Pictures and words copyright Dominic Parkes
‘Inspired by the multifaceted precision of a diamond with a sculptured look and powerfully expressive lines’ reads the hyperbole in the sales brochure.
For a moment, I thought I was reading one of those stuttering, confused and laboured translations from Chinese into English. But no: Toyota are communicating how they came to design the new C-HR. When I had stopped laughing, pulled myself upright and stood before the C-HR in all its magnificence, I had to agree it does look good. Maybe more batmobile though.
For decades, Toyota have produced vehicles of legendary reliability but, oh so dull in many cases – Toyota Camry anyone? That one was totally devoid of style and any semblance of soul in my opinion. But, if Toyota can blend solid reliability and build quality, with eye-catching looks, they will be on to something. The all new C-HR could be it.
The appearance is so striking that I was aware of young and old checking it out in car parks, and on the road. It feels quite wide, and I did have to thread it through the traffic to start with – perhaps something to do with the angled flanks giving the sense of it being bigger than it is.
Toyota have joined the compact SUV party rather late and offer the C-HR in petrol and hybrid versions only, which could turn out to be a very sensible move as governments pillory the diesel unit.
The engine is punchy around town and well-geared, but the rear-view camera is much needed as visibility, when reversing, is marred by the heavy rear pillars. Don’t expect fireworks on the open road, as the latest trend by car manufacturers to install small turbo-charged petrol engines continues in the C-HR and the 1.2 litre engine (115bhp) is adequate.
But overtaking is a long-term commitment – twisty lanes are good fun though. But don’t sound the horn unless you wish to shrivel up in embarrassment. Toyota are not the only guilty party here – maybe I missed a recent EU directive stating that new cars had to be fitted with a weedy parp instead of a tone which makes other drivers or livestock take notice – but most new cars seem to sound like a Noddy toy car.
Anyway, moving on, apart from looking as if it promises more than it delivers, it really is a good drive; the multi-link suspension soaks up the bumps from anything you may run over, due to the fear of ‘parping’ the horn for fear of humiliation. The interior is comfortable and typically well laid-out. The back seats are not overly generous, and due to the styling, it is a little claustrophobic. The boot is pretty good and has split rear seats to make it even more practical.
But, hey, it does look good though – did I mention that? Three trim levels are available: ICON which gives you Reversing camera, Pre-collision system and departure warning; EXCEL adds Navigation, park assist bigger wheels, and push button start; DYNAMIC adds even more toys such as LED lights, Metallic Black roof and special alloy wheels.
I really liked the way the rear door handles are slightly hidden and positioned high to give the feel of a coupé, the rear lights that bulge out of the sharply-angled wing and big wheels that fill the wheel arch.
It all adds up to a bold design which finally gives us a fresh and very stylish Toyota. Who would have thought that?