First Drive: 2018 Toyota C-HRPosted on March 8th, 2017
Stylish crossover for active urbanites
By Nina Russin
Toyota’s newest compact crossover called the C-HR (Coupe-High Rider) reflects CEO, Akio Toyoda’s focus on re-infusing the brand with passionate styling and performance. Closely resembling the Scion concept that debuted at the LA Auto Show, the C-HR focuses on young drivers buying their first new car, with a combination of aggressive styling, sporty performance and value pricing.
There are two models, the XLE and XLE Premium priced from $22,500 and $24,350 respectively. Although the C-HR is a Toyota model, pricing strategy is monospec in the Scion tradition. Prices do not include a $960 destination charge.
The car’s profile loosely resembles a diamond formed by the roofline and beltline. Standard 18-inch wheels contribute to the C-HR’s sporty appearance. A R-Code version features a white roof with four available exterior colors.
Built on Toyota’s new global TNGA C platform, the C-HR comes with one powertrain: a two-liter dual overhead cam engine rated at 144-horsepower and continuously variable automatic transmission. An available manual gear select mode enables the driver to engage seven shift points.
To satisfy the needs of tech-savvy millennials, product planners equipped the C-HR with streaming Bluetooth audio, Aha, HD radio USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, phone book access and hands-free phone capability. A seven-inch touch-screen display and thin-film transistor information display in the gauge cluster are on par with significantly more expensive competitors.
Test drive in Texas hill country
At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to drive the C-HR XLE and Premium grades on Austin city streets, area freeways and two-lane rural roads through the surrounding hill country. The C-HR proved itself a willing companion, with the versatility to function as a daily commuter, small family car and adventurer with adequate cargo space for larger gear buyers with active lifestyles carry on a routine basis.
The engine provides adequate power for urban driving and longer road trips. Peak torque is 139 pound-feet, making the car a little slower on steep hills. But the C-HR’s relatively light curb weight (3300 lbs.) means that the small engine can effectively deliver acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
Chief engineer Hiro Koba, himself a racing enthusiast, decided against any type of sunroof since the heavy glass panels would add unnecessary weight and work against the car’s low center of gravity. Unlike many of its competitors the C-HR comes with an independent rear suspension as opposed to a live torsion beam, offering second-row passengers a more comfortable ride.
The continuously variable automatic transmission works well, with linear acceleration and none of the rubber band feel some units suffer from. The unit simulates downshifts with the driver opts for manual gear select mode. The driver can also customize performance by altering the drive mode between eco, normal and performance settings, the last of which modifies engine throttle and the transmission for a more aggressive feel.
Toyota’s standard Safety Sense with Pedestrian detection is one of the car’s biggest wins. The standard rearview camera is in the rearview mirror, meaning that the image is quite small. We’d like to see them relocate the display to the center console in an updated model.
The electric power steering system is surprisingly good, thanks to some expert tuning of the car’s rigid chassis. Not only does it provide plenty of assist for low-speed maneuverability but excellent on-center response as well.
Large wheels and tires give the C-HR a fat footprint for enhanced high-speed performance. Four-wheel disc brakes provide firm, linear braking.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing road, engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior without adding a lot of weight in the form of sound insulation.
Inside the C-HR seats five passengers. The car’s short wheelbase means that legroom is not as plentiful in the second-row as up front. Buyers who opt for the Premium grade get keyless entry and start.
Access and egress to all seating positions is good, with a low hip point. I found manual driver’s seat adjustments easy to use with adequate lower lumbar support for longer drives.
Climate and infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Interior materials are attractive and soft to the touch, with good fit and finish throughout the cabin.
The Toyota C-HR comes with ten airbags, antilock brakes, hill start assist, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that functions to a complete stop, traction control, stability control, automatic high beams, electric parking brake and tire pressure monitoring.
The stylish Toyota C-HR starts arriving in dealerships this April.
Like: A stylish, affordable compact crossover with extensive active safety technology, solid performance and good fuel economy.
Dislike: Small rearview camera display is difficult to see.
Base price: $22,500 excluding destination
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 144 Hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 139 lbs.-ft @ 3900 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 27/31 mpg city/highway2018, Best Value 2018, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, C-HR, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota