Haven’t you heard? The humble hatchback is dying. On life support. Soon to go the way of the dodo.
Or at least that’s what car companies will tell you. It’s crossovers, like Toyota’s C-HR, that are doing such big business now, with an elevated ride that lets you lord it over the rest of the road.
The other endangered species of the automotive world? The petrol engine – its days are numbered as hybrids and EVs take its place.
So that pretty much makes the C-HR a big game hunter. With manga-mad styling, tall stance and a hybrid power train, it’s everything the hatchback should fear.
But is it any good? I’ve been behind the wheel to find out.
DESIGN: Neo-future hybrid head-turner
Toyota might call it Coupe – High Rider, but the C-HR doesn’t ride that much higher than a regular hatchback. The swept rear end, complete with boot spoiler and light clusters that wouldn’t look out of place on the USS Enterprise certainly deliver on the Coupe part, though.
In fact, the whole thing looks unlike anything else in Toyota’s garage right now, and is a world away from the ugly Prius of old. It stands out on the road right now, even in the relatively subtle grey paint seen on our test drive model, and we reckon those looks will age brilliantly as the rest of the car world plays catch-up.
The radical design does make things quite cramped in the back, admittedly, and the tiny rear windows won’t please claustrophobics, but at least the five door layout makes it practical enough to get a couple of kids in and out of their child seats.
The sculpted rear end might look the business, but it means there’s not a massive amount of boot space, either. It’ll still hold your luggage, but it’ll be a squeeze for a family amping holiday.
DRIVE: CARE-FREE COMMUTER
With the same 1.8-litre hybrid petrol engine as the Prius, the C-HR is good for a few miles of all-electric range at best – there’s just not enough battery power to lug all that weight around for very long.
Most of the time, you’ll be using both motors together, with even a gentle prod on the accelerator needing petrol power to get you moving. Assisted, you’ll hit 62mph in 11 seconds. Put foot to the floor, though, and the CVT automatic gearbox instantly hikes the revs, keeping them there until you’re up to speed.
The drone is loud, unmissable, and irritating when you’re eating up motorway miles. A driver’s car, this is not – but when you see your petrol bills, it’s debatable if you’ll actually care.
The steering feels a bit wooly when you head into the country, too, but the low centre of gravity helps give you confidence through the corners. You might lord it over simple hatchbacks, but full-size SUVs still have a height advantage over the C-HR and its relatively low ride.
IN-CAR TECH: A CAPABLE CABIN
It’s plastic everywhere you look inside the cabin, but build quality is actually pretty decent. It’s definitely a step up over the Prius in range-topping Dynamic trim, anyway.
The centre console is dominated by Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system, sat high up to make it easier to glance at while you’re driving. You get DAB, Sat-Nav and Bluetooth, but the 7in screen isn’t very sharp and the UI is overly clunky. Both Nissan’s Qashqai and the Seat Ateca have an edge here.
The in-dash display is flanked by analogue dials, but is still big enough to show important info like driving directions and fuel economy. The sparkly, glitter-infused panels are a love-it-or-hate-it kind of deal, though.
No complaints about the speakers, though, which can easily drone out the sound of that irritating CVT gearbox. A reversing camera and both front and rear parking sensors come in handy, because that fancy-pants rear end doesn’t give you much back window to look out of.
TOYOTA C-HR VERDICT
It’s easy to get a certain kind of smugness behind the wheel of a hybrid, knowing you won’t have to pull into a petrol station any time soon.
With the C-HR, you get fantastic fuel economy after a long-distance motorway cruise – and without taking the massive cool points hit that comes with driving a Prius (sorry Toyota!).
The CVT gearbox might not be to all tastes, but there’s no denying the hybrid powertrain is easier on your wallet.
With space-age looks and a fairly decent set of interior tech, the C-HR is a funky take on the crossover segment. Others might do it better, but none do it with quite such style.
READ MORE › The 10 techiest cars in the world right now
|Engine||1.8l petrol hybrid|