The 2019 Toyota C-HR is funky, distinctive and really like no other crossover. In many ways, that’s a great thing — it’s hard to complain about something with unique style and character. However, the C-HR really stretches the definition of the 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, diminutive cargo capacity and lack of an all-wheel-drive option sure make it a lot more like a hatchback.
No matter how you define the C-HR, though, there’s a lot of tangible things to like. 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. The addition of Toyota’s excellent 8-in touchscreen as standard equipment for 2019 is a welcome improvement as well, bringing with it Apple CarPlay and correcting one of the C-HR’s glaring issues from last year. Another update is the new, cheaper LE base trim.
All of the above counts for an awful lot, but there are significant downsides. Rear visibility is quite simply terrible whether you’re driving or you’re the poor passengers stuck in the cramped plastic cave known as the back seat. Cargo space is also below average, even among sub-compact crossovers, and the C-HR’s meager acceleration and droning transmission sap much from that otherwise fun driving experience. Make sure to take a long test drive and consider these major drawbacks before giving this crossover/hatchback a thumbs up.
What’s New for 2019?
The C-HR’s trim levels are updated, including the addition of a new, cheaper base trim. All trims now get Toyota’s top-of-the-line Entune 3.0 infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay. See the 2019 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; cramped and claustrophobic back seat; slow acceleration; not much cargo space; no AWD option
Every 2019 C-HR comes with the same 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). AWD is not available. Fuel economy is 27 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. This is typical for the sub-compact SUV segment.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Toyota C-HR is available in LE, XLE and Limited trim levels.
The base LE ($20,995) comes standard with 17-in steel wheels, automatic headlights and highbeams, LED running lights, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding back seat, cloth upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-in touchscreen interface, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system.
The XLE ($23,030) adds 18-in alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist systems, proximity entry and push-button start and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. An upgraded infotainment system is optional and it includes satellite and HD radios, in-car Wi-Fi, and Safety Connect emergency communications.
The Limited ($26,050) adds LED foglights, automatic wipers, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver seat power lumbar adjustment and the upgraded infotainment system. It can be further upgraded with integrated navigation. An upholstery consisting of brown fabric and leather is an exclusive option.
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 seat belt), forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist and automatic high beams. The XLE and the Limited add blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist systems.
The government gave the C-HR a 5-star overall crash rating, along with 4-star frontal and 5-star side crash ratings. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best-possible crash worthiness and prevention scores, but a Poor headlight rating prevented it from getting a Top Safety Pick award.
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 past Toyotas. The C-HR can legitimately be described as fun to drive. On the other hand, its meager horsepower and droning CVT 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, the materials used are above average for this price point, and the addition of Toyota’s excellent 8-in touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay) for 2019 corrects one of last year’s issues. 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 passengers are unlikely to be happy in the cramped, claustrophobic back seat.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Hyundai Kona — The Kona is also surprisingly sharp and even fun to drive, but unlike the C-HR, offers an engine worthy of such fun. It’s also a bit more practical, although it pales in comparison to the next two options in that regard. Watch how much you can fit in its cargo area.
2019 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 AWD. Watch what is new for the 2019 HR-V.
2019 Subaru Crosstrek — Whereas the C-HR is front–wheel drive only, the Crosstrek is AWD only. It also has substantially more ground clearance and a more rugged character, which results in a car better suited to those who intend to leave the city. Watch how much you can fit in its cargo area and read what it was like to live with our long-term Crosstrek.
2019 Kia Soul — If AWD 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.
2019 Nissan Kicks — Imagine the C-HR, but instead of crazy styling and a cramped interior, you get frumpy styling and a gigantic interior. Oh, and a cheap price. That’s pretty much the Kicks. Watch how much you can fit in its cargo area.
Take a really long test drive in the Toyota C-HR. Pay attention to its visibility, its limited cargo space 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. Of the three trim levels, we most recommend the XLE. Find a Toyota C-HR for sale