Expect minimal tweaks for Toyota's small but stylishly sculpted five-door C-HR crossover for the 2020 model year, as the script remains basically unchanged and solidly intact.
Size wise, the perky front-wheel drive C-HR best categorizes as a subcompact; but crossover subcompacts of today compare favorably to compacts of yesteryear when sizing up overall length. For example; when Toyota introduced its five-door 'compact' RAV4 crossover in the mid-1990s, overall length measured 162 inches. During the past two decades, RAV4 length has expanded during each subsequent next-generation redesign, reaching its current 180.9-inch length.
At 171.2 inches, Toyota's 'subcompact' C-HR provides almost 10 inches more stretch than the Gen One RAV4. It's best to frame CH-R as an easy-to-park, easy-to-maneuver subcompact with lessons learned from a quarter century of compact crossover customer feedback. Three trim levels return from 2019: LE, XLE and top-level Limited.
Deciphering the C-HR tri-letter name may induce the general public to scratch their collective heads. The C-HR letter chain translates to and represents "Coupe, High Rider," although this vehicle sports four side doors, not the conventional two most often times associated with a quintessential 'coupe'. Logical, clear-cut thinking often evades the playful name selection process.
Toyota's most diminutive crossover cleverly and artfully attempts its coupe imposter mission with flush, hard-to-detect-at-first exterior flush-mounted door handles trucked in the upper 'C' pillar region. Scoops, swoops, edges and bulges all play together in concert throughout the bold exterior palate; a polarizing effort adored primarily by Gen Xers and Yers. The roof offers a contrasting body color (black for our tester) extending to upper hatch's vented top extension-type spoiler. A lipped-up secondary spoiler locates below the stationary hatch glass.
Japan's largest automaker debuted C-HR in the 2018 model year, playing catch up with Juke, Nissan's subcompact four-cylinder crossover sporting its own visual attitude launched back in 2011. Honda joined the 'cute-ute' parade in 2015 with HR-V (a similar structured tri-letter name playing off Honda's popular CR-V compact crossover). Hyundai, South Korea's largest automaker, recently launched its all-new 2020 subcompact crossover, the Venue, boasting a more conservative exterior flavor.
Of the four, Toyota's C-HR enjoys the widest array of standard radar-enhanced safety equipment once the sole domain of larger luxury sedans and crossovers. Toyota Safety Sense comes standard in all 2020 Toyota-badged vehicles, including the diminutive C-HR. This includes lane-departure alert with steering assist, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams and full-speed range cruise control, enabling the vehicle to come to a complete stop if the situation dictates. No need for drivers to cancel and resume settings during long highway stretches.
Also standard, Toyota's Star Safety System with longer established collision-avoidance nuances including: traction control vehicle stability control, brake assist and smart-stop technology. The C-HR's two higher trims include rear-cross traffic alert and blind spot monitors standard.
Sales of Toyota's C-HR in calendar year 2019 reached 48,930 units, a steady plateau reflecting little change from calendar year 2018 totals.
Pricing starts at $21,295 for an entry LE. Our top trim Limited tester came in at $26,350. With a handful of stand-along options, the bottom line reached $29,032 after factoring a $1,120 destination charge. Extras included an upgraded stereo ($465), two-tone exterior paint ($500), carpeted floor mats ($269), door sill protectors ($199) and mudguards ($129).
Bold headlight housing stretches far onto flared side fenders, framing top edging of circular wheel wells halfway to front 'A' pillars. The front's prominent lower air dam contrasts with an upper portion centered by Toyota's circular logo, the termination point of the hoods nose-like tip. Three bejeweled lights join a larger projector beam halogen headlight creating an eagle-eye portrait. High side belt lines coupled with side door windows narrowing when approaching the rearward C-pillar area, creates a pounce-like stance. As side windows narrow, the roof-line gently angles downward. Our Limited trim featured new 18-inch alloy wheels.
The sole under hood engine powering all three trims, a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated (non turbo) four cylinder, delivering a workable 144 horsepower. The engine mates to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), operating from a driver's perspective, similar to a traditional automatic. The exterior design may deliver a pounce-like threat, but engine output remains tame; so expect the diminutive-engine/CVT combination to prioritize fuel-extension over gung-ho performance. Since its recent inception, manual transmission's never been on C-HR's docket.
All aforementioned Asian Pacific subcompact hatchbacks feature CVT transmissions. Honda's H-RV and Nissan Juke offer a manual transmission on lower trim levels if desired, although the take rate remains low. These two offer all-wheel drive as well.
Regular 87-octane fuel pumped into C-HR's 13.2-gallon tank generates 27 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway, good but not class-leading fuel economy results.
The C-HR employees a circular, electronic push-button start button found on the lower dash right of the steering column. As with many Toyota's during the past two decades cruise control activates via a rectangular appendage jetting out from the steering wheel at about 5'o'clock.
The eight-inch touch-sensitive screen and HVAC controls skew ever-so-slightly in the driver's direction and welcome old-school twist dials monitor volume and station selection. Four vertically arranged push rectangles frame both sides of the screen acting as quick commands rather than drilling down through screen tutorials. Brushed aluminum push tabs monitor fan speed, dual-zone front temperatures and fan direction. Diamond push panels flanking tabs include four commands each (rear window, front window defrost, A/C, etc.)
All trims now provide three months of a complimentary subscription from Sirius/XM Satellite radio in 2020 (entry LE trims didn't participate during the first two years). Also new for 2020, Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay as standard equipment, allowing Smartphone App interplay through the relatively easy-to-navigate touch screen.
The simplistic, reader-friendly instrument panel includes two deep-set analog gauges flanking a 4.2-inch multi-panel digital message window scrollable via a steering wheel button. Drive modes (eco, sport normal) selects through this panel. Toyota's C-HR provides exceptional headroom both front and back despite its crouching tiger stance. Rear doors provide a narrow entry. Two adult riders enjoy decent spacing in row two. Three's a crowd, but the absence of an all-wheel drive vertical floor hump translates to greater leg room. Row two seatbacks fold flat with a 60/40 split.
When open, the cargo hatch, with standard wiper, provides enough head clearance for six footers. A black privacy cover is standard, an inexpensive, low-tech, cloaking-style security blanket protecting precious stuff from prying outside eyes. Under the cargo floor resides a welcome temporary spare tire. 2020 Toyota C-HR
Price as tested: $26,350
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