2024 Toyota C-HR hybrid new car review

A three-way battle decides the fate of new cars.

Designers fight for their artistic vision by making a compelling case to accountants – who must balance the books – and engineers who look after practical concerns.

Stylists clearly have a lot of sway at Toyota, because the new C-HR hybrid looks sensational.

From the supercar-like bonnet and headlights to its steeply raked windscreen, flush-mounted doorhandles and wiperless rear window, it looks like a concept car.

Check out the way “Toyota C-HR” is now embedded into the blade of light running across its rump, replacing old-school chrome badges in a nod to modernity.

Lots of cars have a wide-screen infotainment system and digital dashboard. Some have 64-colour LED ambient lighting in the cabin. Few sync the colour and brightness of the car’s mood lighting to the time of day – warm and bright in the morning, cool and soothing at night.

Environmental concerns also held sway in the development process.

There are no animal products anywhere in the car – not in the leather-look seats, the hidden adhesives, or the insulation used to dampen vibrations.

The paint is now water based. The amount of recycled plastic used throughout the car has doubled, reducing reliance on new petrochemical products.

The hybrid battery swaps nickel metal hydride chemistry for greener lithium ion technology.

These are all good things. They are also expensive, which is why the Toyota C-HR GR Sport shown here costs about $61,000 drive-away. That’s a lot for a little SUV. A hell of a lot.

Toyota defends its price strategy by claiming expensive tech such as pedestrian detection, driver monitoring and fuel-saving hybrid systems are pretty much mandatory for new cars.

Ever stricter safety requirements pushed the C-HR’s airbag count into double digits with the addition of a 10th unit placed between the driver and front passenger.

The cabin has more features than before, but feels surprisingly snug for a new model. It’s decent from a driver’s perspective, but passengers are hemmed in by a deeply sculpted dashboard and upswept window line.

There are no air vents or power outlets in the rear of cheaper models, and no rear armrest at any level in the price range. Score a point for the bean counters. Designers returned serve with a shapely rear that has no space for a spare tyre, and not much in the way of cargo room.

Engineers won their way in this GR Sport by fitting a sophisticated all-wheel-drive hybrid system that combines a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with electric motors in the front and rear.

As in the larger RAV4 Hybrid, there is no physical link from the engine to the back wheels, which are driven only by an electric motor.

The combination uses 4.1L/100km to deliver 146kw of combined power – strong numbers for performance and efficiency.

Cheaper models priced from about $48,000 drive-away make do with a less powerful 1.8-litre hybrid that uses 4.0L/100km to make 103kW of combined power. Both engines are linked to CVT automatic transmissions.

The smaller engine gets the job done without feeling impressive. It’s a noisy unit compared to turbo petrol rivals, but you’ll struggle to match its efficiency in rival metal.

The GR Sport is a better bet.

Quieter, thanks to its extra hybrid oomph and a bigger engine that requires fewer revs, it’s a smooth unit that delivers easy progress.

Bad news for small car customers as Toyota increases prices

Toyota’s mastery of the hybrid art results in seamless responses from the brake system, meshing nicely with sweet steering to deliver a satisfying drive.

Low-profile tyres on the 19-inch rims of the GR Sport return a ride that can be unsettled over big bumps that ask difficult questions of its suspension.

There are more polished performers at this price – particularly if you consider a switch to zippy electric cars.

The overall driving experience is good but not great, and the dollars involved don’t result in a bargain buy. After all, the designers won this war.

VERDICT 3.5/5

Head-turning looks and impressive hybrid efficiency are undermined by a high price and middle-of-the-road drive.

TOYOTA C-HR GR SPORT

PRICE: About $61,000 drive-away

ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cyl hybrid, 146kW

WARRANTY/SERVICE: 5-yr/u’td km, about $1250 for 5 yrs

SAFETY 10 airbags, front and rear auto braking, active cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert

THIRST: 4.1L/100km

BOOT: 362 litres

SPARE: Repair kit

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