By on July 24, 2018

2018 Toyota C-HR

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

2.0-liter four-cylinder (144 horsepower @ 6,100; 139 lb-ft @ 3,900)

Continuously variable automatic, front-wheel drive

27 city / 31 highway / 29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

8.7 city, 7.5 highway, 8.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L100km)

Base Price: $24,350 (U.S) / $26,350 (Canada)

As Tested: $26,133 (U.S.) / $28,805 (Canada)

Prices include $960 destination charge in the United States and $1,915 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

See that headline up there? I really wanted to write “swing and a foul ball,” but it just doesn’t “pop” as well. Because Toyota’s attempt at a quirky subcompact crossover isn’t fully a miss, but it’s not quite fully baked, either.

The C-HR is styled, um, controversially, and it’s positioned below the RAV4 in terms of size and price. It’s meant to duke it out in the growing subcompact crossover segment with the likes of the outgoing Nissan Juke, the incoming Nissan Kicks, the Ford EcoSport, the Hyundai Kona, the Jeep Renegade, and others.

I’d been derisive of the C-HR since first laying eyes on one, simply due to its looks. But that’s unfair – beauty is more than skin deep, and there are plenty of ugly cars that are fun to drive or have otherwise redeeming qualities.

The C-HR isn’t one, but it comes closer to being in that category than I would’ve expected at first glance.

Let’s start with the looks, because, well, who wouldn’t? The C-HR is styled aggressively and controversially. Some will like the chopped roofline and truncated rear end, but many I’ve spoken to don’t. I personally don’t hate the look, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea, either. It also promises performance that the car doesn’t deliver. I’ll get to that.

C-HRs are available with two-tone paint schemes, and the ones I’ve seen in traffic with monotone looks have been more pleasing to the eye. My white-over-blue tester was distinctive, I’ll give it that, but I was sometimes a little embarrassed to be seen in it.

I can deal with an unattractive vehicle if it performs well (hello, Civic Type R), and I had high hopes that the C-HR would a hoot to drive. Small, sorta short – maybe it wouldn’t be just another crossover.

2018 Toyota C-HR

Alas, I was wrong.

The biggest downer was steering that was too light and numb – unlike the well-weighted steering that made the RAV4 I drove just prior feel sportier than it had a right to be. Perhaps that’s the difference between electric power steering and electronically assisted rack and pinion power steering.

2018 Toyota C-HR

Lack of punch is an issue, too. Despite its diminutive stature and lack of all-wheel drive, the C-HR still tips the scale at 3,300 lbs. With the 2.0-liter four-cylinder making just 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, you’re not gonna get blistering acceleration. There’s just enough power to give the illusion of spunkiness, but that’s about it.

That goes for the actual handling, too. Despite the vague steering, the suspension itself feels tuned for sport, but not quite as much as I’d expected. It’s as if Toyota couldn’t decide to make the C-HR into a fully sporty crossover or to keep it relaxed for commuting. There’s a distinct feeling that Toyota doesn’t know what it wants the C-HR to be.

I do wonder how different the C-HR would behave with a conventional automatic or an available manual instead of a CVT. I don’t always advocate for adding manuals in crossovers, but this vehicle could use one.

I did mostly dig the jazzed-up interior – the shifter looks cool and the gauge bezels give a bit of visual pizazz. The too-high infotainment screen detracts, though, and the floating HVAC controls look weird. As usual, the infotainment system remains outdated, but at least the controls are easy to use.

2018 Toyota C-HR

The rear seat is tight but not useless, although the high-mounted rear-door handles take some getting used to. Unsurprisingly, the chopped roof makes headroom a bit tight.

My test vehicle was a top-trim XLE Premium. In 2018, you could get it either an XLE or XLE Premium, but the deck has been shuffled for 2019, with LE and Limited bookending the XLE, and no more XLE Premium trim.

The relatively reasonable $26,133 sticker included dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, 18-inch wheels, Toyota’s SafetySense system (radar cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist and other safety features), 7-inch display screen, USB, Bluetooth, and leather-trimmed steering wheel among the standard features.

