Officially, the C-HR is a compact crossover. According to the footnotes on one of Toyota’s press releases the C-HR stands for either Compact High Rider or Cross Hatch Run-about. Interesting that Toyota doesn’t even have a single story behind the name.
So what is it? You should really think of it as a cross between a car and an SUV. It’s taller than a sedan, but smaller and lower than most SUVs. Think of it as an SUV for folks who said they would never buy one of those.
It has a funky look that people seemed to notice wherever I went. The front end is slightly brutish, although it has some definite Prius lineage to its styling. But the funky doesn’t go over the edge. It’s not as daring as the old Nissan Juke. That’s a good thing. My test car also had an optional two-tone paint (iceberg white over radiant green) that looked great and added to the attention. I’m not normally a fan of paying more for paint, but this could be $500 well spent.
To be honest, I was prepared not to like the C-HR. I read a number of reviews that said it just didn’t measure up to the rest of the sub-compact SUV world. Maybe it’s because my expectations were low, but I found it much nicer than I expected. For example, it has a full suite of safety goodies that goes by the name of Toyota Safety Sense. It includes dynamic cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane departure alert with steering assist. That’s pretty impressive for a car that starts at $22,500.
The biggest downsides are probably the power and the rear seat. The base engine is a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder with 144 horsepower. Mated to a continuously variable transmission it’s pretty anemic. My daily driver has 348 horsepower so I really had to adapt my driving style when I was in the C-HR. Of course, the Honda H-RV only has 141 horses and a CVT transmission so it doesn’t start out much better. You can expect 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with a combined number of 29 mpg. I actually did much better getting 32 mpg overall during my week.
One thing the H-RV does have is decent back seat. I’m not sure why, but Toyota decided that rear passengers in the C-HR aren’t likely to have legs. It has less than 32 inches of leg room compared to the H-RV that has eight inches more. That’s a huge difference. On the other hand, if you’re in the front row, the seats are comfortable and there is plenty of room.
The C-HR does have backup camera, but the display is embedded into the rear view mirror. While I can see some logic that (after all that’s where you’re used to looking when you back up) it was really small and hard to see things.
But enough about the things I didn’t like, there was plenty to admire. The styling is definitely geared towards a younger demo. I especially liked the way the rear door handles are part of the car’s design. There’s a sporty looking spoiler like extension over the rear glass. Inside, the headliner had some cool scallops which gave style in a place you don’t normally look. The display on the dash was simple and didn’t really try to over-impress with lots of gadgetry, and that’s just fine with me.
My test car had a few minor options (and a delivery charge) that bumped the sticker price up to $24,969. Considering that includes the Toyota Safety Sense suite of techno goodies, that’s actually a very good price.
Is it perfect? No. But as long as you don’t have to carry long-legged teens in the back seat, and you aren’t a speed demon, the C-HR has a lot to offer.