Toyota has recently released a small car called the C-HR, which I happen to like a lot. I like it because it fits into my usual mantra of “no boring cars.” The C-HR is certainly not boring, instead featuring crazy, bold, look-at-me styling that will be a perfect choice for anyone who thinks the Corolla across the showroom is a bit too dull. It also has raised ground clearance, like a crossover.
Right around the time Toyota was releasing the C-HR to the world, Kia was releasing a new model of their own: the Niro. Have you heard of this thing? It’s only offered with a hybrid engine, and it’s got sort of mini-SUV styling; maybe it’s intended to take on this new crop of ultra-small SUVs, like the Mazda CX-3 and FIAT 500X and Jeep Renegade. And, of course, the C-HR.
Except one thing sets apart the C-HR and the Niro from everything else: Neither of those cars offer all-wheel drive.
Yes, that’s right: The C-HR and the Niro are front-wheel-drive-only, in spite of the fact that both automakers seem to consider them “crossovers.” On Kia’s website, the Niro sits right there on the “CROSSOVERS/SUVS/MINIVANS” tab, along with the Sportage and the Sorento. On Toyota’s website, the C-HR is also placed under “Crossovers & SUVs,” sharing hallowed ground with the Toyota Land Cruiser, possibly the ultimate SUV. But there’s only one problem: These things aren’t actually SUVs, right?
Well, how do we measure it? Personally, I think a vehicle absolutely must offer all-wheel drive to be considered a crossover or an SUV. I think that should be a hard line, and I’m drawing it right now. Ground clearance, too, favors the idea that these models aren’t crossovers but rather hatchbacks: The C-HR has just 5.9 inches of ground clearance, which is less than a Ford Fusion. The Kia Niro has 6.3 inches, which is somewhere between “Fusion” and “CR-V” — but still closer to Fusion.
But here’s the thing: Crossovers are hot right now, and these cars are being pitched as crossovers — so does that fact alone make them crossovers? Isn’t “segment” more about marketing than anything else, anyway? Moreover, the base-level Mercedes GLA, without all-wheel drive, has less ground clearance than the C-HR or the Niro, while the GLA with all-wheel drive has more. Does that make the 2-wheel-drive GLA a hatchback and the all-wheel-drive version a crossover?
Or maybe there’s a better question: Have automakers simply blurred the lines of these segments so much that we have no idea what to call them? Or should we create a new segment that covers these hatchback-wagon-mix things? Hatchover? Crossback? I will leave this for you to consider while I ponder the quirks and features of the Toyota C-HR. Find a crossover for sale