Options included the two-tone paint job, ($500), carpeted floor mats and cargo mats ($194), mudguards ($129), and the aforementioned premium package (fog lamps, push-button start, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, puddle lamps that display the logo, heated front seats, and power lumbar support for the driver’s seat). The Premium package is cooked into the price.

$26K isn’t bad for last year’s full-trim vehicle – although a few minutes on Toyota’s web site will prove that you can build out a 2019 C-HR Limited and push $30K – but price aside, the C-HR just feels like an incomplete package.

2018 Toyota C-HR

There’s things to like here – the design will appeal to some, and the interior isn’t as boring as many Toyota cabins are. There’s always a little bit of charm in quirkiness, and the 31 mpg highway number will also catch the eye of some buyers.

Still, the numb steering and lack of grunt will turn people off. Not to mention that the rear-seat sacrifices demanded by the styling means that those who have adult-sized rear-seat passengers on the regular might shop elsewhere.

I don’t bemoan the lack of available AWD – even though I live in the Snow Belt, I don’t feel it’s mandatory for dealing with foul weather – but many an American buyer will, thanks to the now-common belief that AWD is necessary when the white stuff flies.

Give the C-HR a bit more punch, a manual transmission option, and steering that doesn’t feel so light, and get back to me. Until then, this odd-looking baby ‘ute won’t be on my shopping list.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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45 Comments on “2018 Toyota C-HR Review – Swing and a Miss...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Why would anyone looking for vehicles in this segment, purchase one of these instead of something like the Soul?

  • avatar

    I see this thing as a Juke with the Jukes one quality stripped away from it, the originality.

    “the interior isn’t as boring as many Toyota cabins are”
    If Toyota resurrected its videogame inspired digital dashboards from the 80’s and the goofy “Eco-Power” transmissions modes, it’d be more fun to look at.

  • avatar

    It’d be nice if you could review actually good cars like the 2018 (or slightly improved 2019) Mazda CX-3. It’s the only vehicle I’d ever consider in this segment and you didn’t even include it in the list of competing models!

    The CX-3 includes a host of safety features and premium touches (push button start, as is considered premium by Toyota) and starts at only $20,390. The Toyota’s sticker price would get you the fully loaded Grand Touring CX-3 and you can outfit it with AWDz

    The other vehicles in this segment are absolute jokes in comparison. 31 MPG will turn heads? The CX-3 gets 32 MPG with AWD and more horsepower.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Complete garbage – rolling visual rabies – oddly, it is not really any more ugly than the rest of the Toyoduh lineup – which speaks volumes about how vomit-inducing Toyoduh has become on exterior design.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not quite to calling it rolling rabies but I do genuinely wonder how Toyota sells a single vehicle these days. Better styling, efficiency, features, power, reliability, and warranty are all found in other brands. The only reason to drive home in a Toyota is a complete lack of research.

      • 0 avatar

        Eh, the Camry is still one of the best choices in that class, the new RAV4 seems competitive, the new Corolla Hatch isn’t terrible if you just want an affordable commuter, the Prius will always be a Prius, and the Tacoma and 4Runner are vehicles no one really cross shops with anything else, but other than that…

      • 0 avatar

        9 months of sales in the USA for 2017 was 25,755
        6 months of sales in the USA for 2018 is 26,239
        CH R will probably sell over 50,000 for 2018
        A lot of people with no taste :=)

    • 0 avatar

      Or maybe, Toyota buyers don’t care so much about the wrapper, but do care about the candy bar inside.

  • avatar

    “Perhaps that’s the difference between electric power steering and electronically assisted power steering.”

    I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure those are two names for the same thing.

    • 0 avatar

      One is “drive by wire” with no direct connection from the steering wheel to the steering rack, the other is more of a traditional set up, but one that uses electricity (via a small motor) for the movement of the rack instead of hydraulic pressure supplied by a pump. The latter still has a direct connection from the steering wheel to the rack via linkage, which gives a more direct feel.

      Someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      The RAV4 has a rack and pinion system. I screwed up and forgot to type those words. I will clarify, thanks for catching.

      • 0 avatar

        Tim, the C-HR also uses a rack and pinion system. From a Toyota press release: “The C-HR’s steering system’s feel, however, relies on a highly rigid rack-and-pinion steering gearbox that is installed directly to the front suspension.”

        Based on my 15 minutes of internet research, both the RAV-4 and the C-HR use rack and pinion steering with column-mounted electric assist motors. However, they do not appear to be the exact same motors.

  • avatar

    How could one even hope for this to be sporty or quick? Because it is the least expensive CUV made by Toyota? Because it weighs 600 lbs more that a 2003 Protege and has 9 more horsepower? Because it has random creases in it? Because rear headroom sucks?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      When I see a small crossover with sleek styling, I certainly think the OEM is positioning it as “sporty” in addition to “funky.” I suppose not everyone thinks that way.

  • avatar

    Hey, compared to a Trax, HR-V, or especially an Ecosport this is an amazing vehicle.

    As I’ve said on here before, my mom has one, and I like it, but now the Corolla hatchback is on the same platform, looks better and is cheaper, this literally has nothing going for it.

  • avatar

    144 hp + CVT + 3,300 lbs. is pretty bleak even in a class known for underpowered vehicles.

  • avatar

    “The C-HR is styled, um, controversially, and it’s positioned below the RAV4 in terms of size and price.”

    The soon to be released 2020 RAV4 will be very similar in size to the original GEN 1 Highlander. Therefore Toyota will need this C-HR for some of the old RAV4 customers.

  • avatar

    Looks like if you’re tall enough to reach the rear door handle, you’re too tall to sit in the back seat.

  • avatar

    “Some will like the chopped roofline and truncated rear end, but many I’ve spoken to don’t.”

    Why we even discussing this? If all cars were just Golf-Alltrack square than what is the point? This is perfect for student or retiree who is still into this stuff. It is like criticizing Mini for being too small. This is not exactly small utility car where “Utility” part is most important. “Utility” in this case stands for “shape”. And obviously there was no in tension at all-weather. That is Crosstrek area of concern.

    To me, outside of attractive dash and shape, I see little value in this car even in “funky” department. Any car with numb steering will not make my day. You know why I live ok with my Mazda6 even though it lacks power to my liking – because it has adequate power and everywhere else it shines. so, I only miss some power, and not – a lot of power, interior, steering, clutch is so-so like in many other cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I know, right? I mean, why criticize a Toyota at all? If there is an alleged negative aspect, its the way God/Toyota intended it and you should just accept it because Toyota. The 86 feels slow because it has no torque, but FU THAT’S HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE AND YOU JUST DONT GET IT! This vehicle has steeply raked fastback styling for the sake of styling alone (because it damn sure isn’t sporty to drive), and SO WHAT NOBODY CARES AND IT’S PERFECT BECAUSE TOYOTA!

      I love how you guys gripe at me for being a Ford guy, yet I openly criticize a poor product like the EcoSport or the performance of the DCT in the Focus and Fiesta. But be damned if you can look at each Toyota objectively.

      • 0 avatar

        why do you think, I am a Toyota fan? If anything, I have 3 Mazdas and 1 Toyota. And this is 1 I ever had.
        My point is that I read reviews, like for instance, barrage of Juke reviews – “oh trunk is so small, back seat is this or that”. My point is that someone who will buy Juke careless of trunk and backseat. The focal point there is car’s appearance and maybe performance. Same as Ferrari – small trunk. “I don’t like slopping roof, it is not good for stuff” – then this is not TYPE of car you need. Manufacturer of this doesn’t expect buyer to carry lots of stuff. Form is over function here. I am constantly criticizing CX3 (some people here will not believe what I just said) because backseat comfort there in negative territory. the legroom could be small but if you place back cushion in nearly vertical position, you’re done. this is area for criticism. But if they from the beginning design a car that has no intent of cargo. why talk about it? Go get HRV and be done with that.

