by Tony West and Bill P.
The all-new Toyota C-HR launched a year ago to a warm reception. With a striking design and impressive powertrain, the C-HR is gaining popularity. The compact SUV is an ideal whip for new professionals and young parents- fun and engaging but also safe for young kids. Compared to other CUVs with a similar $22k MSRP, the Toyota C-HR commands a second look.
What’s Toyota’s goal in releasing a completely new CUV? For one, the CUV segment is one of the most competitive. And two, the throne is still up for grabs. Currently the Ford EcoSport and Mazda CX-3 are some of the most popular CUVs on the road.
But the C-HR could forge a new path with a unique style and super-fun high speed performance. We reviewed the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE last winter in Chicago and the south suburbs. Not only did the Toyota C-HR haul-ass in a half-foot of snow, the funny shaped CUV is easier to maneuver and park than the typical compact SUV.
Intriguing Design with Innovative Edge
The ‘futuristic’ design of the C-HR looks like a whip from Japan or China. It’s an octagonal-shaped, low and wide CUV jacked with aerodynamic lines and a chiseled fascia. It seems Toyota designers imagined this whip to completely gratify aerodynamics and utility.
The C-HR is over 14 feet long and 5-feet wide with a 5.5 foot wheelbase. With LED daytime running lights stretching far back and cool Radiant Green Mica exterior paint with a special R-Code white roof, the C-HR immediately catches a young eye. Special C-HR designed eighteen-inch sport alloy wheels, a dope black grille insert, color-keyed door handles and mirrors give the C-HR youthful style.
Deep lines along the side, a rear wing, aerodynamic underbody panels, a lower rear diffuser, rear fins plus sport front and rear bumpers are functional style cues that enhance high-speed productivity.
Fun exterior colors include Silver Knockout Metallic, Ruby Flare Pearl and Blue Eclipse Metallic. Though the C-HR is forward thinking, it takes some getting used to.
The boxy shape is awesome for aerodynamics, but its low clearance limits mobility in snow and mud.
The C-HR XLE Premium adds power outside mirrors with a Blind Spot indicator and C-HR emblem projection. Keyless entry is standard.
The Toyota C-HR is an intriguing new sporty CUV. So it’s surprising how contradictory the cabin is. We didn’t expect it to be luxurious or super tech-advanced, but it should be spacious with advanced functionality. Unfortunately, designers missed the innovation mark.
The cabin of the Toyota C-HR features sport fabric trimmed seats with 6-way power driver’s seat, leather steering wheel and leather trimmed shift lever with satin plated shift knob.
Inside the C-HR is simplistic with some subtle fresh tech. Like the 4.2 inch TFT display with gauges and a customizable multi information display that shows everything from average fuel economy, G-force, range, safety and driver assist settings. Also cool is the backup camera in the rearview mirror. Cars typically place the backup camera in the center touchscreen. Having it in the rearview mirror is more sensible because drivers are already looking in the rearview mirror when reversing.
Storage could be better as the C-HR offers just19 cu.ft. with the 2nd row folded. Front passengers have 38 inches of headroom and 43 inches of legroom. Rear passengers may be cramped with only 31 inches of legroom, especially with tall front passengers.
Cargo space isn’t the C-HR’s only shortcoming. The cabin layout seems counterintuitive and less functional than the exterior. In the center stack, a standard 7 inch touchscreen houses audio and Aha infotainment, voice command, Bluetooth and steering wheel controls. The rest are controls for climate, which take up 2/3 of the center stack. Less buttons mean fewer distractions. But the C-HR basic cabin style with limited storage isn’t as refreshing as it looks from the outside.
Peppy Performance needs More Resilience
The Toyota C-HR’s performance is one of its best attributes. The design makes more sense. The boxy frame would normally increase drag. But the chiseled frame with aerodynamic elements all around make for more athleticism and ease with cornering and parking.
The C-HR accelerates like a turbo sedan and can bob and weave smoothly at very high speeds. The CUV is efficient as well with a 31 mpg highway fuel economy (29 mpg combined / 27 mpg city.)
Safety features include standard Toyota Safety Sense Pre Collision System that includes Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Steering Assist. Auto High Beam and full-speed range dynamic cruise controls is also standard on the C-HR XLE. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also standard.
Both the blind spot monitor and the steering assist are O.C.D. beeping for cars two lanes away. Worse, the beeping is loud and distracting especially when changing lanes. The Lane Departure Alert also shows an unnecessary message on the multi info display that says “LDA unavailable under 39 mph.” But who cares.
Steering Assist will push the C-HR hard back in its lane if slightly close to the divider lines. At times when drivers may need to swerve to avoid a pothole ore another car too close to the lane, steering assist pushes the whip so hard it almost goes to the other side.
Like seemingly every other Toyota vehicle, the C-HR seems to beep for everything, like the seatbelt when off for more than 5 seconds, or when opening the door. The notification beeps louder than the Lane Departure Alert and Blind Spot Monitor.
Hill Start Assist is standard. All-wheel drive is apparently not available. But AWD could add resilience and confidence in harsh winters in the Midwest and East Coast. Because of that, we think the C-HR would be more suitable in cities with warmer climates – the west coast.
Compared to popular CUVs like the Ford Ecosport, Kia Niro, the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V, Toyota’s C-HR holds its own. Maybe its popularity will grow as more trim options are added.