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2018 Toyota C-HR: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Toyota C-HR, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Toyota C-HR Review

There’s no denying the 2018 Toyota C-HR is a different kind of car. For starters, just look at the thing. It’s funky, distinctive and while certainly not what many would consider pretty, it sure stands out in a crowd of me-too crossovers. Ah, that term "crossover," which generally refers to SUVs that are based on a car platform rather than a body-on-frame truck. That applies to the C-HR, but its car-like ground clearance and lack of an all-wheel-drive option certainly stretches the crossover definition a bit. If you ask us, the C-HR is more like a hatchback.

However you define it, the C-HR has a lot going for it. It’s surprisingly fun to zip around corners, demonstrating sharp handling and an involving nature that’s probably not what you’d expect from Toyota. Its cabin is also stylish and well-made, while its features list is huge, boasting standard accident avoidance tech among its various niceties. Of course, that ample content does come at a higher starting price than its rivals, but when those competitors are equally priced, the C-HR still provides excellent value.

Really, the C-HR’s ample style and character count for an awful lot in a segment and at a price point often bereft of either. At the same time, though, there are downsides. Rear visibility is quite simply terrible whether you’re driving or you’re the people stuck in the rather cramped back seat. Cargo space is also below average, even among sub-compact SUVs, and the standard touchscreen interface isn’t the same user-friendly one found in other Toyotas. Basically, make sure you take a long test drive and consider these major drawbacks before giving the thumbs up to this different kind of car.

What’s New for 2018?

The Toyota C-HR is a new model for 2018. See the 2018 Toyota C-HR models for sale near you

What We Like

Distinctive style inside and out; abundant standard features including accident avoidance tech; well-made cabin; sporty handling; Toyota reliability reputation

What We Don’t

Terrible visibility; common infotainment tech is not available; no all-wheel-drive option; slow acceleration; not much cargo space

How Much?

$22,500-$24,400

Fuel Economy

Every 2018 C-HR comes with the powertrain: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive is not available. Fuel economy is 27 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. This is typical for the sub-compact SUV segment.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is available only in XLE and XLE Premium trim levels.

The base XLE ($22,500) comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights and highbeams, LED running lights, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, auto up/down power windows, dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding back seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-in touchscreen interface, a USB port and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth, a media player interface and HD radio.

The XLE Premium ($24,400) adds fog lights, proximity entry and push-button start, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, heated front seats and driver power lumbar adjustment.

Safety

The C-HR comes with a class-leading amount of safety features. Besides the usual array of stability control, antilock brakes, front-side and side-curtain airbags, the C-HR includes a driver knee airbag, a passenger under-cushion airbag (prevents submarining under a seatbelt), forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist and automatic high beams. The XLE Premium adds blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems.

The government gave the C-HR a 5-star overall crash rating, along with 4-star frontal and 5-star side crash ratings.

Behind the Wheel

The C-HR is a car of extremes. When behind the wheel, you’re bound to be impressed by its surprisingly sharp handling. It remains planted through corners and its steering transmits sensations from the road better than any front-drive Toyota in recent memory. The C-HR can legitimately be described as fun to drive. On the other hand, its meager horsepower and droning continuously variable transmission sap much of that fun away.

Then there’s the interior. It’s a delight to look at, with little diamond-shaped touches spread throughout that add a subtle touch of flair without venturing into gimmick territory. The dash is also handsomely modern, while the materials used are above average for this price point. Visually, the C-HR’s cabin can legitimately be described as cool. On the other hand, there are ballistic missile submarines with better outward visibility. Turning to look over your shoulder will yield a view of only black interior trim, while the front side windows seem too low (or is the driving position too high?). There’s also little cargo room, even for this segment, and back seat passengers won’t find much space, either.

It’s a similar highs-and-lows story on the technology front. Including accident avoidance tech as standard equipment is laudable, but the C-HR’s infotainment disappoints. Common features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite radio are not available, while the aftermarket-style touchscreen isn’t as user friendly as those found in most other Toyotas. For a car aimed at younger buyers, this is letdown.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda HR-V — The HR-V is the cargo-carrying champ of this segment. Not only does it have the most space, but its flipping and folding back seat yield the most versatility. Like the C-HR, the HR-V suffers for its slow acceleration and CVT, but it’s at least offered with all-wheel drive.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek — Whereas the C-HR is front-drive-only, the Crosstrek is all-wheel-drive-only. It also has substantially more ground clearance and a generally more rugged character, which altogether results in a car better suited to those who intend to leave the city.

2018 Kia Soul — If all-wheel-drive isn’t important to you, then the Soul is definitely worth a look. It too boasts distinctive styling and generous feature content, but its lower price, stronger performance and considerably larger cabin may be appealing.

Autotrader’s Advice

Take a really long test drive in the Toyota C-HR. Pay attention to its visibility, its touchscreen interface and its acceleration, because they could ultimately drive you nuts in the long run. Basically, don’t be seduced by the C-HR’s styling without being fully aware of its foibles. At least, the relative lack of trim levels and options makes the decision a bit easier.

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