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2018 Toyota C-HR: First Drive Review

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author photo by Jason Fogelson June 2017

The 2018 Toyota C-HR arrives at a pivotal moment. Japanese competitors Honda, Nissan and Mazda have already jumped in to the subcompact crossover-vehicle market with the HR-V, Rogue Sport and CX-3, respectively, and it has become apparent that buyers who recently clamored for compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5 are now considering even smaller, more efficient vehicles. So, Toyota took out a clean sheet of paper and drew up plans for the C-HR. We had a chance to drive the C-HR at a Toyota-sponsored event recently, and here's what we discovered on our First Drive.

All-New Platform, Two Trims

"C-HR" stands for "Coupe High-Rider," according to Toyota. The name is a little odd, considering that the five-door crossover is neither a coupe nor a high-rider, with a moderate 5.9 inches of ground clearance. It's also a strange name choice, considering that Honda's offering in the same class is the HR-V, which could lead to some confusion with a vehicle that debuted as a 2016 model in the United States. C-HR is all-new, not a variant on another Toyota vehicle, and the company emphasizes its sporty appearance and performance over its utility -- differentiating it from the larger RAV4 (Recreational Activity Vehicle 4). C-HR rides on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) C-Platform, which will underpin many future Toyota vehicles.

C-HR will be available in two trim levels at launch: XLE (starting at $22,500) and XLE Premium (starting at $24,350). Add $960 for delivery, processing and handling. Each C-HR includes a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and two years/25,000 miles of Toyota Care (complimentary scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance).

Exterior

In another era, the C-HR might have been classified as a hatchback, but that classification has fallen out of fashion (and doesn't sell well in the U.S., for some reason). Whatever you choose to call it, the C-HR is good-looking, at least to our eyes. It has a sleek nose and a steeply raked windshield, with muscular wheel arches and a sculpted body. The low roofline swoops back to a rounded tail, and the whole package projects athleticism and sportiness. Toyota's high levels of fit and finish are on display here with rich paint, tight gaps and seams and restrained use of chrome and bling. Big 18-inch alloy wheels are standard, complementing the bold look.

Interior

CH-R's interior fits well with its exterior, thanks to interesting shapes and lines throughout the cabin. The center stack is asymmetrical, and angled slighting toward the driver. A 7-in color display is at the top, close to the driver's eye line, with HVAC vents and controls neatly arranged below. The push-button start/stop is nestled neatly between the steering column and center stack. The gear selector is in the slender center console with two cup holders, and there's a healthy-sized storage compartment beneath the center armrest. The whole dash looks like it has been pulled tightly toward the doors, and enhances the visual width of the cabin. The second row has a split 60/40 folding bench seat. Legroom is a little tight, but headroom is adequate for adults. Luggage room is 19 cu ft.; fold down the second row and that expands to 35.4 cu ft. Clever covered compartments in the side walls and beneath the load floor add versatility, and a cargo cover is standard.

Engine and Transmission

Under the hood lurks a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine tuned to pump out 144 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque -- modest numbers in this turbocharged and supercharged environment. A new continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends the power to the front wheels -- no AWD version is the only current choice.

Suspension and Handling

Toyota didn't skimp on suspension bits on C-HR, electing to go with four-wheel independent suspension (McPherson struts front/double-wishbone rear), along with 26-millimeter stabilizer bars front and rear. Well-tuned electric power steering matches well with the slim tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, and communicates road feel without transmitting harshness.

Driving Experience

Though C-HR looks sporty and Toyota emphasizes the fact that it was tuned and tested on racecourses such as the famous Nurburgring, it's better described as competent. You're not going to be racing for the canyons with a C-HR, but you won't avoid the curvy roads when you encounter them. C-HR's competence is a virtue. It is quiet and stable on the highway, and does a good job of soaking up the bumps on the rougher stuff. It's easy to drive, if not excessively fun to drive, and that's probably good enough in this class.

Technology and Safety

Toyota slathers on the safety here, with Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) as standard equipment. That includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; forward-collision warning and Automatic Emergency Braking; Lane-Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Automatic High Beams; and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. 10 airbags are standard, long with Hill-Start Assist and a rear backup camera. Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is on option on the XLE Premium. A new feature, Driver Distraction Secure Audio (DDSA) keeps certain multimedia menu options from being available while driving. A six-speaker AM/FM/HD radio is standard, with iPod control through a USB 2.0 connection, iPod connectivity and control, an AUX audio jack, Bluetooth and Voice Recognition and voice training.

Fuel Economy and Weight

At 3,300 pounds, C-HR is a middleweight, which helps to contribute to its fuel economy rating of 27 miles per gallon in the city, 31 miles per gallon on the highway and 29 miles per gallon in combined driving.

The Competitive Set and Final Thoughts

C-HR will have to hit the ground running, as there are some successful competitors already on the road. Honda's HR-V and Mazda's CX-3 are the ones to catch; Nissan's Rogue Sport is coming up. Buick's Encore and Chevrolet's Trax are worth looking at, too.

If you're looking for a small SUV that is attractive, sure-footed and well-built, the 2018 Toyota C-HR can fit the bill -- and just in time.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota C-HR: First Drive Review - Autotrader