What is an auto manufacturer to do when a vehicle fresh off the drawing board is earmarked for a marque that becomes defunct? Simple. You re-badge, make it your own and … voila, you have the Toyota C-HR.
Once designated for the now extinct Scion line, the 2018 C-HR is an all-new entry for Toyota, a subcompact crossover utility vehicle with invigorating looks. Giving the rookie the once over are former Wheels editors Dave Mikesell and Jimmy Dinsmore.
DAVE: I must say, the C-HR arrived with a visual splash that isn’t usually expected of Toyota products. C-HR stands for Coupe-High Rider, which is actually a bit of a misnomer since this coupe has four doors — the rear door handles inset high on the door frame. The lines from front to back are all swoopy-wavy, the windshield is steeply raked and the roof is gently arced. My tester’s paint job was Radiant Green and came with an Iceberg (i.e., White) roof. The C-HR had me at “hello.” But is it welcoming inside …?
JIMMY: Dave, the curb appeal might be high for the C-HR, but inside it’s a bit of a fixer upper. The design screams Scion, which was Toyota’s youth-driven, start-up brand. The interior felt a bit sparser than a low-trim Toyota. And the technology inside left me wanting more. For a youth-oriented brand, it certainly seemed somewhat out of touch. The seats were comfortable and the back seat had pretty good leg room and head room. I can get past the lack of quality touch points, but I believe if this vehicle is going to have staying power, it will need an improvement on technology.
DAVE: We haven’t mentioned that the C-HR is only available with front-wheel drive, which seems to be an issue when many of the competitors also come with all-wheel drive. The engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 144 horsepower. As the numbers suggest, this is not going to provide for an exhilarating ride. A continuously variable transmission is going to whine when trying to rapidly increase speed.
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JIMMY: I imagine how much fun the C-HR could be if it had a turbo; it’d be a blast to drive, even with that CVT. But as such, the C-HR lacks exhilaration. Its squatty feel does a good job of hugging the road and handling turns, even without all-wheel drive. I think the C-HR should be judged for what it is, and not what it isn’t. As a daily driver it serves well. Here in the Midwest, where winter seems like it doesn’t ever end, the C-HR would perform better with AWD, but otherwise, it’s adequate.
DAVE: The C-HR might have taken a circuitous route into the Toyota fold, but at 14-and-a-quarter feet in length it is more than a foot shorter than the RAV4, putting it into a different size category. There is 19 cubic feet of space in the rear cargo area and 36.4 cubic feet when the back-row seats are folded — half of the RAV4 space. A wide-opening hatch is a plus, but that arcing roofline mentioned earlier becomes an impediment here.
JIMMY: The big factor for the C-HR is price. It’s affordable. Perhaps it’s following the Scion cue for that, but as this micro crossover craze continues, the C-HR slides perfectly into the segment with a competitive price structure. There are two trims, with the base XLE trim starting at $22,500. Dave and I both drove this base model. The XLE Premium goes up a couple thousand dollars although it does add heated front seats and push-button start as well as an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat.
DAVE: I don’t know if Toyota specifically needed the C-HR but if the company still wanted to keep a cadre of quirky alternatives alive that Scion previously offered, than this one, in my opinion, carries on the mission.
JIMMY: In a world filled with the same old, same old, the C-HR certainly does stand out. You called it quirky and that’s a good description, Dave.