  • avatar

    Not interested in that type of vehicle–ever–so I only looked at the pictures. My first (only) thought: automotive elephantiasis

    Ugh. Toyota had to out-Juke the Juke, I guess. It’ll sell like hotcakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep its a mess of random angles, odd ball styling, wrong proportions, crease, bends, fake intakes and plastic cladding. It looks like a design students project that somehow got approved. As a Scion it almost made sense, but as a Toyota it is just confusing.

  • avatar

    I get that power is not a major factor in the world of subcompact CUVs and that all of you grew up driving diesel Chevettes, but the slowness of this thing is impressive.

    Not only is it the slowest thing in class, but looking at archived tests it is slower than things like a 2.4L 4A Avenger and a 1993 4A Corolla. It runs about the same times as the Prius C and 2G Insight, both of which were made as max fuel economy offerings.

  • avatar

    So this gets 31 mpg, while the Rav4 gets 30, for only a little more money. Unless you really want a funky looking car, why would you buy this?

    • 0 avatar

      As others pointed out, the Rav4 is no longer small, so the only reason I could think of is being maneuverable in tight city conditions. But, I mean, the Rav4 may be bigger, but it’s not exactly a Ram 3500 Megacab dually long bed.

      The only vehicles that make sense in this segment are the boxy ones with lots of room, such as the Soul and the departed xB. Everything else seems like a waste to me. Well, I would choose a Renegade over a Compass, and in that case, I do like the styling. Maybe because it reminds me of the only mini SUV that actually would warrant serious consideration from me, the Suzuki Jimny.

      • 0 avatar

        Meh, the Rav’s only a foot longer, unless you’re maneuvering through a medieval village that’s hardly noticeable. I just can’t imagine walking into a Toyota showroom and seeing the Rav4 with a real transmission, 25% more horsepower, and room for passengers and cargo then deciding I’d rather save 5 bucks a month on my payment and take the C-HR.

  • avatar

    The offerings in this whole class just are not compelling values compared to those one class up. Stretch to get into a RAV4 or CR-V instead of this thing. At least in this area, there are some deals out there; a friend bought a CR-V EX at a nice discount last month.

    I think the closest (and still very unflattering) comparison is to a Prius, but the market has spoken about what ride height is best, and the Prius doesn’t have it.

    • 0 avatar

      There are some exceptions (Renegade, CX-3), but for the most part I agree. The compact crossover (Rava4, Escape) offer so much more for really only a couple of thousand dollars more. I just don’t see it

  • avatar

    I’d really like to see whatever studies Toyota does that encourages them to keep producing such hideous vehicles. I can admire odd, quirky vehicles, but are their really people out there that look at this thing and say “wow, that’s an attractive car”?

  • avatar

    Same engine as the old Corolla and a CVT?

    One word: pass.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Methinks Toyota has a hit on its hands with this fugly thing.

    I was taking my elderly father on errands in San Francisco on Saturday. During 90 minutes of puttering around in the Stonestown area, I saw 4 of these. Anecdotal, sure…but I bet they will be cruising around in good numbers in Des Moines soon too….

  • avatar

    This looks like a Hyundai Veloster in drag, pretending to be an “SUV” with the ridiculous, exaggerated body-length fender flares. Target demographic – young girls, or retirees? First one I saw was driven by an old guy.

    I guess it’s better-looking than the EcoSport, maybe. The Soul is also extreme-Dorky, although roomy and cheap. Kicks, HR-V, and Kona look better than these goofy-ugly-ducklings.

  • avatar

    Long time lurker, had to make an account to comment on this.

    I drive a 2008 Ford Fiesta Econetic diesel. It has a similar 0-60 time as the CH-R, but also comes with the added benefit of being a manual and also delivering fuel economy that’s twice as better (60+ MPG). I absolutely cannot fathom what reason people have for buying this besides Toyota badge

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