Toyota’s entrance into a crowded class fails to stand above its competition in any meaningful way.
– Detroit, Michigan
There’s no doubt in my mind that Toyota will sell the C-HR to a lot of people. The subcompact crossover segment is hot, and plenty of potential Toyota RAV4 buyers will appreciate the lower payments – and more parking-lot-friendly size – of the smaller C-HR. Originally conceived to be sold as Scion’s first-ever SUV, the C-HR was rechristened a Toyota after the Scion brand was axed and becomes the company’s most affordable SUV.
If you’re interested in buying the C-HR, take a deep breath and consider its alternatives first. The Toyota doesn’t offer anything you can’t find in its competition, and in terms of fuel economy, technology, and design, it’s a letdown. As small SUVs go, the C-HR is just average in a class of interesting options.
Pleasant powertrain. While its 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque won’t get your blood pumping (or even let you outrun a semi truck onto an on-ramp), the C-HR’s 2.0-liter inline-four engine perfectly suits this car. Coupled to a CVT, it provides just enough acceleration for a small SUV, predictable responses, and only modest amounts of noisiness and vibration.
Plenty of room for passengers. Despite the chopped-roof looks, you can still fit four adults in the C-HR without too much discomfort. Rear-seat legroom isn’t incredible, but both rows benefit from plenty of headroom (no sunroof is available, helping provide more noggin space) and seats that are mostly comfortable.
Standard safety equipment. As on all Toyotas, the C-HR comes standard with several active-safety technologies that are paid options on some rivals. Specifically, you get adaptive cruise, automatic high beams, lane-keep assist, and pre-collision braking right out of the box. I would, however, like a blind-spot monitor given how much the fat C-pillars and small rear window constrict visibility.
It just looks weird. Neither I nor any friends I canvassed like the way the C-HR looks. In its effort to be hip, modern, and different, it just ends up looking dorky. Why does this car have such an enormous rear wing, such bulging fenders, such prominent plastic cladding? It tries too hard to ape the design of a sporty coupe – from behind, I even spy some Honda Civic Hatchback similarities – and doesn’t succeed at all. On the other hand, the surprise breakout success of the Nissan Juke may prove that customers can tolerate quirky styling for this type of vehicle.
Low tech quotient. Although Toyota’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes standard, it isn’t a particularly impressive feature. You cannot get satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto connectivity, for instance, nor is navigation offered. The functions that are included are cumbersome to use, particularly tuning the radio. The backup camera’s output is displayed only on a tiny screen hidden in the rear-view mirror. And there’s only one USB port for charging gadgets. None of those alone are necessarily deal-breakers, but ho-hum infotainment is a disappointment in a car aimed at younger buyers.
No all-wheel drive. Most people don’t need all-wheel drive most of the time; if you must deal with snow, you might do just as well with a set of winter tires. But it’s a weird omission for Toyota to not even offer AWD on the C-HR, given that all of its core competitors, except the Kia Soul, can be configured to drive all four tires – especially given how many SUV buyers do opt for AWD.
Not the fuel-economy champion. I was initially pleased to see an indicated 29-30 mpg, depending on route, when I drove the C-HR. The Toyota’s ratings of 27 mpg city, 31 highway, and 29 combined aren’t bad at all. But that was before I remembered that front-wheel-drive versions of some rivals are rated for better efficiency – 34 mpg highway for a Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V, 33 mpg for a Nissan Juke, etc. It doesn’t help that the C-HR is on the heavier end of the class, scaling at 3,300 pounds. By contrast, a front-wheel-drive Honda HR-V ranges from 2,888 to 2,917 pounds and the CX-3 is 2,809 pounds.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com