Cool styling isn’t enough to overlook the lack of technology and a cramped cabin.
– Miami, Florida
The outrageous styling of the Toyota C-HR, paired with the utility of a CUV, should appeal to any millennial buyer from the get-go. It’s the perfect combination of cool and capable – at least on paper – and is arguably the first truly appealing product, design-wise, that Toyota has introduced since the 86 sports car.
That said, it’s a different story once you actually get behind the wheel. Toyota felt the need to reinvent almost every aspect of the C-HR in an effort to be unique, from the door handles, to the dash, to the center console. Especially confusing is the lack of all-wheel drive, an important feature in this segment. It’s kind of a mess, if we’re being brutally honest. But there are still some aspects about the C-HR that should appeal to buyers in this segment.
With an MSRP of $24,383 as tested, the C-HR feels well priced for what you get. The base model starts at $22,500, which makes it slightly pricier than competitors like the Honda HR-V ($19,670) and the Mazda CX-3 ($20,110). But with standard features like Toyota Safety Sense – which includes pre-collision warning, lane departure assist, and radar-assisted cruise control – LED daytime running lights, and a 7-inch touchscreen display, it’s better equipped out of the box.
This particular test model, a base XLE trim, came with added features like Ruby Flare Pearl paint ($395), removable cross bars ($299), and carpeted floor mats and cargo mats ($194). Most of which felt like unnecessary add-ons.
The biggest selling point of the Toyota C-HR is the way it looks – the styling is unique and eye-catching, especially for the segment. That said, it really is a polarizing design, and people tend to be either strongly for or strongly against it. It’s not exactly the most functional design either: the interior is cramped, and all of the windows are hard to see out of – especially the rear. The back seats are big enough for two normal-sized people, but aren’t anything spectacular in terms of space. The low roofline could also leave your passengers’ heads bumped and bruised.
The front seats of the C-HR are comfortable, and the materials throughout the cabin feel like a slight step up from what you’d expect out of a Toyota product at this price point. There’s nice leather trim on the steering wheel and gear lever, and unique stylized door panels that give normally cheap-feeling plastic a more premium feel. Piano black plastic surrounds most of the infotainment system, and more leather can be found on the center console and door armrests.
Interior volume won’t be the C-HR’s biggest selling point. Like the rival CX-3, Toyota’s focus is on fun-to-drive-ability more so than cargo room. Still, the seats fold down completely flat, and with 19.0 cubic feet of room behind the second row, the C-HR matches the Jeep Renegade and Chevrolet Trax almost exactly. But with just 36.4 cubic feet maximum, it falls well behind the Renegade’s 50.8 cubic feet, and even the Chevy Trax’s 48.4 cubic feet overall.
This isn’t a C-HR-specific problem; the infotainment systems on most modern Toyota products feel outdated. Only as recently as January has the automaker announced the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but 2018 products remain without it, which is a big turnoff for buyers in this segment. It also lacks navigation, even as an option, and satellite radio.
Admittedly, the system works fine for what it is – the touchscreen is responsive, and the options are laid out simply enough to use at highway speeds, but the interface hasn’t evolved with the times. The lack of CarPlay and Android Auto makes it one of only two in the segment, alongside the Mazda CX-3, without those popular features. At least the CX-3 comes with navigation.
The C-HR comes standard with three different driving modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport, each with different settings for throttle response and steering. The former two modes, combined with the 2.0-liter inline-four engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT), do a good job of pushing the CUV along, with only a small amount of droning from the transmission. In Sport mode, the C-HR springs to life more eagerly, holding the revs for longer and stiffening up the steering significantly. The only minor undoing is the lack of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The C-HR is far more nimble than, say, a Kia Soul or Honda HR-V, thanks to its sporty steering input and high-revving CVT – and with limited body roll, it’s actually pretty darn fun at speed. You might not guess that the engine only delivers 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. Just don’t expect the C-HR to be quick between stoplights; the CUV is painfully slow from a standstill.
The Toyota C-HR is one of the most well-equipped CUVs you can buy right out of the box. Admittedly you’ll have to dish out even more for blind-spot monitoring, which is only available in the XLE Premium package, but Toyota’s Safety Sense suite equips the C-HR with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and a backup camera, all standard.
The biggest drawback to the styling of the C-HR is the visibility in the cabin, or rather, the lack thereof. The unique angles of the body make it difficult for the driver to see out – the A-pillar and C-pillar are both too large, the windshield is too raked, and the rear window is too small. The teeny, tiny backup camera located in the rearview mirror is particularly useless, and does more to distract the driver than it does to actually assist them.
Comparatively, the C-HR is less efficient than its closest non-hybrid competitors. With ratings of 27 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg highway, and 29 combined, the CH-R is nothing to sneeze at, but when considering the Honda HR-V (28/34/31), and even the Mazda CX-3 (29/34/31) both post better ratings, the C-HR falls below the top tier. A smaller turbocharged engine might do the CUV good, both in terms of efficiency and performance.
Photos: Jeff Perez / Motor1.com