2018 Toyota C-HR Review

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2017
The Car Connection
2017
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor

The 2018 Toyota C-HR rides high, with astonishing looks that we like (you may differ); they're the selling point for a slow car that doesn't offer all-wheel drive despite a crossover label.

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is a small hatchback that its maker calls a crossover, despite the lack of all-wheel drive. Originally intended for the now-defunct Scion brand, it’s a well-equipped and highly stylized five-door that rides higher than most other cars of its size. The C-HR comes in just two trim levels, XLE and XLE Premium, and its sole option is a white-painted roof offered with just three of its seven body colors.

The C-HR joins no fewer than three other small hatchbacks in Toyota showrooms: the aging subcompact Yaris, the fuel-efficient subcompact Prius C, and the larger compact Corolla iM. Its mission is to attract new buyers to the brand who want a car with an expressive design. The company hopes that younger buyers will like the kind of statement the C-HR makes about who they are.

We rate the 2018 C-HR at 5.5 out of 10, although that score could go higher if the car gets top ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS, which haven’t yet tested it for crash safety. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)

That rating is only average for the cars Toyota expects it to compete against. Those include the similarly extroverted but aging and thirsty Nissan Juke (5.0), the capacious and fuel-efficient Honda HR-V (6.8), the fun-to-drive Mazda CX-3 (7.2), and perhaps also the cramped but off-road-capable Jeep Renegade (5.3). All four of those models offer optional AWD, but Toyota doesn’t expect that to be a problem. If it is, the C-HR has optional AWD in Europe and Japan already, making it possible to fit for North America too.

C-HR design and performance

The C-HR’s design is by far its most distinctive feature, with busy but interesting sheet metal that underscores the “Coupe, High-Riding” explanation of its model name. A rising window line, high stance, and expressive lines, swoops, and accents do actually come together to make an interesting and noticeable design that we grew fond of by the end of our test drive.

The interior is smartly designed and surprisingly capacious front and rear, with lots of diamond shapes in unlikely places (including the headliner) to emphasize the extroverted style.

A 144-horsepower inline-4 with a continuously variable transmission powering the front wheels is the sole powertrain offered in the C-HR. Despite an available Sport driving mode, it’s slow and not particularly fuel-efficient, at 29 mpg combined. The handling and roadholding is good, though, and definitely a step up on those of previous small Toyotas.

C-HR comfort and safety

Front and rear occupants will find lots of head room, a benefit of the “high-riding” stance, and rear-seat riders in particular get cabin width, a comfortably upright seating position, and plenty of shoe room under front seats. The C-HR looks smaller than it is, to the benefit of its occupants. The all-black interior offers lots of storage bins, compartments, and cup holders. Load space is average to tight compared to other five-door hatchbacks and the crossovers Toyota is trying to compete with.

Ten airbags and a suite of active-safety features are standard on the C-HR, though it hasn’t yet been rated for crash safety by the IIHS or NHTSA. Visibility out the back isn’t very good, not surprising with a rising window line, a steeply raked rear window, and very thick roof pillars.

The C-HR comes well-equipped in either of its two trim levels, with standard dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen audio system, and more. But unlike other small front-wheel-drive hatchbacks, the C-HR starts at more than $23,000 including delivery, meaning buyers pay for the style.

A host of dealer appearance, functional, and performance accessories is available to personalize each model. The 2018 C-HR will go on sale in spring 2017, imported to North America from a Toyota factory in Turkey.

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