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The Toyota Prius has been a staple of many a fleet since the first generation was launched in 1997, but the car's overtly eco-focused image isn't to everyone's taste.
The new C-HR is the first model in Toyota's range to offer all the benefits of the Prius underpinnings and hybrid engine, but with a radical and style-driven image that is set to appeal to user-choosers that want the low running costs in a more attractive package.
The name stands for Coupe High-Rider, and gives a clue as to where in the market the Toyota is positioned. With a high driving position and looks that blend an element of swooping coupe-esque lines and chunky SUV angles, this is an SUV that aims to take on the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, but with a touch more panache.
One crucial difference between the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Seat Ateca, Hyundai Tucson (etc., etc..) and the C-HR is that the latter is only offered with a choice of two engines. There is a 1.2-litre petrol and the 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid from the latest-generation Prius, and no diesel in sight. Toyota reckons the hybrid will be by far the more popular option, too, accounting for around 70% of UK sales, and is predicted to be the engine of choice for approximately 90% of the fleet C-HR buyers.
With CO2 emissions from 86g/km (87g/km when fitted with 18-inch wheels), the C-HR doesn't quite match the 70g/km rating of the Prius, but it is some way clear of all of its diesel-powered rivals, and offers an official fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg. While there are no official whole-life cost figures as yet, Toyota is claiming the C-HR will hold on to around 45% of its value, which would make it among the better performers in its class.
For all its efficiency, the hybrid C-HR offers a different driving experience to the diesel alternatives. It gets from 0-62mph in 11 seconds, but the engine and CVT auto gearbox are a noisy combination when pressed hard, especially when accelerating for motorway overtakes.
At lower speeds, however, the hybrid system is much more soothing, and is quiet and composed around town. The 1.2-litre petrol is not likely to be a common choice among fleet buyers, but is a fine engine - although no quicker than the hybrid, it is responsive, smooth and quiet in most circumstances. It is also paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, which automatically increases engine revs when changing down to ensure a smooth shift and is an unobtrusive system.
On the move
Sharing underpinnings with the Prius means the C-HR also benefits from a low centre of gravity, despite its taller overall height. This helps keep body roll to a minimum in corners, while the excellent suspension means the ride is composed, even on the larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
The light electronic power steering is the only downside, as it feels slightly disconnected on higher-speed cornering, but it does help manoeuvrability around town and it doesn't impact on the vast majority of driving.
There is no such thing as a low-spec C-HR, as the entry-level Icon trim comes generously equipped, with dual-zone air-conditioning, auto lights, wipers and mirrors, and Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system, which offers a seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB and a rear-view camera as standard.
Notably, all versions come with Toyota Safety Sense, with city braking and lane departure and traffic sign recognition systems all included.
The cabin is a vast improvement over Toyotas of the past, with high-quality plastics combining with solid-feeling buttons and switchgear that gives a feel of durability.
The seating position lends itself to great visibility at the front, but the over-the-shoulder view is severely compromised by a huge C-pillar. Although there is plenty of head and legroom in the back for three adults, this large pillar also makes the rear cabin feel uncomfortably claustrophobic, restricting the view out of the side.
Those swooping lines mean that the boot is not as large as some rivals, at 377 litres to the Qashqai's 430 litres, but it offers a simple and regular loading space.
It's not a criticism to say that the C-HR is commendable rather than excellent in most ways - it is practical, comfortable and assured on the road rather than being the best-in-class in any of those areas. It is hard to match when it comes to running costs, though, and this, plus the striking looks, will make it a compelling option for user-choosers.
Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid FWD Dynamic
Model price range: £20,995-£27,995
Vehicle Excise Duty: £0
Fuel consumption: 72.4mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 87g/km (15%)
Boot space: 377 litres
Engine size/power: 1,798cc/122hp
The hybrid C-HR brings many of the running cost benefits of the Prius, but a few of its niggles, too