Car design has come a long way in recent years. Gone are the boxy, square-edged hatchbacks; they’ve seemingly been replaced by curvy coupés and sleek SUVs. The latest addition to the Auto Express fleet sits in the latter category, standing proud as one of the coolest crossovers on sale.
For the next six months we’ll be running the funky Toyota C-HR you see in the pictures. It’s not the fuel-sipping hybrid, but instead the punchy 1.2-litre turbo petrol model, which toppled the all-conquering Nissan Qashqai in our road test last year. In mid-spec Excel trim it boasts plenty of kit, too.
However, before you’ve even turned the key, you notice what a distinctive-looking car it is. There really is nothing quite like it on the road – with its aggressive front end, harsh creases and vanishing rear window line, it has a unique style often missing in this sector.
Some of the folds are so sharp, I liken it to a piece of intricate origami. It’s similarly quirky inside, too, where the quilted seats and gloss-black plastics give it a thoroughly modern edge. The big central screen feels like a bit of an afterthought, but fit and finish is good and the dials are easy to read.
Things are similarly plush in the back, although our car’s black trim means it feels very dark and quite claustrophobic on long journeys. A panoramic roof would help – although it’s conspicuous by its absence, even on the options list.
But that’s one thing we love about the C-HR already. A huge amount of kit is included as standard. This Excel model is our pick of the range, and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, automatic lights and wipers, a reversing camera and built-in sat-nav.
That’s where the tech marvels cease, however. Despite that big screen, connectivity falls short of the class best. You still can’t buy a Toyota with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which can be frustrating when you’re in and out of cars as often as I am – and no factory infotainment system is as good as the smartphone makers’ efforts. We take the ability to plug and play for granted, but it proves how easy infotainment can be – making the C-HR’s failings in this regard even more apparent.
Our only other complaint after six weeks and 2,000-ish miles is the lack of stop/start. You’d imagine a brand with a superb record on hybrid tech and economy gains would fit a simple fuel-saving system such as this as standard, but it’s not even an option.
Our regular urban trips mean efficiency is suffering; on a recent seven-mile journey in London the C-HR returned only 23.7mpg. On longer runs, however, the cool crossover is proving far more capable. It’s both quiet and comfortable, and – providing you work the gearbox – plenty quick enough, too. What’s more, this measly miles per gallon figure almost doubles on the motorway, even when carrying a full roster of passengers and their luggage.
The latest addition to the Auto Express fleet looks great and drives well. It’s comfortable on long journeys, and Excel trim comes with most of the kit you’d want on a family SUV. The dated infotainment system frustrates, and we’ve questions over the high urban running costs, but none of this can prevent the C-HR from being a hugely capable crossover.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with three penalty points.