The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

In an overcrowded small SUV market, the Toyota C-HR looks the business and is good to drive, reasonably practical and very well equipped. Style-conscious SUV buyers will absolutely lap it up. The C-HR won the Best Car for City Drivers award in the 2019 Auto Trader New Car Awards.

Reasons to buy

  • Looks stylish and individual
  • Good to drive
  • Really well equipped
Pick of the range
1.2T Design manual FWD
Best engine and plenty of kit without stretching the wallet.
Most economical
1.8 Hybrid Icon
Petrol-electric drivetrain and small wheels gives low CO2 emissions.
Best avoided
1.2T Dynamic CVT AWD
Expensive, and gearbox spoils things.

How good does it look? 5/5

People who buy small SUVs are usually a very fashion-conscious bunch, and for that reason, the Toyota C-HR could just be one of the most appealing options in the overcrowded SUV market. The styling is an intriguing mish-mash of unconventional proportions, futuristic shapes and aggressive lines, and it gives the car an unusual yet super-sharp look. A shrinking violet it most certainly is not. All versions get alloy wheels, front fog lamps and LED daytime running lights as standard, but if you upgrade beyond the entry-level Icon spec, Design gives you 18-inch wheels and front and rear parking sensors, Excel grade gives you rear privacy glass, while range-topping Dynamic trim gives you all-round full LED lights and metallic paint with a contrasting black roof.

What's the interior like? 3/5

The futuristic theme continues on the inside, with a modern-looking dashboard that’s been freed of all unnecessary buttons and switches, with most functions being controlled through the central touchscreen system that's included as standard on all models. It’s not the most intuitive system to operate, and takes quite a while to get to grips with, but it does look pretty snazzy. So do many of the cabin materials, which have touchy-feely finishes in all the right places. Aside from one rather brittle-feeling panel in each of the front door trims, the plastics throughout are of a uniformly high standard.

You’ll also like the supportive seats that keep you very comfortable, and the large amount of adjustment you’ll find in the C-HR’s driving position. What you won’t like so much about the driving position, though, is the terrible over-the-shoulder visibility you get due to the ridiculously thick rear pillars blocking your view at the rear quarters of the car.

How practical is it? 3/5

Those huge rear pillars have another unwelcome side effect for the C-HR. They – along with rear windows that are small, shallow and high-set – also mean the back seats get hardly any natural light, making it a rather murky and depressing place to sit. Your children won’t see much out of the rear windows, either. It’s all something of a shame, because the space back there is actually pretty good, plenty generous enough for a pair of six-foot adults to sit in comfort. A wide middle seat and a flat transmission tunnel means fitting three in the back isn’t out of the question, either. A decently sized 377-litre boot also contributes to a decent level of practicality, but there is a pretty hefty lip to load items over and also a pretty big step in the floor when you fold the back seats down.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

With C-HR standing for ‘Coupe High Rider’, it would have been very easy for the car’s dynamic performance to have turned out a little bit, well, muddled. Thankfully, that’s not the case on the two-wheel drive models. The suspension strikes a very good balance between comfort and control, giving enough compliance to smooth out the majority of lumps and bumps, but enough stiffness to deliver crisp body control in the bends. Four-wheel drive models are firmer, and a little less comfortable as a result, but the plentiful grip helps on the handling front, and so does steering that’s consistent in its speed and responses. However, the remote feel you get through the wheel will leave you guessing on how much mid-corner grip you have in reserve, and that can be rather disconcerting at any speed.

The C-HR won the Best Car for City Drivers award in the 2019 Auto Trader New Car Awards.

How powerful is it? 3/5

The 116-horsepower, turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine that forms the entry-point into C-HR ownership is definitely the one we’d point you towards. It can struggle to get going at the very bottom of the rev range, especially if you’re pointing uphill, but once there are a few revs on the dial, it pulls you along very easily, and with a surprising amount of purpose. It’s a smooth and quiet little engine, too, although the notchy manual gearshift and rather overbearing levels of wind- and road-noise do harm the car’s overall refinement.

The Hybrid version, which uses the same 122-horsepower propulsion system as the Prius, struggles even more with refinement. The CVT (continuously variable transmission, which is similar in operation to an automatic gearbox) sends the engine revs shooting all over the place, even when you’re driving the car relatively gently. Plod along at a constant 70mph on the motorway, for instance, and the drone you hear from under the bonnet will vary in its volume and pitch every few seconds. What’s more, the performance always feels much more laboured than it does with the smaller engine. The 1.2 is also available with CVT and, if you so desire, four-wheel drive, but we see little point in adding either.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The C-HR costs a little more to buy than the equivalent Nissan Qashqai, the most popular car in the compact SUV class, and engine-for engine, it’s not quite as efficient, either. However, the margins in either area aren’t exactly huge, and certainly won’t be of deal-breaking proportions for a lot of style-conscious buyers. It’s a similar story with the Seat Ateca and Peugeot 3008, but rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan are a good bit pricier. Toyota’s decision not to offer a diesel model might limit its appeal for some buyers, especially when such engines are so popular with buyers of the C-HR’s rivals.

How reliable is it? 5/5

As a relatively new model, the C-HR doesn’t really have any form yet when it comes to reliability, so it’s rather hard to say how it’ll perform. Mechanically, it’s closely related to the latest Prius, and while the latest version of that car is also too new for comment, the Prius has traditionally been one of Toyota’s stronger performers on reliability, according to Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. The JD Power 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study puts Toyota in the top 10 most reliable manufacturers overall. Should anything go wrong with your C-HR, Toyota offers an excellent five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

How safe is it? 5/5

All versions of the C-HR come with an extensive – and very impressive – suite of safety systems. This includes nine airbags, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, road sign assist, high beam assist and adaptive cruise control. Upgrade from the basic Icon trim to one of the loftier ones, and you’ll also get rear cross traffic alert and a blind-spot monitor on top of that. What’s more, these measures can also be added to Icon trim by way of an option pack if you so desire. The C-HR is mechanically very similar to the Prius, and like that car, it scored a full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

How much equipment do I get? 5/5

Throughout the range, the C-HR is very well equipped. Even the entry-level Icon trim comes with desirable kit like climate control air conditioning, alloy wheels, all-round electric windows, remote locking, front fog lamps and automatic lights and wipers.

The Design trim adds features like heated front seats, keyless entry and start and satellite navigation, while the Excel model adds extra safety systems and leather upholstery. The extra cash you pay for Dynamic models earns you privacy glass and LED headlights.

For our expert opinion on how to spec the Toyota C-HR, watch our video.

Why buy? 4/5

The Toyota C-HR competes with some very impressive and very desirable cars, but it has the all-round ability to stand with any of them. It looks the business, it’s good to drive and has enough practicality for a small family, while the equipment provided – especially in regard to safety – is exemplary. Sensible prices and running costs complete a very appealing package.