Toyota C-HR: Amped up for the future
Right now, the world is in a slow automotive transition, which is seeing things switch to electrification. Despite the publicity, like autonomous driving, this is still a long ways off, and the 2020 Toyota C-HR is here to fill that gap by introducing and simplifying electric vehicle ownership for the current conditions.
There are two main types of electric vehicles: battery electric (BEV) and hybrids. Battery electric vehicles have no internal combustion engine (ICE) connected to the driving wheels, running only on electricity provided from on-board batteries that are recharged from an external source. Some BEVs do have an ICE that acts as a generator for the batteries and are termed extended range electric vehicles (EREVs).
Hybrids use both an electric motor and a normal petrol engine, but they also have a subgroup, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), where the on-board batteries can also be charged externally. These four types all have their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it is often a confusing mess for interested consumers, and that doesn’t include operating the vehicle upon ownership.
MEETING THE C-HR
The C-HR attempts to take away that worry, retaining the positives of a BEV in a stylish package built with Toyota’s legendary reliability. The C-HR is a subcompact sport utility vehicle that uses a current version of their proven hybrid synergy drive system (HSDII).
HSDII is a series-parallel arrangement that sees both a conventional engine and an electric motor in series sharing a common transmission, the parallel part of the equation. In the case of the C-HR, it is a 98bhp 1.8 litre petrol engine and a 72bhp electric motor that combine for 122bhp. The implementation of HSDII in the C-HR means that the vehicle can use either source to move or both at the same time. This creates a reality that is a bit more than the total figure hints at since the electric motor develops 120lb/ft of torque available at zero rpm. The ICE has 104lb/ft, and separately, they have more than enough drive power. Together, the electric motor fills in any dips in torque. HSDII is also how the C-HR creates a hybrid’s main draw: superior fuel economy.
The first benefit of the C-HR is mainly for the urban dwellers. There is no need to plug it in, ever. It charges its on-board batteries through a series of strategies directly from the petrol engine, coasting and braking. The driver doesn’t need to worry about when to charge as the vehicle will determine that on its own. For fuel economy, the C-HR will choose which source to use based on the driving demands. There is a full electric-only mode, but that only works when specific conditions are met. Those wanting to maximise their fuel efficiency can take note of the power gauge, which replaces the traditional rpm meter and the power-flow display. Both inform the driver on the various states of the vehicle, i.e., whether it is using or charging energy. Understanding this flow is a fun mental game in itself, with the aim of having the Toyota use the ICE as little as possible. Use the knowledge wisely, and one can easily squeak over 40mpg over a wide range of conditions.
LEARNING THE VARIOUS MODES
Take note of the three stages: charge, eco, and power. Keeping the needle in charge does exactly what it says: feeding power back to the batteries. Eco alternates between the ICE and battery power based on throttle position. Power pulls both sources into use for maximum acceleration and speed. Should the battery be full, the car will roll happy on EV power alone up to around 40km/h and with less than 60 per cent throttle travel. That is no fuel being used for that period. The switch from electric to petrol is near unnoticeable, continuing the process of keeping occupants feeling like they are in a normal car.
Even without the hybrid technology, the C-HR is still an exciting proposition. As a sub-compact sport utility vehicle, there is plenty of interior space for passengers, something many won’t initially notice given the rakish roofline that gives it a sporty two-door coupé appearance. Once inside, quality is very high, matched by an equally bold design language. Standard convenience features like heated seats, electronic parking brake with auto hold, automatic headlights, and wipers are welcomed. The infotainment is typical Toyota – large, clear, and easy to navigate.
The noise floor in the C-HR is low, making cruising relaxing. The dual-motor sources enhance the driving feel as the instant electric torque amplifies the ICE, giving a linear swell of acceleration. For even more speed, switching to sport mode makes the transmission aggressive.
Then there is the chassis. The dynamics are great, allowing the C-HR to be driven fast, with confidence. It is damped enough to glide over harsh surfaces but not so soft as to wallow into corners.
The C-HR is another vehicle that benefited greatly from the refinements that came out of Toyota’s new Global Architecture platform. The base is very good, perhaps exceeding its target use case. Layering the hybrid technology on top of it gives small sport utility buyers, those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint or just cut fuel bills a good option.
Price of tested model: $6.3 million
Engine: 1.8 litre engine/53kW electric motor
Torque: 104lb/ft - 120lb/ft
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
Fuel tank: 43L
Gas consumption: 3.8L/100km
Body type: five door
Competition: Kia Niro
Standout features: Fuel economy, styling, ride dynamics
Review provided by Toyota Jamaica, 923-7231-5; (876) 937-0344-5, email@example.com