Top versions of the second generation C-HR gain the PHEV powertrain Toyota thought unnecessary in this small coupe-crossover model's original predecessor. You could almost treat the resulting confection like a full-EV for commuting duties, but inevitably, there's a price to pay for the extra sophistication.
Toyota's always seemed very undecided about PHEV technology. Having virtually invented it back in 2012 for a top version of the Prius, it took nearly another decade for the brand to offer it again on another model (the RAV4). Questions to the company as to why smaller Toyotas couldn't be had with Plug-in Hybrid tech were met with the response that the benefits of PHEV were "largely illusory" and that a better solution was to concentrate on conventional Hybrids. But everyone's allowed to change their mind and Toyota clearly has in developing the second generation C-HR crossover we're looking at here, which now has a headlining PHEV model at the top of its line-up. Most sales will continue to be of the self-charging conventional Hybrid versions of this model, but let's take a closer look at whether plugging your C-HR in might be a credible option if you're planning to spend big on this model line.
Most PHEVs actually aren't very efficient at all, once their EV range is used up. When that happens, they usually revert to a conventional petrol engine made even less efficient by the fact that it has to lug along the extra weight of a Plug-in Hybrid battery pack. The C-HR PHEV has that too, but at least its core petrol engine is a self-charging full-Hybrid, which makes it rather unique amongst models of this genre. The 2.0-litre engine in question (borrowed from the faster of the two standard Hybrid models) is mated to a 161bhp electric motor powered by a 13.8kWh battery that, when fully charged, can offer an EV range of up to 41 miles. Only the front wheels are driven - with up to 220bhp, which allows 62mph to be dispatched in 7.3s en route to 112mph. To cope with the extra power (and weight), Toyota has added new twin-piston brakes and new ZF frequency-sensitive shock absorbers supposed to improve the ride over high-frequency bumps. There are three driving modes and you can alter the strength of regenerative braking right up to a 'B' setting that offers so much retardation off-throttle that you hardly ever need to use the brake pedal. As with the ordinary Hybrid versions of this second generation C-HR, Toyota says it's worked on the handling, introducing a wider track and tweaking multi-link rear suspension elements from the larger RAV4. It all sits on the company's usual TNGA-C platform, borrowed from the Corolla. And Toyota says that it's improved auto gearbox response too, though you shouldn't expect too much there.
Apart from different badgework and an extra charging flap, there are no visual differences to set this PHEV model apart from more ordinary C-HR Hybrids. If you liked the edgily-styled first generation C-HR, it's likely that you'll also appreciate the visual efforts Toyota's made with its replacement. As before, dramatic lines, sharp bodywork creases and sculpted headlights catch the eye. Plus the nose gets Toyota's latest 'hammerhead face', there are flush-fitting pop-out door handles and pricier trim levels get two-tone paintwork. A new pre-coloured resin finish for the bumpers also gains gives a two-tone vibe. Contrary to expectations, this MK2 model is a little smaller than its predecessor, 35mm shorter and sitting 15mm lower. It's 45mm wider though and has bigger wheels - up to 20-inches in size. The cabin features various recycled plastic fabrics, contrasting soft-touch surfaces and a pair of so-called 'sail panels' that stretch from the fascia top into the doors. A 12.3-inch digital dial display features for the instruments and the centre screen is also 12.3 inches in size. You sit quite high, but it's not enough to alleviate the rather compromised rearward visibility. You access the rear through conventionally-sited door handles. And once inside, you'll be tight on legroom, though Toyota claims that extra space for heads has been freed up by the fact that the optional panoramic glass roof doesn't need a shade. Rear seat visibility is limited and the sloping roof line restricts ceiling space. The boot's restricted too: to extend it, the seat back splits 60:40.
Prices for the second generation C-HR model start from just over £31,000, but you'll be paying in the £42.000-£45,000 bracket for this PHEV version. The 'GR Sport' trim level many will want has 20-inch machined alloy wheels, a head-up display and a JBL premium audio system. Along with bi-tone exterior paintwork, front sports seats with suede-effect upholstery, ambient interior lighting, a panoramic roof and a 360-degree panoramic view monitor. That's in addition to the usual very complete rosta of C-HR spec. You can tick off a powered tailgate, cloud-based navigation, a wireless smartphone charging mat, 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Plus there's rear privacy glass and a parking sensor system with automatic brake function. There are heated seats and you get a 12.3-inch instrument display, along with a 12.3-inch 'Toyota Smart Connect+' central infotainment screen. The safety and assistance package includes the latest, third generation Toyota Safety Sense package, with functions including a Pre-Crash System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Trace Assist, Road Sign Assist and Automatic High Beam. In addition, there is a Blind Spot Monitor which links to Safe Exit Assist to help prevent doors being opened into the path of vehicles approaching from the rear.
For this PHEV C-HR variant, you're looking at up to 294mpg on the combined cycle and up to 19g/km, with an EV range of up to 41 miles; in the real world, it'd be more like 35 miles. That claimed range figure puts the car in a very favourable 8% Benefit-in-Kind taxation bracket - which for many customers could be the clincher for purchase. Helping with the range figure is the fact that this second generation design is around 2% more aerodynamically efficient than its predecessor. On the move, you can select an EV mode or use a Hybrid setting that will work with the sat nav and uses Geofencing technology that will prioritise electric power in low-emission zones. The navigation system can also suggest a route that will take into account your state of charge and identify possible charging spots. In a C-HR PHEV, you can also adjust the strength of the regenerative braking. The 13.8kWh battery can use a 7kW charger for a home top-up that will take two and a half hours. Whatever C-HR you decide upon, as usual with Toyotas these days, if you keep the car serviced at a franchised dealer, the warranty can be extended up to a maximum of 10 years.
For a few people, this Plug-in Hybrid C-HR will be the ideal small coupe-crossover confection. Hybrid power when you need an engine. And you can treat the car like a full EV when you don't. What's not to like? Well the added weight for one thing. And the significant price premium for PHEV power for another. So you'll either be a sceptic or a convert when it comes to this model. But then the C-HR has always garnered that kind of reaction, so why should this second generation model's more sophisticated high-tech flagship variant be any different? In a world undecided about the future of EVs, it might just be an ideal fashionable small runabout for those who don't mind a premium price tag. And then again, it might not. Everyone will have their own opinion, just as they always have with the C-HR.