2018 Toyota C-HR sub-compact ticks all the basics


New for 2018, the Toyota C-HR is a subcompact crossover aimed towards a younger, more urban audience. It features edgy looks, a larger-than-expected interior, and Prius-like efficiency and handling. Some of these are good things.

Originally designed as a Scion offering, the C-HR was quickly folded into the Toyota line when the Scion brand was discontinued. For a subcompact, the 2018 Toyota C-HR has a nice ride height and somewhat sporty feel behind the wheel. The Scion brand was generally edgy and the C-HR carries that. It also carries the Scion brand’s penchant for less-than-expected technology and interior accoutrements. A long list of standard safety features is another selling point for this new model.

The C-HR was introduced as a Scion concept back in 2015, inspired by “chopsticks and cutting boards”. Following the brand change a production concept was introduced and unit production began late in 2017. We got one in our hot little hands just in time for the holidays.

The base model 2018 Toyota C-HR has a lot of good stuff in it for the price. That price (US$22,500) is higher than many subcompact crossovers, but it includes safety and driver convenience features that aren’t often included in those cheaper models. Our XLE Premium model (US$25,364) had even more bells and whistles, including much-needed heated front seats (it’s winter in Wyoming, ya’ll). Several dealer-added options are also available for the C-HR, including better infotainment and a usable roof rack. Technophiles will want to note that infotainment bit. We’ll talk about that later.

Powering the 2018 C-HR is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 144 horsepower (107 kW) and runs through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This combination should produce more than enough power and fun. It does indeed deliver with decent amounts of power, but the merely sporty-ish handling and slow-on-the-uptake CVT go a long way towards minimizing any good times. Also, the C-HR doesn’t offer all-wheel drive in any format, leaving out another large segment of likely buyers in the compact crossover arena.

The C-HR is not quite what its name implies (Coupe High Rider) as it’s neither a coupe nor a high-riding utility. Neither is it as fast or edgy as its video game-inspired exterior might suggest. It’s an attempt at things that falls somewhere shy of expectations, but not so far below the mark that we’d relegate it to the lost cause bin.

The 2018 C-HR is an illustration of the absorption of Scion into Toyota. Never introduced as a Scion, the C-HR is a full-on Toyota and upper-management has to live with that, despite there being several latent Scion attributes still readily visible. Based on the new TNGA platform introduced with the new-generation Prius, the C-HR has a lot of flexibility under its skin. The 2.0-liter engine, for example, is only offered in the United States while a smaller 1.8L is offered in most other markets, attached to the same CVT. A hybrid model is also offered, though it’s not yet available in North America.

Knowing all of that, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is actually a bit of a surprise. The interior quality and comfort level is high compared to every other Scion ever made. Noise levels are high at freeway speeds, but that’s the norm in this segment. High RPM levels also mean a lot of engine and, a new Toyota norm, CVT noise in the cabin too. And don’t think that all of that noise will pay off with acceleration. It doesn’t. Despite the small size and large HP on paper, the C-HR is never in a real hurry to get anywhere. Which fits nicely with most of the Scion and Toyota brand on the whole. We suspect that the hybrid model is probably better to drive, as is also the Toyota norm.

The rear seating is cramped, but no more so than it is in any other compact you might name. Headroom back there is commendably good and cargo space, though a bit small, is very usable and includes a lot of loading floor space given the C-HR’s size.

Infotainment, as we mentioned earlier, needs some explanation. Basically, the base-level C-HR has nothing more than Bluetooth connectivity. To get anywhere beyond that, upgrades have to be made and nearly all of those upgrades are at the dealership rather than from the factory. This is a Scion throwback, and what upgrades are available are not generally on par with the market norm. Navigation can be had, as can satellite radio and maybe a few apps. But there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and nothing like the kind of higher-function options like streaming and Wi-Fi hotspots that some other competitors offer in-house.

Safety is where the 2018 C-HR shines compared to its market competitors. LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate, and more are all standard. So are forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, traffic-adapting cruise control, and lane departure warning and intervention. Upgrade options include foglamps, blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alerts, and keyless ignition. That’s a pretty good host of safety equipment for what’s basically the entry-level crossover class.

In the end, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is fun to look at, gets as-expected fuel economy, and drives fairly well in most conditions. It’s not in a hurry on the freeway and won’t make anyone cry for joy with its technology or connectivity, but the C-HR definitely serves up what Toyota is most well known for: hitting all of the basic checkbox requirements for the buyer.

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