The Car Connection Toyota C-HR Overview
The Toyota C-HR is a five-seat hatchback with the ride height of a crossover SUV—but without the all-wheel-drive option. Shown for a few years as a concept at major auto shows, the C-HR initially was intended for Toyota's Scion brand, but it became a Toyota when Scion was shuttered.
The C-HR joins three other small hatchbacks in the Toyota lineup when it arrives as a 2018 model in the spring of 2017: the smaller Yaris, the fuel-efficient Prius C, and the compact Corolla iM that was also once a Scion.
Overall, we found the Toyota C-HR to be a larger car than its expressive styling would indicate, with a capacious cabin that will hold adults front and rear. The load space isn't particularly impressive, and it's slow under virtually all circumstances. Nor is that excused by its fuel economy, which comes in at a lackluster 29 mpg combined, largely due to its weight.
MORE: Read our 2018 Toyota C-HR review
The C-HR has an adventurous design, one that goes head to head with the conceptually similar Nissan Juke in its audacious looks. Its shape isn't one that is digested on one glance: its curves, crests, slits, and upkicks take a while to process. Animal-like jowls and cat-eye lamps flow into fenders that wrap themselves tightly around its wheel wells. The sills and side stampings impress a deep skeletal shape into the sideview. The roofline slopes and the rear pillar turns up—and they meet at the rear door handles, which work fine despite their unusual location. The taillamps bracket a tall rear end, where the busy sheet metal in the three-quarter view doesn't quite hide its thickness and height, making its 18-inch wheels look small in their wheel wells.
The C-HR's cockpit may be a standout among its competitors, which Toyota says include the Juke, the Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-3. (We might also add the Jeep Renegade or the Kia Niro.) The center stack is particularly interesting; Toyota calls the surround that groups the touchscreen and other controls a MeZONE. Minus the cloying marketing-speak, it's an interesting approach that isolates secondary controls in one area.
The C-HR's crossover vibe stops with its tall ride height. The 2.0-liter inline-4 is just slow, even in the Sport driving mode that gives the continuously variable transmission 7 simulated gear ratios and tightens the steering. The weight of 3,300 pounds is just too much for 144 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque to move expeditiously. Note that the C-HR sends its power to the front wheels only, with no all-wheel drive option in the U.S., though it's offered in Europe and Japan.
As a member of the Toyota TNGA global-car family (think new Prius), the C-HR has markedly better handling than previous Toyota small cars. The front strut suspension gets Sachs dampers and a relatively thick stabilizer bar for responsive road manners. At the rear, the C-HR employs double wishbones and Sachs dampers. The combination delivers a smooth ride and good responsiveness in city driving, and holds the road confidently in higher-speed corners.
The C-HR would be the smallest Toyota crossover, but among its hatchbacks, it's not so petite. Interior space is augmented by well-bolstered sport seats in front, surrounded by lots of storage bins and cupholders. In back, riders sit high, and Toyota has scalloped out the backs of the front seats and trimmed the headliner back to create valuable head room, which is ample front and rear. For more flexibility, the rear seats flip and fold flat along a 60/40 split, giving a fully flat load floor, although the car's height means that cargo deck is at mid-thigh level.
All C-HR hatchbacks come with 10 airbags, a rearview camera, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings with lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitors are an option.
Two versions of the C-HR will come to showrooms in the spring. The XLE gets power features, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, touchscreen audio, and a rearview camera. The XLE Premium adds blind-spot monitors, a power driver seat, heated front seats, and keyless ignition. The audio system on both includes AM/FM/HD radio, a USB port, and Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice controls—but omits Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will likely be missed by the target audience of young buyers.
The 2018 C-HR will go on sale in spring 2017, at a relatively high starting price of $23,500 including delivery; all C-HRs will be imported from a Toyota assembly plant in Turkey.