Toyota C-HR Deathwatch: You've Got A Real Type Of Thing Goin' Down

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
toyota c hr deathwatch youve got a real type of thing goin down

Believe it or not, there was once a time before every automaker had something resembling an SUV on their lot. Of course, that time faded with the Carter administration. Today, every mainstream brand boasts a variety of lifted wagons to grab at every possible sliver of the segment.

Arguably, Toyota was there at the beginning of the modern crossover with the 1995 RAV4 – pedants of course will bring up the beloved AMC Eagle, but that didn’t exactly light up the sales charts. The combo of wagon-like interior space with perceived capability has proven irresistible for a quarter century.

Toyota has gone back to the well once more with the Corolla Cross, which would be the eighth distinct crossover/SUV in the lineup. Keen observers will note the dimensional similarity to the oddly-styled C-HR. Do both need to be on the floorplan at the same time?

For perspective, let’s look at Toyota’s longtime rival Nissan. In 2010, the distinctly weird Juke appeared, bug-eyed and bulging with pocket-sized charisma. I was intrigued – but found the sloping roofline interfered with important things like my head. Anyhow, it sold reasonably well for a new niche, averaging nearly 38,000 sold per year in the US over the four years between 2011 and 2014 as you’ll see from the chart below.

Calendar YearKicksJukeC-HR201008,63902011035,88602012039,30502013038,15702014038,18402015027,12102016019,57702017010,15725,755201823,31273149,642201958,1931148,930202058,858042,936

[Data from and Nissan]

However, buyers (at least in the US) tired quickly of the Juke. Once the Kicks came around in 2018, sales nearly doubled – over 58,000 in both 2019 and 2020. Admittedly, there was little time where the two shared the same lot, but clearly buyers responded to the more conventional packaging of the Kicks.

Toyota could be in the same boat. The chart above shows the C-HR’s US sales topping out during the first full calendar year with 49,642 finding new homes. That’s a far cry from the class-leading subcompact crossovers.

Regarding sales projections on the new Corolla Cross, I spoke with Nicky Hamila from Toyota PR, who tells me they project “around 100,000 units in 2022.” That 100k doubles the current C-HR volume, and vaults the Corolla Cross ahead of the Honda HR-V, and into the realm of the class leaders: Subaru CrossTrek at 119k, Jeep Compass at 108k, and Chevrolet Trax at 106k. A couple of those leaders show that general automotive excellence isn’t necessarily a requirement for success in the subcompact crossover segment.

ModelCalendar 2020 SalesSubaru CrossTrek119,716Jeep Compass107,968Chevrolet Trax106,299Honda HR-V84,027Hyundai Kona76,253Kia Soul71,772Jeep Renegade62,847Ford EcoSport60,544Nissan Kicks58,858Kia Seltos46,280Buick Encore44,353Toyota C-HR42,936Buick Encore GX42,240Mazda CX-3038,064Chevrolet TrailBlazer34,292

[Data from]

While we don’t know specifics about Corolla Cross pricing or how it will be positioned against the C-HR, we do know that all-wheel drive will finally be available in this segment from Toyota. The C-HR famously eschewed all-wheel traction, which may be a factor in the relatively-low market acceptance. While most drivers in most conditions will do just fine with front-wheel drive, the extra peace of mind from four driven wheels is compelling.

And the styling of the Corolla Cross is much more conservative and bland. Handsome, but bland. Clearly I’m not a fan of the C-HR’s styling. I appreciate unique design choices, but the C-HR seems to be funky for the sake of funky. To paraphrase George Clinton, while we need the funk – gotta have that funk – it’s time to turn this mother out and move on to the Corolla Cross.

[Lead image: © 2018 Chris Tonn. Inline images courtesy Nissan, Toyota]

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2 of 17 comments
  • Vulpine Regretfully, rather boring. Nothing truly unique, though the M715 is a real eye-grabber.
  • Parkave231 This counts for the Rare Rides installment on the Fox Cougar and Fox Thunderbird too, right? Don't want to ever have to revisit those......(They should have just called them Monarch/Marquis and Granada/LTD II and everything would have been fine.)
  • DM335 The 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar were introduced later than the rest of the 1983 models. If I recall correctly, the first models arrived in January or February 1983. I'm not sure when they were unveiled, but that would explain why the full-line brochures for Ford and Mercury were missing the Thunderbird and Cougar--at least the first version printed.The 1980 Cougar XR-7 had the same 108.4 inch wheelbase as the 1980 Thunderbird. The Cougar coupe, sedan and wagon had the shorter wheelbase, as did the Ford Granada.
  • Ehaase 1980-1982 Cougar XR-7 shared its wheelbase and body with the Thunderbird. I think the Cougar name was used for the 1977 and 1981 sedans, regular coupe and wagons (1977 and 1982 only) in an effort to replicate Oldsmobile's success using the Cutlass name on all its intermediates, although I wonder why Ford bothered, as the Granada/Cougar were replaced by the Fox LTD/Marquis in 1983.
  • Ken Accomando The Mark VIII was actually designed before the aero Bird, but FMC was nervous about the huge change in design, so it followed the Thunderbird a year. Remember, at this time, the 1983 Thunderbird was the first new aero Ford, with the Tempo soon following. It seems so obvious now but Ford was concerned if their buyers would accept the new aero look! To get the Lincoln buyers warmed up, they also debuted for the 1982 auto show season the Lincoln Concept 90…which really previewed the new Mark VII. Also, the new 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar debuted a little late, in Nov 1982, so perhaps that’s why they were left out of the full line brochures.