TOYOTA C-HR As I bid a fond farewell to the trusty Kia Niro, the arrival of the C-HR very much fills me with joy. Despite the Niro’s obvious charms, the C-HR should prove an interesting contrast, as the two cars go head-to-head for attention.
Both cars purport to offer up to 74.3mpg and are similarly priced, with the Toyota managing to undercut Kia’s finest by a couple of thousand in base trim – from £21,595 compared to £23,135.
Initial impressions of the C-HR have always been good. I last drove this very car back in the Autovolt May-June 2017 issue when I pointed out the obvious – that the C-HR is very much for those concerned with personal style, rather than outright practicality. The Niro scores a top five out of five on the latter, whereas I’d give the C-HR a none-too shabby four out of five. Why? Well, despite appearances, the C-HR is surprisingly practical. It’s far more spacious than its looks may indicate and despite having a tall stature, it’s actually very well balanced and I’m impressed by the smooth ride and suspension setup.
Driving as many cars as I, and indeed all motoring journalists do, one can quickly spot the difference between a car that looks the part and one that can play the part too. The C-HR is certainly looking like its able to do both the more I drive it.
So economy. On testing the C-HR previously, I managed to eke mid-50’s mpg with relative ease, having had the car delivered with 48mpg on the readout. A similar situation was true here too, as the car came to me with 49.5mpg. I soon managed to improve this to 55mpg, though following a spate of cold weather and some motorway driving this dipped back Down to just above 50mpg: so it’s more than comparable to the Niro and there’s nothing to separate them in this department.
Driving the C-HR on a cross-channel excursion with the family in the back and a boot absolutely chock full of luggage at Christmas time – even the customs chap commented on being impressed at just how much we’d managed to squeeze in – the C-HR managed to keep its economy level the same, and it fared slightly better than the Niro here too with its larger 1.8-litre petrol engine managing to make motorway stints a bit more pleasurable and there’s definitely less road noise than in the Niro too. The C-HR uses the same powertrain as can be found in the Prius too, and it almost outdoes its flagship brother, apart from emitting higher C02 at 87g/km compared to the Prius’ 70g/km.
Comfort wise in the front there’s nothing to complain about. There’s a commanding view of the road ahead, a decent level of equipment on our Excel trimmed model and the ride is, frankly, superb. However, occupants in the back soon complained of a sore back due in part to the upright seating position over a couple hundred miles journey. They also commented on how being in the back was a bit claustrophobic, because the black interior and large headrests of the front seats, combined with tiny rear tinted windows meant it was like being in a dark room.
Having covered more than 1,500 miles in the C-HR across continents and then confining it to the daily commute, I’m impressed and have found myself much more attached to it than I thought I would be. The Niro before it, both on paper and in reality, is an extremely similar car. It’s better equipped and has a seven-year warranty but somehow it doesn’t quite capture the heart. The C-HR is a mad piece of design. It’s actually quite stunning in the right light and despite its swoopy curves, it remains relatively practical too.