In an auto industry where we simply cannot get enough bite-sized crossovers, a new mass-market hero has arrived. The new 2018 Toyota C-HR is looking to fill the funky-shaped hole in your heart since the departure of the Nissan Juke. We admit the styling of the Toyota C-HR is nowhere near as polarizing as the foregone Juke, but the spirit of “fun” and “this vehicle is clearly marketed at millennials” still remains. This all makes sense in context, seeing as the C-HR was originally intended to be a Scion before that youth-brand met its demise. But can this new “hip” Toyota still appeal to a younger market that is lusting for tiny crossovers? We took it for a spin to see how it stacks up against the competition.
The design of the C-HR’s exterior meshes well with the new bold design of Toyota staples like the new 2018 Camry. It certainly stands out from the rather-vanilla Carolla and Toyota markets this subcompact SUV with phrases like “color outside the lines” — beckoning you to be unique and stand out from the crowd! To help you stand out, the C-HR is also available in several wild two-tone paint schemes that mix a white roof with Ruby Flare Red, Blue Eclipse Metallic, or Radiant Green Mica. The Radiant Green looks very reminiscent of the teal paint color that was prevalent in the ’90s and we absolutely love it. It could go no other way then, that our C-HR was outfitted in a mundane Gray.
Toyota explains that the “C-HR” name stands for “Coupe-High Rider” as the SUV is designed with coupe-like characteristics, culminating in an elevated rear. To create this look, the rear doors blend into the C pillar and the rear door handles are somewhat-hidden, surely to confuse and embarrass your friends. That large, high rear end features two spoilers, one just below the window and one attached to the roof. The back of the C-HR looks modern and sporty, like a Lexus, and is probably the best angle for this car. Our XLE Premium trim level adds fog lights, keyless entry, power folding mirrors and puddle lights.
The inside is no bigger than a Toyota Yaris (yes, a Yaris), with enough space for four adults only on shorter trips. However, this SUV does feel slightly roomier than the super-ultra-compact Mazda CX-3 and with the rear seats folded, it can even fit a 55″ TV. The funky styling continues inside with a spike-textured plastic door panel and what looks to be an alien paw print on the roof above the driver and passenger. The black cloth in our model is comfortable when considering this is a $25,500 crossover. The various plastics on the doors and steering wheel are the quality we come to expect from Toyota. Sadly, the radio and “infotainment” system is what we come to expect from a 10-year-old Scion. This may be so that the “young and hip” buyers for this C-HR can easily swap in their own double-DIN aftermarket radio, but it truly stinks. Don’t expect XM radio, or Android Auto, or Apple Car Play, or any of the amenities that are becoming common even in this affordable segment.
With 144hp and 139lb-ft of torque from the C-HR’s 4-cylinder 2.0L, paired to a CVT to the front wheels only, this Toyota isn’t going to inspire much driving excitement. That said, the engine moves the 3,300lb vehicle through traffic at a reasonable pace when beckoned. Just make sure you are adequately prepared before stepping out to pass on the highway. Unlike most competitors in the segment, the C-HR cannot be equipped with all-wheel drive. Thankfully, that doesn’t really factor into consideration for most California buyers.
On the tech side, the C-HR is one of the cheapest cars to come standard with options like lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The system works fairly well for the price with a few harder stops in heavy traffic when it was caught off guard. Despite the rather dull acceleration, the road-holding and overall handling are surprisingly great! Our C-HR felt very close to the driving dynamics of the sporty Mazda CX-3, despite being the heavier car with rather poor tires.
When it comes to fuel economy, the Kia Niro is still the king of the compact crossover segment. The C-HR may be rated at 27 city and 31 highway miles per gallon, but we struggled to stay in the mid-twenties. Note, our driving habits during the weekly commute were over 80% stop-n-go traffic and your fuel efficiency may be better at a consistent speed.
Overall, the C-HR offers the legendary Toyota reliability and quality to a space that seems to be big on style and low on content. Additionally, when outfitted in the wild two-tone paint, this little Toyota ultra-compact SUV can still stand out from the crowd and conjure up the spirit of the early Scion products. Just expect some of the same budget-friendly sacrifices in entertainment, acceleration, and options that the now-deceased youth brand was also famous for.