The 2020 Toyota C-HR is funky, distinctive and really unlike any 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 carlike 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 are a lot of things to like about it. It’s surprisingly fun to zip around corners in it — the C-HR demonstrates sharp handling and an involving nature that’s probably not what you’d expect from Toyota. Its cabin is also stylish and well-made, and its features list is huge, boasting standard accident-avoidance tech among its niceties. The addition of Toyota’s excellent 8-in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay as standard equipment in 2019 was a welcome improvement. This year, the C-HR gets Android Auto, which corrects one of the glaring omissions from last year.
All of the above counts for an awful lot, but there are significant downsides, too. The rear visibility is, quite simply, terrible whether you’re the one behind the wheel or stuck in the cramped plastic cave known as the back seat. The cargo space is also below average, even among subcompact crossovers, and the C-HR’s meager acceleration and droning transmission drag down that otherwise fun driving experience. Make sure to take an extended test drive and consider these major drawbacks before giving this crossover hatchback a thumbs up.
What’s New for 2020?
The CH-R gets a mild update for 2020. Aesthetic changes consist of a new front bumper, new wheels, two new exterior colors — Supersonic Red and Hot Lava — and a new silver roof option. Functional changes include the addition of Android Auto on all trims, and a new adaptive front lighting system and an 8-way power driver’s seat on the top-end Limited trim. All trims now come with a 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. See the 2020 Toyota C-HR models for sale
What We Like
- Distinctive style inside and out
- Abundant standard features, including accident-avoidance tech
- Quality cabin
- Sporty handling
- Toyota reliability
- Android Auto to go with Apple CarPlay for 2020
What We Don’t
- No AWD option
- Poor outward visibility
- Cramped, claustrophobic back seat
- Sluggish acceleration
- Not much cargo space
Every 2020 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 transmission. The CH-R is only available in front-wheel drive. 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 subcompact SUV segment.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Toyota C-HR is available in LE, XLE and Limited trim levels.
The base LE trim ($22,415) comes standard with 17-in steel wheels, automatic headlights and high beams, LED running lights, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40 split folding back seat, cloth upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-in touchscreen interface, one USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system.
The XLE trim ($24,450) adds 18-in alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, proximity entry, push-button start and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. An upgraded infotainment system is optional and includes satellite and HD radios, in-car Wi-Fi, and Safety Connect emergency communications.
The Limited trim ($28,155) adds a new adaptive front lighting system, a power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, fog lights, automatic wipers, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
The C-HR comes with class-leading safety tech. Besides the usual array of stability control, anti-lock brakes and front-side and side-curtain airbags, the C-HR includes a driver’s-knee airbag, an under-cushion airbag on the passenger’s side (which prevents submarining under a seat belt), forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, steering assistance and automatic high beams. The XLE and Limited trims add blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the C-HR a 5-star overall safety rating, along with 5-star overall frontal and 5-star overall side-crash ratings. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible crashworthiness and prevention scores, but a Poor headlights rating prevented it from getting a Top Safety Pick award. The new adaptive front lighting system offered on Limited trims for 2020 should rectify this issue, and we expect 2020 Limited trims to earn the award.
Behind the Wheel
The C-HR is a car of extremes. It can legitimately be fun to drive. When you’re 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 did. On the other hand, its meager horsepower and droning CVT sap much of that fun when it comes time to put the hammer down.
Then there’s the interior. It’s delightful to look at, with little diamond-shaped touches spread throughout that add a subtle flair without being gimmicky. The dash is also handsomely modern, the interior materials are above average for the price point and the addition of Android Auto finally gives buyers a complete infotainment experience.
On the other hand, there are ballistic missile submarines with better outward visibility. Looking over your shoulder will yield a view of only the black interior trim, and 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
2020 Hyundai Kona — Thanks to its available turbocharged engine and AWD, the Kona is surprisingly sharp and fun to drive. It’s also a bit more practical than the C-HR, although not as practical as the next two options.
2020 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 yields the most versatility. Like the C-HR, the HR-V suffers from lethargic acceleration and a dull CVT, but it’s at least offered with AWD.
2020 Subaru Crosstrek — Whereas the C-HR is only available in FWD, the Crosstrek only comes in AWD. It also has substantially more ground clearance and a more rugged character, which results in a car better suited to those who intend to get out of the city.
2020 Kia Soul — If AWD isn’t important to you, then the Soul is worth a look. It, too, boasts distinctive styling and a generous array of features, but that it’s stronger, roomier and cheaper increases its appeal.
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. While Toyota’s reliability is a positive, don’t be seduced by the C-HR’s styling without being fully aware of its foibles. Of the three trims, we give the XLE the highest recommendation, as it offers a good balance of features and value. Find a Toyota C-HR for sale