Small crossovers (CUVs) are all the rage these days as driving sedans gives way to five-door, front-wheel-drive double-box tall vehicles. Introduced at the Los Angeles auto show in November of 2016, the 2018 Toyota C-HR crossover is just now firmly hitting the market.
Notable for its swoopy lines, darting and smoothed angles and jutting tall tail lamps, the C-HR looks like it’s a lot of fun. And it certainly tries to be, despite an older-spec transverse 2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine with traditional port fuel injection. This variant makes 144 horsepower at 6100 rpm, 139 lb-ft of torque at 3900 and carries a 6300-rpm redline. Saddled to a continuously variable automatic transmission with shifting (at the transmission gate), the C-HR moves out at leisure. There is a drive-mode with eco, normal, sport; this vehicle stayed in eco mode throughout the week.
Dressed in magnetic gray metallic paint with monochromatic dark interior, the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium (top of the line) was a comfy conveyance from Southern California to Las Vegas and back, as this writer worked NHRA’s penultimate race on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and attended part of the SEMA show. As it’s not fully integrated into Toyota’s lineup yet, the C-HR garnered lots of looks over the road and around town.
While the dark gray paint doesn’t show this CUV’s angles and dips as well as another color might, it does make it nigh on invisible to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), an advantage on this high-speed road. Using traditional MacPherson strut and double wishbone suspensions, the ride is pliable and direct, even with rack-and-pinion electronic power steering that has a traditional numbness on center. Antilock brakes (ventilated in front, solid at the rear) are excellent with zero fade (sorely tested in Vegas) and the compliant suspension handles dip exceptionally well.
Toyota’s C-HR is no lightweight at nearly 3300 pounds but it feels more lithe than it is. With Dunlop 225/50R tires mounted on black-and-polished five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, the body looks like it was dropped on the wheel/tire combination. The 5.9-inch ground clearance adds to the looks of the off-road-capable look of this nearly 62-inch tall machine. There is no option for all-wheel-drive on the C-HR; in fact the only option on this car is floor mats for the interior and hatch area ($194).
Standard items on this 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium (the base is an XLE) give it bang for the bucks which, in this case total $25,504 including freight. There’s dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen that allows control of entertainment and communication systems, proximity key that kept the fob nice and cozy in-pocket for 7 days, adaptive cruise control that allows logical following speeds. Assembled in Turkey,C -HR has Toyota’s excellent build quality.
There’s also leather on both steering wheel and shift knob, fog lights, courtesy lights in the side mirrors that project the C-HR logo on either side, lighted vanity mirrors, three-position heated cloth seats, fog lights and a soup of driver aids. Those driver aids are blind-spot monitoring, pre-collision and pedestrian warning with attendant BRAKE light, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning with steering assist, LED daytime running lights, halogen headlamps with auto high-beam control, electric parking brake, auto-dimming rearview mirror with backup camera imbedded.
Inside the driver’s office is all business. Seats are manual, but the driver gets power lumbar assistance. They’re comfy for a long trip; despite sciatica, the 4-hour trip was doable without pain in this car. One-touch windows for front-seat occupants are standard, as is dual-zone climate control. Mirrors fold on lock, while there’s plenty of soft-touch materials about the cabin. When one finishes a drive, a display tells the time, distance and fuel economy for that trip.
There’s a USB at the base of the central stack for stashing the phone – good thing as Toyota doesn’t offer navigation on the C-HR, nor does it have the top-line Entune music system. There isn’t any AppleCarPlay or AndroidPlay in this CUV, but with music stored to the phone, that’s not much of a problem, nor is using the phone as a nav system. It pairs within 30 seconds. All controls are tall in the cabin and easy for the driver to reach. Cup holders abound fore and aft; there are no other amenities in the rear, which is a bit on the cramped side. Rear door handles are at the top of the doors and flush with the body.
Toyota provides a 60/40 fold for the rear seats and the hatch, opened with a touchpad, accepts 19 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats up and 36.4 cubes with them folded nearly flat. The hatch door on this C-HR opens high and, for someone truly short is tough to reach. There is a cargo cover to hide anything of value and there’s a spare tire beneath the cargo floor.
Mileage over the road, rated at 27/31/29 mpg using regular fuel in the 13.2-gallon tank is pretty darn accurate, although range figures are stupid. While range, on fill-up told me Toyota’s C-HR would go about 300 miles on a tank, it was far better than expected. We did 886 miles together in this week, including a side trip to Malibu the day before the C-HR was returned, and mileage estimates appear less than reality.
While the seven-inch touchscreen dominates the central area of the interior, all that’s offered is Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. There’s only the single USB port, although an auxiliary input jack is standard and a 12-volt lies in the small, central enclosure/armrest. There’s no onboard wifi hotspot. Still, response time is quick when switching between various menus on the screen, and Aha is installed for your listening pleasure.
While Toyota dubs the C-HR a “Coupe High-Rider” it’s anything but that. The stylists designed this CUV to be sporty but Toyota equipped it with manufacturer commonality rather than originality. That makes it easy to find controls within the package but doesn’t have that “oh yes” moment when the driver and the vehicle feel like the best of friends.
Mostly meant for the millennial generation and initially intended to be a Scion, the 2018 Toyota C-HR can appeal to just about anyone. Just as long as you don’t want to take it off-road or quickly up a massive grade, life with this cute ute should be good. Compared to its direct market competition like the Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, C-HR is a friendly, welcoming little CUV. Its looks certainly stand out but the driving experience is a bit more on the common side. Toyota’s clientele wants it that way.
By Anne Proffit