but UK models come only as two-wheel-drive with a 161bhp electric motor on the front axle. Together with the petrol engine they produce 220bhp which means you can get from a standing start to 62mph in under 7.5 seconds with a potential fuel consumption of 353 mpg and extremely low emissions of around 19 g/km.

The car is also the first Toyota in the world to feature hydro-mechanical ZF frequency sensitive control which alters the suspension damping force for better body control during cornering and improve ride comfort.

It also has bigger brakes, improved soundproofing and three driving modes for electric or petrol power if you want to control it manually, rather than let the car decide what’s most efficient.

The three-stage regeneration boost allows one-pedal driving for up to 80 per cent of braking while Adaptive Hill Control Logic applies motor assistance when travelling downhill to reduce pedal braking.

When plugged-in, charging is quick – up to 100 per cent in less than two-and-a-half hours through a domestic wallbox.

There are three versions of Excel, GR Sport and the entry level Design which is expected to be the top seller.

It comes packed with equipment with aerodynamic flush-fitting door handles, 18-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto wipers, power tailgate and parking sensors.

It’s the first Toyota to use a new synthetic seat covering made from recycled plastic bottles while a new automated water-based paint process for bumper parts applies colour during injection moulding and has cut CO2 by 50 per cent compared to painting.

There’s a huge range of safety features including Pre-Crash System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Trace Assist and the Blind Spot Monitor links to Safe Exit Assist to prevent doors being opened into the path of vehicles approaching from the rear.

Toyota C-HR.
Toyota C-HR.

CAR: Toyota C-HR PHEV Design

PRICE: £39,145

ENGINE: 1987cc petrol + electric motor 13.6kWh battery

POWER: 220 bhp (combined)

TORQUE: 206 Nm

TOP SPEED: 112mph

0-62mph: 7.4 secs

MPG: 353 mpg combined

CO2 EMISSIONS: 19 g/km


CHARGING TIME: 0-100% 2hrs 30mins

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