The category is also odd because competition for the C-HR includes vehicles equally hard to categorize: the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3 and Mini Countryman. Except for the substantially more costly Mini Countryman, the subcompact crossover market includes vehicles with comparable pricing.
Like other vehicles with exterior designs outside of predictable lines, the Toyota C-HR quickly attracts attention. It’s polarizing, particularly when its sharp angles, protruding taillights and squatty body are matched with two-tone exterior paint.
My review vehicle looked like a pair of saddle shoes on wheels or a two-tone popsicle. The body paint is called Radiant Green, with its bright tone best viewed with sunglasses. The white top color is called Iceberg. Friends and passersby’s comments ranged from “That’s the cutest car I’ve ever seen” to “That’s the ugliest car I’ve ever seen.”
Powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder with 144 horsepower, the C-HR drives with a “peppy” feel, but it isn’t. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) shifts smoothly and produces a pleasant engine growl. There’s also a manual shifting mode, which offers seven simulated gears. But during one spontaneous brief “bolt” of acceleration on two merging freeway entrance lanes, a Chevrolet Spark powered past with what seemed like little effort.
Regardless, the C-HR has a fun-to-drive personality in Eco, Normal and Sport modes. All-wheel drive is not available. The Toyota handles adroitly, maneuvering around corners with confidence. The ride is smooth and the little SUV negotiates bumps without issue.
The C-HR is available in the XLE trim ($22,500) and the XLE Premium ($25,310). With its $500 two-tone color surcharge and a half-dozen lower-priced extras, the total price of the former trim (my review vehicle) was $24,969. Gas mileage averages are 27 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 miles per gallon on the freeway.
For its price point, standard equipment is abundant. The XLE has 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, the 7-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system.
Plenty of advanced safety and convenience features are also standard. It includes: brake hold at spotlights, lane departure warning and intervention, traffic-adapting cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Subcompact SUVs, small sedans and hatchbacks are often rated as four-passenger vehicles. Some manufacturers stretch the definition and, according to nonsensical guidelines, market some small cars with five-occupant capacities. The C-HR is a classified as a four-passenger vehicle, but the back seats are only adequate for small children or munchkins. Interior materials are high quality and the cabin layout is simple, with equipment logically placed.
Cargo space is disappointing. With the rear seats in standard position, there’s 19 cubic feet. With the most spacious seat configuration, the maximum area is 36.4 cubic feet. It’s a lot less than the C-HR’s competitors.
The new Toyota subcompact SUV does not offer navigation, satellite radio or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The small rear-review camera is located in the left-hand corner of the rearview mirror. It’s an odd, but convenient touch and the resolution is crisp. The rear door handles are flush and positioned high on the doors, another unusual but workable position choice.
Article Last Updated: July 17, 2018.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.