Toyota C-HR Hybrid - Engines, drive & performance

A sharp driving experience is marred by the Toyota C-HR Hybrid’s gearbox

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The Toyota C-HR Hybrid’s driving experience is a game of two halves: the first half is marked by excellent handling, while the second is dominated by an annoying gearbox.

Toyota developed the C-HR predominantly for European tastes, so it’s adept at dealing with the small winding roads so prevalent in the UK, smoothing out poor tarmac effectively and offering an engaging driving experience when required. It’s also very quiet on the motorway, with a slight wind whistle only being noticeable due to the car’s hushed nature.

Despite being taller than a traditional hatchback, the C-HR has a low centre of gravity and exhibits little body lean when cornering. The well weighted steering instils confidence, while the C-HR also has plenty of grip, meaning it rewards keen drivers more than one might expect given its shared heritage with the comfort-focused Prius.

There is, however, a ‘but’ – and it comes from the fact that while the 1.2-litre C-HR is available with a manual gearbox, the hybrid exclusively gets a CVT automatic. This behaves, essentially, as if it has one long, singular gear, so the revs rise continually and noisily as you accelerate, only dropping to a less obtrusive level once you’ve reached your desired speed.

Once up to speed and around town it’s not a problem – particularly if you can keep the C-HR Hybrid in electric mode – but when joining motorways and overtaking on dual carriageways, the CVT gearbox is too noisy and makes acceleration less pleasant than it should be.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid engine

The hybrid setup is smooth, though, particularly when treated gently – but when the petrol engine joins the electric motor in providing power, it enters the stage with a little less smoothness than it seems to in the Prius.

With a relatively modest 120bhp on tap, 0-62mph takes 11 seconds – by no means a quick time. And while the three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Power – alter the responsiveness of the gearbox, steering and accelerator and are nice to have, we expect most drivers will keep the C-HR Hybrid in Normal, as this is perfectly balanced.

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