Toyota's newest, eye-catching offering enjoyed a prominent aisle seat at last month's highly traveled and visited Chicago Auto Show inside the spacious McCormick Place showroom.
Asia's largest automaker, made major inroads into the American market during the 1970s by delivering and riding a wave of fuel-friendly, diminutive transports purchasers could depend upon. The all-new 2018 C-HR carries forward this philosophy, but with visual pizzazz sorely lacking some two score and seven years ago.
Five-door subcompact crossovers, such C-HR, are poised for potential popularity here in the U.S. During the past couple of years, slightly beefier compact crossovers have outsold the once mighty mid-sized sedans. Automakers, taking note, are revamping the next generation of subcompact crossovers, slotting below quintessential compacts. Enter Toyota's funkedelic C-HR.
To be fair, today's subcompacts measure up similarly to yesteryear's compacts. When Toyota introduced its five-door 'compact' RAV4 in the mid-1990s, overall length measured 162 inches. In the past two decades, that length has stretched during each subsequent next-generation redesign, reaching 183.5 inches in 2018. At 171.2 inches in length, Toyota's 'subcompact' C-HR provides about 10 inches more overall length than the Gen One, RAV4, so picture C-HR a small, but ample contestant.
Decoding the C-HR name may have some folks scratching their collective heads. The tri-letter chain translates to "Coupe, High Rider," although this vehicle sports four side doors and a back hatch (not two side doors usually associated with a quintessential coupe).
It presents a youth-friendly design with extended "C-shaped" tail light housing bugging and bulging out from the body creating an edgy look. The hatchback's wedge-like lower portion includes a lip spoiler while the upper window portion of our tester flouted a wing-like extension. While front doors continue sporting strap-like, body colored door openers, rear doors opt for a flush-mounted design found higher up the side.
Adding to the striking exterior design is an available contrasting roof color (white). It's one of the few C-HR factory options. Narrow side windows add sleekness, but also increase the size of pesky side blind-spots.
Composite grey cladding frames circular, bold, wheel wells while also found along door bottoms in various thickness and also protecting front and rear edging. One side character line runs relatively straight from the front fender to the wrap-around tail lights. Below, a secondary crease starts below the 'A' pillar frame, forming a U-like shape and extending up also terminating at the tail light.
Narrow, headlight housing stretches from the uncomplicated front grille region, centered by Toyota's circular logo, to within about eight inches of the front 'A' pillar following the hood/fender corridor. Inside the housing, slim, projector beam halogen headlights join a cluster of small, bejeweled LED daytime running lights. The enhanced stance benefits from large (for a 'small' vehicle) 18-inch tires highlighted by diamond-like hub art work. The rear hatch window finds itself at a relatively steep angle.
The sole engine offering under hood, a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated (non turbo) four cylinder, delivers a respectable 144 horsepower. The engine is matted to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), operating from a driver's perspective, similar to a traditional automatic. Manual transmission is not offered.
Available in growing numbers throughout the past two decades, CVTs provide an infinite number of forward gear ratios in place of a set number of planetary forward gears (generally five, six or seven). While smooth and quiet, some CVTs can feel pokey and uninspiring, although C-HR's provided more grit than anticipated.
Fuel mileage checks in at a rather uninspiring 27 miles per gallon city and 31 m.p.g. highway. Regular, 87-ocatne fuel fills the 13.2-gallon tank.
A huge plus for C-HR is Toyota's overall commitment to occupant safety in the form of 'Toyota Safety Sense-P' standard 2018 models including the entry C-HR. TSS-P includes: lane departure alert, pre-collision alert with pedestrian protection, blind-spot monitoring, driver knee air bags and front seat side mounted air bags. Also included in the package, radar-enhanced cruise control, automatically slowing and speed C-HR up to the designated cruise speed depending upon the distance of the vehicle ahead on the highway.
Two well-equipped trim levels (XLE and XLE Premium) help streamline the purchasing process. The sole factory option: the aforementioned contrasting white roof with accompanying white side-view mirrors.
Our XLE Premier checked in at $24,350. After factoring in the $500 contrasting white roof along with carpeted floor mats ($194) and mudguards ($129), the bottom line ended at $26,133 with $960 delivery charge. A base XLE lists at $22,500.
Premium XLEs add as standard fare: sport-fabric-trimmed heated front seats with the driver's seat manually adjusting eight-ways, rear-cross traffic alert, push-button start and illuminated vanity sun visors. On the outside, expect integrated fog lights and fold-in side view mirrors. Mirror housing acts as a projection point for puddle lamps expressing "C-HR" at night when opening front doors. Both trims include a temporary spare tire under the flat cargo floor, something not all sedans or crossovers now provides.
Behind the wheel, expect gobs of front headroom and decent row-two noggin space contributing to an airy ambiance (living up to its 'High Roof' designation). Finite back seat leg room needs steady negotiation with front bucket riders to find common middle ground. Two riders fit with optimal comfort in row two. At speeds above 45 miles per hour, wind noise becomes evident while C-HR's handling is nicely nimble.
The color rear backup camera feed is built into the rear-view mirror's left side. Once the transmission shifts out of reverse, the projection fades, returning the mirror to full-frame.
A standard-sized seven-inch color touch screen protrudes up from the center dash inside a square-like frame; immediately to the right, a digital clock. It's separated from the HVAC system below by vertically-arranged air vents. Three narrow, center chrome tap tabs monitor fan direction, temperature and fan speed and rest below a narrow rectangular window displaying illuminated icons. Flanking these chrome tabs; a diamond-shaped quad cluster of push pads controlling various functions. This center dash region skews ever-so-gently towards the driver.
A simplistic instrument panel includes two sizeable, deep-set analog gauges (speedometer, tachometer) surrounding a rectangular, 4.2-inch color multi-information digital display window scrollable via a right-side steering wheel tab. This scrollable window also holds the key to choosing one of three selectable driving modes: Eco, Normal or Sport.
Secondary audio control buttons on the steering wheel's 9 o'clock spoke include tactile dots helping distinguish volume from station presets. As with most Toyota vehicles, cruise control operates from a 5 o'clock steering wheel appendage.2018 Toyota C-HR
Price as tested: $26,133
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Overall width: 70.7 inches
Overall height: 61.6 inches
Overall length: 171.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway