By on July 6, 2018

2018 Toyota C-HR front quarter

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE

2.0-liter inline-4, DOHC (144 hp @ 6,100 rpm, 139 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm)

Continuously-variable transmission, front-wheel drive

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

28.4 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $23,460 (USD)

As Tested: $23,783

Prices include $960 freight charge.

Imagine if automotive history were flipped a bit, and that crossovers were the default compact family vehicle for decades, rather than sedans. We’d be reliving the “longer, lower, wider” craze of the late ‘50s in the modern era, but with revolutionary things called “hatchbacks.”

Really, that’s all a subcompact crossover is — a hatchback with a bit of ground clearance, and sometimes a higher roof. It’s a repackaging of an older concept to market to new customers.

Toyota was the trailblazer in the car-based SUV business with the original RAV4, subsequently building up a solid lineup of crossovers large and small. Now, with the polarizing styling and compact dimensions of the 2018 Toyota C-HR, Big T takes aim at the entry level. Will the funky styling bring buyers, or will they shield their eyes?

2018 Toyota C-HR front

Many car companies have been lambasted (Toyota definitely among them) for building dull-looking cars. Nobody can call the C-HR boring.

2018 Toyota C-HR rear

It is, however, a bit odd, with curves, slashes, and contours clashing over every surface. In my tester’s dark grey finish, it’s a little bit stealthy — some of the more vibrant hues on offer highlight the C-HR’s serious funkiness. The line created by the lower edge of the side windows dramatically rises to meet the drooping black line that creates a “floating” roof — and also places the door handles for those rear doors in a rather high position.

2018 Toyota C-HR profile

I’m not a fan of those high handles, as the C-HR is likely to be driven by young families with kids who need to get in the back seat by themselves, and who will find themselves thwarted by a handle well out of their reach. I’m sure the targeted demographic is young, upwardly mobile (I hate the term “millennial”) singles or couples without kids, but eventually many of those couples do what couples do and 9 months later the note on a minivan is hard to swallow on top of a five-plus-figure obstetrics bill.

[Get new and used Toyota C-HR pricing here!]

My first-generation Nissan Pathfinder similarly had the rear door handles up high on the C-pillar, which caused issues for kids as well.

2018 Toyota C-HR infotainment

I mentioned the ground clearance advantage that a crossover theoretically holds over a traditional car. The C-HR doesn’t meet that criteria within Toyota’s own lineup, because dimensionally it’s an oddball — it has 5.9 inches of ground clearance, compared to 5.5 inches in the subcompact Yaris, and 6.7 inches in the apparently trail-ready Corolla. Overall roof height favors the C-HR, at 61.6 inches, compared to 59.4 and 57.3 for the Yaris and Corolla, respectively. Those numbers add up to a somewhat larger cabin than you’d expect; 102.8 cubic feet of interior volume versus 85.1 on the Yaris, and 97.5 on the Corolla. For a little vehicle, it’s reasonably roomy, but it doesn’t fit the traditional ideal of a SUV.

2018 Toyota C-HR gauges

Another notch against the C-HR if you are looking for an SUV alternative: no all-wheel drive. It’s not even available. Whether it needs all-wheel drive is another matter. Unless the snow or ice gets seriously deep, front-wheel drive paired with good tires will work well in all weather conditions. I didn’t get to test in anything beyond rain, but anecdotal reports from acquaintances who own their own C-HRs tell me that it performs as well as any other front-drive car.

2018 Toyota C-HR interior

A positive regarding the car-like nature of this crossover — it actually handles very nicely, with some driving experiences leaning dangerously close to the fun side of the equation. Body roll is minimal when cornering, and turn-in is sharp and immediate. The highway ride is firm but composed, and the response from the 144 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder isn’t too blunted by the continuously-variable transmission, which does better than most at anticipating the appropriate drive ratio for the situation.

2018 Toyota C-HR front seats2018 Toyota C-HR Rear Seat

I did include a long drive in my week with the C-HR, and as I mentioned the ride itself is quite good. However, I struggled with the front seats. While the seat is adjustable for rake, reach, and lower-cushion height, I couldn’t find a position that fit me well. I blame what seem to be very short lower bolsters, as the time I spent on that 5 hour road trip left my hamstrings in agony for several days after the drive. The seat’s front edge seemed to dig in, cutting off circulation.

At well over six feet tall, I’ll concede that I am dimensionally a freak, so many drivers may not suffer behind the wheel like I did. But if you are a 90th percentile adult, ask your Toyota dealer for a longer-than-typical test drive before signing.

2018 Toyota C-HR door panel trim

Beyond the seats, there were a few details that seemed quite odd in the otherwise well-laid-out interior. Note these odd projections from the inner door panel that seem to support the exterior mirrors. One would have thought that either the door panel could be made into one continuous piece to cover this area, or that the mounting for the exterior mirror could be lowered 20mm or so to better fit this window line. Either way, it looks to be a symptom of the interior and exterior styling teams not talking until entirely too late in the ramp-up to production.

2018 Toyota C-HR center stack

Toyota quotes 19.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. I’m not certain how useful every one of those cubes are, however, as the space is rather shallow due to a high load floor and the dramatically-slanted rear window. It’s enough to haul groceries or a few larger items, but bulky stuff will require folding of the rear seat.

2018 Toyota C-HR Cargo area

Toyota is incredibly bold for taking a chance on such an unusually-styled subcompact crossover. While I’m obviously not demographically or physically right for the C-HR, I’m seeing plenty of them on the road. There are clearly enough drivers who like a little funk with their commute.

2018 Toyota C-HR rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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56 Comments on “2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Review – So Funky, Sorta Fun, Slightly Flawed...”


  • avatar
    LectroByte

    If the Juke had looked more like that, it might have caught on in a much bigger way.

    • 0 avatar
      Hogey74

      The rear vision is simply not good enough. Styling, Shmyling. I really don’t care when it’s a refrigerator on wheels. I didn’t buy my 07 Subaru for it’s looks lol. It’s past time design rules mandated reasonable driver vision around the vehicle.

      Styling exists for just one reason: to make people buy new cars. For over 15 years that’s been happening to the detriment of safety and utility. It needs to stop. They’re only cars. Styling and marketing of cars is one of the most embarrassing things current and future generations look back upon.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Eh with these I’m mostly seeing older buyers who are concerned with ingress/egress and hip points than young buyers.

    Gad looking at that photo of the front seat ducking behind the B-pillar does not make me want to attempt to gracefully enter or exit one of these.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      PrincipalDan,
      Looking at the top image, looks like a poor photoshop job.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Gad looking at that photo of the front seat ducking behind the B-pillar does not make me want to attempt to gracefully enter or exit one of these.”

      I love my 4 door GTI, but ingress/egress is the thing I dislike about it most.

      I did drive a used 2 door, and loved the ingress/egress. Alas, no more 2 door Golfs.

  • avatar
    DaJoNel

    Toyota has a unique ability to make vehicles look both very dull and very ugly at the same time. I’m amazed anyone buys their cars/xUVs/etc. when they either look like Pikachu or a fish with its mouth wide open. With every automaker increasing their reliability, Toyota really has no positive advantage in this day and age; they’re just riding their former reputation to continue sales. Maybe the general populace will wake up and buy something else, maybe they won’t. I simply cannot fathom buying something that looks like this.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I can think of no argument that favors this over the Corolla hatchback. It doesn’t help that the C-HR also costs $2500 more.

    • 0 avatar
      Heino

      Saw a bunch of these in France and Spain, but they were all hybrids. Corollas not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        I wasn’t saying the C-HR won’t be (or isn’t) more popular than the Corolla, I was only saying that it’s a better car and a better value.

        The masses will do what they will do.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Is there such a thing as a Corolla hatchback in the USDM? Even iM is a sedan, I think.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        In 2016, it was the Scion iM, which was a hatchback.

        For 2017-18, it was the Toyota Corolla iM, still a hatchback.

        There is a new version for 2019, now called the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. And yes, it has a hatchback still :)

        The sedan you might be thinking of is the Yaris iA, formerly the Scion iA, which is really a Mazda2 sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Hogey74

      Styling and fashion trends. That’s it. And at the expense of driving dynamics and the vision of every other driver. It’s a temporary dead-end, even if it takes many years to burn out.

  • avatar
    gasser

    As an urban dwelling retiree, I am more and more drawn to these smaller Cuvs. However, as a person who wears the 34” inseam in jeans, the short cushion on the driver’s seat is a deal breaker. I get that this allows the seat to move more forward and gives more backseat room in a small vehicle, but someone really needs to think up something like the seat bottom extenders which are available on high end vehicles. Message to manufacturers: there are some long legged customers who are passing up purchasing your vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Short cushion is the thing that bugs me most about my Toyota and I’m roughly a 33 inseam.

      I’ve heard that American brands and German brands seem to do seats for the 5’10” and above crowd better than the Japanese brands.

      • 0 avatar
        CaptainObvious

        I can’t stand the short cushions in Toyota’s and that’s the reason my son is now driving our 2009 Camry SE.

        I can totally empathize with Mr. Tonn’s experiences. My legs, particularly my right leg aches for days after a long drive. And if you drive every day – the pain never goes away.

        The seat cushion in my 2008 Fusion, on the other hand, is much longer and the seat adjustments go much farther than in our Camry. A much better fit for me – I’m almost 6’4″

        I will never buy another Toyota because of their seat designs, and will insist on a long test drive for any new car I consider.

    • 0 avatar
      Wunsch

      I’m a similar height, and I find the front seats of my wife’s Mazda CX-3 pretty comfortable. If you do find yourself drawn to this class, maybe check that one out.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        I’m 5’11” with a 33 inseam. Other than being unable to find 33 inseam jeans, I sometimes have trouble with driver’s seats. I have spinal fusions with hardware, so comfort is important. My R/T has decent seats but what really helps are the adjustable pedals and power lumbar support.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I go for 34 inseam and deal with a little extra pant leg. I never believed in showing my socks anyway.

          The Toyota is the first vehicle I’ve every owned where the seat is at the back of it’s travel, full stop. For a three row vehicle with a decently long wheelbase apparently they never planned on anyone over 5’10”-5’11” driving the thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        I’m 6’2 with a 29 inseam, and I found the seats on the CX-3 way too small.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “We’d be reliving the “longer, lower, wider” craze of the late ‘50s in the modern era”

    The C-HR is bringing back 1950s acceleration times too.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    No 4WD, no real ground clearance, compromised utility, not a CUV, it’s pointless

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    These CUVs are just encouraging Baby Boomers to get fatter. I’m a Boomer but I can get in and out of a sedan without a problem, and I’m disabled. Most of my family and friends cannot. Houdini got out of a milk jug easier than my brother-in-law gets out of a car. He turns red and makes funny noises, lol. He prefers his CUV, he hops right in and heads to Chik-Fil-A.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    The “Toyotas are far more American made than Chevy’s” crowd are going to have to do some rationalizing when they realize where this thing is made.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Some certainly are, some are totally not (for example the 4Runner is entirely Tahara Japan built). Buy something like a wheel bearing or brake parts for a GM truck, China, China, China. Do the same for a Tundra, almost always American. When I replaced the rear hub assembly on my wife’s Kentucky made Camry (she curbed it), the Aisin part was made in Southern Indiana. Kentucky Camries, Texas Tundras, Indiana Highlanders and Siennas. My understanding is that the ’18+ Camries dropped in US content unfortunately, and I wonder if it is more Japanese made parts or some less developed country.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        That’s why I said “American Brands” – its almost impossible to define the “country” of a car anymore.

        We call the 300/Charger/Challenger some of the last true “American Cars” in the sense of V8 RWD affordable but their final assembly is in Canada. Titans are assembled in Mississippi. It seems that most of the time I’m looking at a new Silverado or Sierra and I check the vin it reveals its Mexican origin.

        If I bought a new Regal my Dad would be slapping me on the back and talking about how I “bought American” again. For a car assembled in Germany in a factory now owned by a French company having a Japanese transmission and sold by a dealer in the USA.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I can see why this is popular; I remember all the sporty looking coupes based on subcompact economy sedans of the early ’90’s like the Saturn SC2, Toyota Paseo, Hyundai Scoupe, Nissan NX2000, etc., and this is the same market niche. It’s a fairly economical to purchase, undoubtedly economical to run car without the stigma of Grandma’s Corolla going 45 in the left lane on the freeway.

    “It’s not a CUV.” What, then, is a CUV? How many people actually use or need the AWD/4WD? Where are these off road places that people are supposedly taking their SUVs? I would not have the slightest idea where to take a vehicle off road if I wanted to go off road.

    The point is that it’s a budget vehicle which doesn’t look cheap and can be sold more profitably than the dorky sedan that it’s based on. Women probably like the looks and think it looks tough.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    This is an interesting vehicle. It has several significant flaws, all of which could be overlooked if Toyota had chosen to give the thing a beefier engine. I don’t even mind the styling, really.

    Compromised cargo bay shape, claustrophobic rear seat area, lack of AWD option. Those are all problems, but I’d overlook them if there was a “hot” powerplant in a certain trim level that made it fun to drive. Saddling this car with a milquetoast engine ruins it. Even the CVT wouldn’t be bad with the right engine (see Civic).

    The Juke, probably the closest thing to the C-HR recently, had similar issues as the Toyota. It made up for them with an available MT, turbo engine, and available AWD. The Toyota is like a Juke with all the potentially good stuff stripped out. Almost like Toyota purposely made a less interesting version of a Juke–most of the shortcomings but none of the strengths.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    No AWD = Poor Sales

    You can go on for days about FWD and snow tires and and and. I get it. Driven RWD cars with snows for ages. Not perfect but more than acceptable.

    But in my neck of the woods and I’m guessing most other necks, people will straight up go buy something else with AWD. You buy this , and your resale will be complete crap. Nobody wants no AWD on a crossover new or used. Period.

    Seen it first hand with a friend. Bought slightly used FWD Tucson for an absolute steal when the dealer couldn’t unload it. Easily thousands more for the exact same car with AWD.

    Good or bad, that’s the market.

    And I predict this will sit and sit and sit on lots while Subaru sells every Crosstrek they can build.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Absolutely agree, my neck of the woods is pretty snowy as well and having no optional 4WD is a deal breaker. All other mini-crossovers offer AWD and they’re selling well here. No one around here is going to buy this without the AWD, not to mention the poor resale

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      What if I don’t care about the “resale value”? I tend to keep cars way past the amortization schedule. If I can pawn it to CarMax for a couple of grands, that’s great. If not, s’fine too – to a charity it goes.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      It hasn’t hurt Kia Soul. That seems the more logical competition. Besides Toyota would rather sell a pricier RAV4. This is just a Corolla with an upcharge. Ugly as it is, theyll sell tons. Toyota is the new old GM. They don’t have to make an effort, people will buy them anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I’m never really sure why the Kia Soul is classified a CUV, but even though it seems popular I can only imagine how much more popular it would be with a 4WD option

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Agreed, spookiness. The Soul hasn’t been hurt by FWD and is probably more fun to drive than the C-HR anyway – certainly with the 200hp engine. Car and Driver says the Hyundai Kona is also pretty fun to drive – with a 175hp engine on offer. All this said, I don’t really mind the C-HR.

    • 0 avatar
      blackEldo

      Agreed, except plenty of folks will buy this because they *think* it’s AWD. I’m sure Toyota knows this.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I can understand people not knowing if their cars are RWD or FWD, but I’m having a hard time understanding people not knowing that their cars are 4WD or 2WD, especially since they usually have a badge on the back that says “4WD” or “AWD” and some kind of in-cabin drive selection and indication when it’s engaged or not

  • avatar
    deanst

    Does toyota think that any human would want to sit in the back of this thing? Why not just put up some wood paneling on top of the tiny windows and call it a day,

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I’m sorry but the Japanese auto makers are reverting back to the baroque designs of the 80’s, like the F10, SX200, early Subarus etc….just weird. Place this car next to anew Golf with as much room, excellent handling and tasteful styling.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    If the kids are hard enough for Ice Cube (explicit), they’re hard enough to reach door handles.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    It seems to wear its wannabe Darth Vader helmet better than its family members. I don’t like it, but I don’t dislike it. The worst I can say is, “hey it’s a car.” Although those power figures seem slightly low for a 2 liter anymore.

    My gripe might be the transmission, but not having driven it and not knowing what Toyota have done with it I’m unable to say. I have memories of a test drive in a sewing machine Patriot and a few hundred miles in an 08 Sentra. I remember the drone, but I imagine they’ve gotten slightly better. I wonder if the Corolla would be able to lend its manual here as an option one day, maybe.

    Offer it in colors and I could think of worse things we’d be forced to look at in traffic.

  • avatar
    hamish42

    My RAV4 was embarrassed when it pulled up beside one.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “…as the C-HR is likely to be driven by young families with kids…”

    It is more likely to be driven by retirees

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Really, that’s all a subcompact crossover is — a hatchback with a higher roof, and sometimes a bit of ground clearance.

    There, fixed it for you.

  • avatar
    Noble713

    No AWD on USDM models?!?!?!?

    That’s baffling…..it’s definitely available in Japan:

    https://toyota.jp/c-hr/?padid=ag341_tjptop_history_browsing-car

    Considering how Subaru is killing it with AWD, you would think the rest of Japan Inc. would take note and offer it on everything they can, especially if you already manufacture it anyway.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Holy blindspots Batman. I miss when C pillars were not measures in feet.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Having said all that, is it available in a stick? 140 ish hp from a 2.0 na motor could be fun, even it it is a bit heavy at 3300 lbs.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Only an accident can make this thing look better – pure rolling road rabies.

    Pathetic.

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