Britain’s Cadwell Park circuit is widely regarded as a miniature Nürburgring but there is a little-known route in southern Poland that has a similar notoriety. So we asked Polish motoring journalist Michal Sztorc to jump in a Toyota C-HR Hybrid and check it out.
The ‘Polish Nürburgring’
Known locally as the ‘Polish Nürburgring’, the K1609 is a public road just south of Limanowa but it is also an FIA-approved race track. It’s the only one of its kind in Poland, and hosts a round of the annual European Hill Climb Challenge.
From certain angles you would swear that the road actually was the Nürburgring, snaking through dense woodland to present wide hairpins bordered by rumble strips and double-height safety barriers. Although relatively short at around four miles long, the road is narrow, technical and challenging, with the fastest drivers in the most powerful hill climb machines needing just under two minutes to clear the stage.
My aim today is not to set a new record, of course, but to enjoy the Toyota C-HR’s dynamic qualities along one of Europe’s most testing public environments. I wanted to experience for myself whether the crossover captures the vision of chief engineer Hiroyuki Koba in offering the sort of “response, linearity and consistency” that appeals to enthusiastic drivers.
Beginning in the old village of Stara Wieś, traffic is virtually non-existent and the grain fields on either side offer little indication of the route ahead. However, the surface is well-maintained and smooth; not something I would normally expect of a fourth category road like the K1609.
From certain angles you would swear that the road actually was the Nürburgring
After less than a mile the road enters a dark, wooded section, where the atmosphere suddenly changes from road to race, from quaint to competition. The red-and-white kerbs are huge and as the first hairpin approaches I scan through the trees to check the road ahead for oncoming traffic.
Good, it’s clear. So I squeeze the accelerator to gain speed, aiming to take the optimal racing line and nibble the rumble strips on the apex. Thanks in part to its advanced TNGA platform, the C-HR feels fast and agile, following my directions with astonishing accuracy.
Although my speed and confidence is growing, body roll is well-contained. The C-HR leans only gently on the outer edges of its tyres, communicating the precise amount of mechanical grip through the steering wheel so I can choose whether to wind on more angle. Finally, the front end gives way to understeer, but it occurs surprisingly late. This feels more like a well-sorted C-segment hatchback than a higher riding crossover.
After slowing for the tighter turns, the following section of broader curves tests the C-HR’s high-speed stability. It’s great fun, and one round of this road course certainly doesn’t satisfy my inner racing driver. So when I reach the top I immediately make a U-turn and repeat the route the opposite way.
Running downhill, the hairpins become more dangerous, yet with every turn I push the C-HR harder. It remains obedient and neutral at the limit of grip, however the VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) system is always there to mitigate my mistakes and maximise the natural ability of the suspension and tyres. Meanwhile, the seats offer excellent support, which in turn enables me to focus on steering.
Although I had never heard of the K1609 before, I’m now smitten. I can’t get enough of Poland’s own Nürburgring. And what’s more, I’m having immense fun blasting through it in a hybrid crossover. Who would have thought it? In my opinion, the C-HR is the best handling Toyota after the GT86.