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.
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?
Late last week, Toyota announced it will conduct separate U.S. safety recalls of around 28,600 C-HR crossovers from the 2018 model year and approximately 39,900 Prius Plug-in Hybrids from 2012-2015.
For the affected C-HRs, there’s a possibility that the electronic parking brake might not operate properly. Toyota claims there is a chance the parking brake won’t disengage after it is applied. There is also a chance the faulty electronics might prevent it from being applied in the first place, which is a little more serious. In addition to creating a possible rollaway risk in certain situations, the automaker says it would be in noncompliance with a federal safety standards.
Forget, if only for the next few minutes, the way it looks. You may hate it, you may love it. But don’t let your interpretation of the 2018 Toyota C-HR’s exterior angles cloud your judgement.
While you’re at it, set aside class designations, as well. Whether you, like me, consider the 2018 Toyota C-HR to be unqualified for “crossover” status because it’s missing all-wheel-drive availability, the C-HR is still positioned as a rival for front-wheel-drive HR-Vs, Renegades, Encores, and CX-3s, among others.
The Toyota C-HR was initially intended to form part of the Scion lineup in North America, but with that brand’s demise, Toyota wisely moved the C-HR into its own lineup. Slotted below the Toyota RAV4 with dimensions that all but mirror the old Toyota Matrix, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is a $23,495-25,435 hatchback that’s garnered more attention during its stay with me than any vehicle I’ve ever tested.
To my surprise, almost all of that attention was positive. But is the Toyota C-HR worthy of such attention?
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.
Toyota Launches C-HR In April, Plans To Unveil Another Subcompact Crossover At The New York Auto Show In April
Toyota hasn’t even delivered the new 2018 C-HR to dealers and there are already plans to supplement the automaker’s subcompact crossover lineup.
In concert with the C-HR’s U.S. launch next month, April 2017 will also play host to the Toyota debut of a small crossover concept at the New York International Auto Show if all goes according to plan.
“I think we’re very well set up (with the C-HR and midsize RAV4 CUV), but we’re also kind of looking at what else could we be doing there if this continues to be a growing segment, which we anticipate it will,” Bill Fay, vice president for the Toyota division, told Wards Auto.
Toyota expects to sell 60,000 C-HRs in the United States annually, more than the Yaris, Yaris iA, and Prius C combined. For America’s third-highest-volume SUV brand, that’s apparently not enough.
Slip an extra SUV on the barbie.
The upcoming Toyota C-HR, which never had a chance to officially wear its former Scion badge, is on a mission.
Toyota is treating its strategically edgy subcompact crossover as something of a canary in the marketplace coal mine, betting on a big consumer response based solely on its styling. The company that built its reputation on staid, reliable, beige cars wants to know what happens when it lets its hair down.
And no, it doesn’t care if you’re offended. Toyota wants to push your buttons, turkey.
Admit it: you woke up today missing the Toyota Matrix, didn’t you? Could Toyota interest you in a modernized, reincarnated Matrix?
This is it. The Toyota C-HR is roughly an inch shorter than the old Matrix, two-tenths of an inch higher, and about an inch wider than the dearly departed hatchback that we likely wouldn’t call a mere hatchback if it arrived in 2016.
The C-HR is already in production in Sakarya, Turkey, but until the North American production-ready reveal at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show today, there were details unknown.
Now, some of the unknowns are known.
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