The Strange Case of the Toyota C-HR's Missing All-Wheel Drive

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the strange case of the toyota c hr s missing all wheel drive

Like so many vehicles, Toyota’s C-HR leads a somewhat confused life. Its identity, like that of the Kia Niro, seems obvious to PR types, but wary observers continue to cite both vehicles’ lack of available all-wheel drive as a reason why neither should carry a “crossover” label.

We haven’t come to blows here at TTAC, but in the great Crossover Or Not debate, the “tall wagon” camp has a clear edge. Certainly, the C-HR, billed as a subcompact crossover, has the proper dimensions and ride height to qualify, but its lack of four-wheel traction sets it apart from its rivals. Usually, an automaker would prefer to live up the segment’s tepid go-anywhere pretensions by tossing in an optional prop-shaft and rear differential.

It could be that the C-HR’s missing AWD has more to do with its humble, one-size-fits-all Scion origins than anything else. However, there’s mixed information coming out about the model’s future.

In its review of the 2018 Toyota C-HR, Consumer Reports makes a bold claim. The model, slated to appear on lots next month bearing edgy looks and a pedestrian drivetrain, apparently won’t remain front-drive forever.

“All-wheel drive is promised to be offered during the C-HR’s model life cycle,” the publication states.

That’s news to most, as Toyota has made no official promise of all-wheel drive. We have to assume a juicy detail landed in a CR journalist’s ear from a company or supplier source.

When contacted to confirm or refute the claim, the automaker played it by the book.

“We do not talk about future products. Thus, we have not made any announcements regarding AWD becoming available in the C-HR here in the U.S. market in the future,” wrote Toyota spokesman Sam Butto in an email.

“We are always studying all of our products and that includes the possibility of additional features such as AWD on the C-HR.”

It would be odd if the automaker didn’t offer the feature at some point in the foreseeable future, as there’s already an all-wheel-drive C-HR bound for Australia. Buyers in northern states and Canada would appreciate the extra grip, and Toyota would surely reap some reward from the model’s increased competitiveness.

As for the crossover debate, that near-existential battle rages on. One TTAC writer, let’s call him Tim C. (perhaps that’s too obvious. T. Cain –Ed) refuses to call it anything other than a car. Clearly, a wagon bodystyle does not a crossover make, or does it? The C-HR’s ground clearance tops that of a Toyota Corolla by just four-tenths of an inch, and both stand equal chances of clawing out of a muddy cornfield with dignity intact.

As with the Niro, the C-HR’s troublingly vague identity ensures that this debate won’t quietly disappear anytime soon.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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  • Scott25 Scott25 on Mar 11, 2017

    I like the styling (other than the blunt front end obviously designed around Euro pedestrian regulations), like that it's available in weird colours, but no jacked up vehicle with cladding or "skid plates" should ever not have AWD as an option. No one's mentioned that Chevy is marketing the Bolt as a crossover either, despite the fact it has no cladding, doesn't have a raised driving position, and doesn't offer AWD. It doesn't need to since it's not a crossover. Neither does the Soul.Neither does the Niro even if it does have cladding. But this is jacked up in a way none of those are and is styled to look as such. So therefore part of the image of buying this is compromised when someone can look online and see "no this vehicle doesn't even have AWD an option, so that elderly couple down the street isn't actually smarter and safer than me" (using normal crossover customer logic). The lack of technology will kill it among millennials, especially for the price they'll be charging for it. Saying this as a millennial who regards technology as something to avoid in a vehicle purchase. Totally agree the xD was a crossover by today's definition though. I just want AWD available in low riding affordable cars again other than the Impreza.

  • Hifi Hifi on Mar 13, 2017

    I don't need AWD. I don't need RWD. But I need one or the other. I'm never going to own another car with FWD.

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