Toyota is finally entering the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment with its all-new C-HR.
The C-HR is based on Toyota’s new midsized global platform, which also underpins the latest Prius and upcoming new Camry. With a 104-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 171 inches, it’s 9 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than the company's RAV4 small SUV. This puts it about the same size as the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Subaru Crosstrek.
The C-HR will be available in two trim lines: XLE and XLE Premium, priced at $23,460 and $25,310, respectively.
Though the pricing is a couple of thousand dollars higher than it is for many competitors, the C-HR is the only subcompact SUV to come standard with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. In fact, it has Toyota's entire Safety Sense P suite of safety gear, which also includes pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Toyota and its luxury subsidiary Lexus are in the process of installing forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard equipment across their model lines.
Other standard equipment on the C-HR includes 18-inch wheels and a rearview camera. Moving up to the XLE Premium trim adds heated front seats, a power lumbar driver’s seat, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
As with its diminutive competitors, the C-HR isn’t exactly a powerhouse. It has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 144 hp, mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Initially, the C-HR will be front-wheel drive only. That’s an odd limitation on an SUV, given that all-wheel drive is available on all of its direct competitors. The reason that it is front-drive only is that the C-HR was originally planned as a cost-conscious Scion, before that brand was folded back into parent company Toyota. All-wheel drive is promised to be offered during the C-HR’s model life cycle. A hybrid version is in the works, too.
Toyota says the C-HR will get 29 mpg combined on the EPA cycle, which will put it at the higher end for the class.
Out on the road, the engine is adequately eager. The transmission is well-tuned for casual driving, but stepping hard on the gas causes the engine to race over 4,000 rpm for brief moments, sounding loud and buzzy.
Despite boasts about the C-HR’s handling agility, we found it only modestly sporty. The C-HR lacks the sharp steering response of a Mazda CX-3, cornering like the more mundane Honda HR-V.
While many subcompact SUVs feel harsh and jittery when the going gets bumpy, the C-HR delivers a taut yet fairly comfy ride. The cabin is also devoid of excessive wind and tire noise, which is commendable.
The interior is a C-HR high point. It features plenty of soft-touch materials, diamond-pattern trim pieces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch infotainment display screen on even the base XLE trim. The climate controls are easy to use, and we appreciate the gearshift lever’s straightforward layout. An electric parking brake is a nice premium touch.
The center armrest bin is nicely sized, but the door pockets are so slim that they’re nearly useless. Instead of using the infotainment screen for the backup camera, there’s a tiny display on a corner of the rearview mirror. And though front and side views are fine, the car’s chunky rear pillars and droopy roofline create big rear three-quarter blind spots.
It’s easy to hop into the firm, comfortable front seats, and they have excellent side bolsters to hold you in place. Headroom is plentiful. Rear-seat entry requires considerably more ducking to avoid the sloping roofline, but once you’re in there’s ample space for two adults. The rear windows are tiny, creating a dark, cave-like feeling that won’t be conducive for kids to enjoy the passing scenery.
The high-mounted exterior rear door handles also aren’t child-friendly. On the other hand, the child seat lower LATCH anchors are easy to access. The cargo floor is at a near-perfect loading height, and the 60/40-split rear seats fold flat for maximum cargo space.
We’ll be buying our own Toyota CH-R as soon as they go on sale in April, so check back to see how it stacks up in this quickly growing segment.
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