Hyrbid car with all the benefits without looking like a greenie
During August, Australia’s most popular car was a hybrid.
Pushing Toyota’s stablemate HiLux aside from the top dais step was the petrol and electric powered RAV4. The stay was brief as the Japanese carmaker fulfilled a backlog of orders, but the feat nevertheless proved a salient point: Australians are embracing the new technology.
Once reserved for the gawky-looking Prius, hybrids are becoming mainstream. Combining a combustion engine and electric power with no need for charging, Toyota has been at the forefront by inserting this technology within vehicle shells that look no different than their pure petrol-powered offerings.
The RAV4 hybrid sales have been massive, and a Kluger version is also en route.
Arriving earlier this year was the updated hybrid version of the funky little C-HR. While this is the most expensive offering in the range at $38,891 drive-away, its appeal has been strong and Toyota expects it will attract nearly half of all C-HR sales.
The equivalent specification two-wheel drive petrol C-HR is $2500 cheaper, but that small capacity turbo engine runs on 95 unleaded and uses on average 1.9L more fuel per 100km — it wouldn’t take long to erase that deficit.
Top-shelf Koba specification is the only option with the hybrid drive-train and features strong equipment levels as you would expect for just shy of $40,000. Among the highlights are leather-accented trim, heated front seats, keyless entry with push-button start, eight-inch touchscreen featuring satnav as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto partnered with a six-speaker sound system.
Servicing costs are impressively low for the first five years. Intervals are annual or every 15,000km at $200 each.
Those chasing extra style can pay $450 for two-tone paint matching a black or silver roof to specific colours. Red is a new body hue addition, joining black, pearl, silver, graphite, orange, blue, bronze and yellow — the latter is the only colour which doesn’t attract a $550 premium paint cost.
Five stars come courtesy of a test in 2017, so the C-HR hasn’t faced the more stringent criteria set this year. Given the C-HR’s equipment is among the best in class, it would score well.
The primary upgrade Koba variants receive is a panoramic view that pieces together four camera feeds to making parking a breeze. Also standard is autonomous emergency braking to step on the anchors if the driver fails to act in time, the brilliant rear cross traffic alert to warn if others are about to scream past when you’re reversing and adaptive cruise control to maintain three preset distances from other vehicles. There are two omissions: the emergency braking doesn’t work in reverse, and also there is no cross-junction alert which is an extra set of eyes at intersections.
Blending sports car with the benefits of an SUV, it’s a good reason why the acronym stands for Coupe High Rider.
Supportive pews hug occupants into place and there is even reasonable contouring on the back seat.
That modern exterior flows inside, with glossy black finishes, diamond shapes on the roof and doors along with big diagonal buttons, while the driver has an analog speedo and energy meter (rather than a tacho) flanking a configurable digital display.
Toyota’s infotainment system is plain and simple, while the voice recognition system works well to make phone calls, change radio stations or make phone calls. That means you don’t necessarily have to default to the smartphone mirroring apps for cohesive usage. Many manufacturers have difficulty in this realm — Toyota was late to the CarPlay/Android Auto party so did a good job with its own system.
The dual-zone aircon has Nanoe air purification, but there are no vents for those in the back. High-set windows and the coupe lines contribute to a confined feel and a limited outlook for those in the rear.
Tech boffins will also be disappointed with only one USB and auxiliary port each.
Boot space is just shy of 320 litres, which struggles to cope with a full load of groceries for the family — but the rear seats fold 60-40.
More powerful and responsive than the pure petrol models, the hybrid is a solid all-rounder.
Whether in traffic, carving rural roads or on the highway, it feels adept and confident. Plant your right foot and the performance can struggle to match the noise, yet steady throttle usage is rewarded with smooth acceleration.
Parking is easy with light steering and there is also enough load when the going gets twisty.
While a high-rider in name, it manages to sit flat in the bends with limited body roll.
Grip is aided by low-profile rubber but the trade-off is you feel the sharp bumps like railway lines and potholes reverberate through the cabin.
Average fuel consumption was been less than five litres for every 100km — higher than the official figure from Toyota but still remarkably frugal.
I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius, the C-HR is Japanese avant-garde and it doesn’t feel underpowered like the petrol variants.
Top-notch fuel efficiency and rock-solid build quality, it’s worth the investment.
HYUNDAI IONIQ HYBRID ELITE $39,000 D/A
Possesses Prius-like looks and is also available as a pure electric or plug-in hybrid. Powered by a 1.6-litre petrol and small electric motor which combined are good for 104kW and 265Nm, with average fuel consumption of 3.6L/100km.
SUBARU XV HYBRID AWD $39,362 D/A
Equally funky looking, the XV falls short of the C-HR in performance from its 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid 4-cyl, 110kW/196Nm. Average fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km.
AT A GLANCE
Toyota C-HR Koba Hybrid
PRICE $38,891 drive-away (top of the C-HR tree)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yr unlim’ km w’ty; services $1000 5yrs (both good)
ENGINE/MOTOR 1.8-litre 4-cyl, electric motor, 90kW/163Nm (perky)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, lane keeping, surround monitor (solid list)
THIRST 4.3L/100km (4.8 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (standard)
BOOT 318L, rear seats fold (small)