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Perfect Urban Transport: 2018 Toyota C-HR Test Drive Review

Toyota’s now-deceased Scion brand was a lineup of cars geared toward younger buyers who challenge labels. And curiously, the all-new 2018 Toyota C-HR, which would have been a Scion product, is a vehicle that also defies being pigeonholed. Trying to cash in on the popularity of CUVs, Toyota officially refers to the C-HR as a subcompact crossover, but it could just as easily be considered a hatchback. That being said, the C-HR sits almost two inches lower than a Kia Soul, and about an inch taller than a Mazda CX-3.

With an entire segment filled with vehicles that question the definition of “crossover,” “SUV” and “hatchback,” the 2018 Toyota C-HR will definitely fit right in. As the little brother to the RAV4–America’s best-selling crossover/SUV in 2017–the C-HR already has quite an audience of foot traffic, but will that convert to sales?

We spent a week in the 2018 Toyota C-HR Premium to see how this new Toyota measures up to the latest segment-busting cars.

2018 Toyota C-HR Exterior

Even the design of the 2018 Toyota C-HR thumbs its nose at conventional labels, with a coupe-like profile that’s almost identical to the 2014 C-HR Concept. The C-HR name stands for “Coupe-High Rider,” which explains the attempt at hidden rear door handles and the plastic cladding, which mimics a high ride height. Compared to some of the conservative small cars on the market, the C-HR looks great, especially with its sporty profile and bulging wheel arches. That said, the awkwardly placed door handles and small rear windows made for a disappointing experience for my five-year-old daughter.

This tester wore the C-HR’s cool-looking “R-code” paint job, which consists of a premium two-tone coloring—ours was the $500 Blue Eclipse Metallic with white roof and mirror caps. The only real visual differences between the base model and this C-HR Premium are the fog lamps and the trick puddle lights, which project the “Toyota C-HR” logo from the door mirrors.

2018 Toyota C-HR Interior

Once inside, the 2018 Toyota C-HR you’ll see just how close this car was to being a Scion. With the exception of two trim levels, the C-HR does retain Scion’s monospec configuration, meaning there are no option packages available, and the packaging is very minimalistic. Despite the top-mounted seven-inch infotainment screen found on the Premium trim, navigation isn’t an option, which isn’t terribly inconvenient, since many folks rely on their smartphones for turn-by-turn directions.

What is most disappointing about this screen, though, is that it isn’t even used for the backup camera display; that is saved for a small, grainy screen built into the rearview mirror.

The overall design is clean and modern, and cool little touches—like the diamond shapes pressed into the headliner, and the black trim with sparkling metallic flake—complemented the exterior. Standard features on the C-HR include dual-zone climate control, and auto up/down on all four windows. The Premium trim adds the larger display screen, heated front sport bucket seats, and push-button start. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever add to the upscale look and feel, but the C-HR is only offered with black fabric seats.

Being a subcompact, the amount of space available inside the C-HR is surprising. There’s plenty of room for five passengers to be comfortable, and there’s 19 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the rear seats, which nearly doubles—to 36.4—with the rear seats folded down.

2018 Toyota C-HR Powertrain

Given its Scion heritage, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is a simple vehicle to order, and that’s especially true when it comes to the powertrain. All C-HRs are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, and the engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission which sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available. This gives the C-HR EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway**, which are both easily attainable even during more spirited driving.

On the road, the C-HR handles itself well with a smooth ride and quiet cabin, but don’t let its looks fool you, this is no hot hatch. In fact, despite its small size and the lack of all-wheel drive, the C-HR weighs 200 pounds more than a fully loaded, all-wheel drive Honda HR-V and about 500 pounds more than the Mazda CX-3. Sure, the 2018 Toyota C-HR has its flaws, but when it comes down to meeting the needs of its drivers, the C-HR is a perfect urban vehicle. It’s affordable, easy to park, and fun to drive around town.

2018 Toyota C-HR Safety

The 2018 Toyota C-HR received a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but has not yet been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It does come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of safety features including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Another element of the C-HR’s safety is its ten standard airbags, including a driver’s side knee airbag, and a front passenger seat cushion airbag. During a collision, the seat cushion airbag (mounted under the seat bottom) raises up the front part of the seat bottom to help keep the passenger in place, which prevents submarining. Click here for a helpful visual from Toyota.

2018 Toyota C-HR Overall

With its overly styled exterior and lacking AWD, the 2018 Toyota C-HR probably has more in common with Kia Soul, MINI Cooper or Hyundai Veloster than a subcompact CUV like the Jeep Renegade or Honda HR-V. At the end of the day, though, these small cars are all fighting for the same customers–millennials and empty nesters. So in this regard, Scion’s demise proves to be yet another blessing for Toyota dealerships, because it means along with the the Yaris and Prius c, they get another take on a subcompact five-door vehicle to help woo buyers.

The C-HR has a starting price of $22,500*, which is about $2,000 less than the compact RAV4, and the added content standard on the Premium trim level only bumps this starting price to $24,350*. The optional paint job and destination charge were the only added costs on this C-HR, giving it an as-tested $24,850. For comparison, an HR-V loaded with leather, navigation and all-wheel drive will run you almost $28,000, so while content is limited on this Toyota, so too is the MSRP.

Visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and test drive the all-new 2018 Toyota C-HR today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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