It’s that time of year again – time for our best and worst cars of 2021. Chris and I are the ones who most consistently get test cars, so it will be just the two of us putting our heads together. We’ve each picked one best and one worst car, as well as a few that deserve a mention either way.
There’s no question that Toyota wishes posters of its cars were found on the bedroom walls of more teenage boys, and, to its credit, it’s made headway on that goal. Supra, anyone? Then there’s the TRD Camry and Avalon, which might raise eyebrows if found in said posters.
That said, the injection of sport into the brand’s once staid lineup seems poised to target the lower end of things. We’ve seen the overseas GR Yaris, an exciting hot hatch not bound for these shores, but Toyota’s focus now seems to be turning to higher-volume small cars. This is where things could get interesting for North America.
If you were hoping that a refresh bestowed upon Toyota’s funky subcompact crossover would yield the extra oomph and all-wheel drive desired by many since the model’s debut, well, re-read that headline.
For 2020, C-HR buyers will continue to get by with front-drive and a 144-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder; they’ll just gain some appearance and content changes. Truth be told, FWD and a tepid four is probably fine for the majority of subcompact crossover buyers. However, take a trip overseas and you’ll find there’s suddenly extra power on offer.
Jack Hollis, Toyota North America’s general manager, was quite forthcoming during a roundtable discussion at the L.A. Auto Show. After unveiling the brand’s upcoming all-wheel drive Toyota Prius and hybrid Corolla sedan, he speculated on what else might be coming down the product pipe.
We already know that Toyota wants to TRD-ify as many models as possible (the Camry and Avalon aren’t an end point, apparently), but AWD and hybrid power serve the purposes of practicality, not style. There’s more reason to desire a vehicle that sips gas or blasts through snowbanks with aplomb.
That’s why an AWD, hybrid Corolla isn’t off the table. Upon hearing this, this writer’s mind drifted to the new-for-2019 Corolla Hatch and a small crossover that, strangely, isn’t offered with AWD. What would a would-be C-HR buyer be giving up if Toyota went ahead and electrified the rear axle of the Corolla Hatch?
It’s only 700 vehicles from the 2019 model year, but the voluntary recall issued by Toyota today involves the possibility of the rear wheels falling off. That seems a little more concerning than having your Prius go into limp mode.
The issue with the C-HR lies in its rear axle hub bearing bolts, one or more of which may not have received a proper tightening at the factory. Should they come loose while on the road, the C-HR could end up a three-wheeler.
Toyota is recalling over one million Prius and C-HR crossovers due to engine wires that pose a potential fire risk. Involved in the call-back are roughly 192,000 vehicles in the United States, according to estimates made by the automaker on Wednesday. However, the vast majority of the 554,000 affected vehicles reside in Japan.
While no injuries have been reported, an alleged incident occurred in February 2018 where a wire harness connected to the vehicle’s hybrid power control unit shorted out.
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?
March 2018 U.S. Auto Sales: Ford EcoSport Still Climbing, but so Are Other Mainstream Subcompact Crossovers
The Ford EcoSport, a new (to North America) subcompact crossover hastily inserted at the bottom of the Blue Oval’s lineup, went on sale in January of this year. No TTACer who sat in the vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit walked away impressed, and it was odd to see a new model introduction go without the obligatory first drive event.
Still, the vehicle, which starts at a hair under 20 grand and carries a 1.0-liter three-cylinder as a base powerplant, isn’t being ignored by the buying public. March EcoSport sales in the U.S. topped that of the well-regarded — but not especially capacious — Mazda CX-3. Still, as all things truck continue to garner ever greater market share in the U.S., the little Ford faces a difficult upward climb.
This morning’s Question of the Day was all about all-wheel drive and which models could stand a dose of four-wheel traction. So far, no one’s talking about the Nissan Versa Note.
Nissan, however, is more than happy to talk about the fact that its upcoming Kicks subcompact crossover will arrive with power relegated only to the front wheels. Hardly a brawny setup for a high-riding vehicle, but the automaker doesn’t seem to care much about the buyers it might be leaving behind. Toyota, on the other hand, harbors lingering regrets over its entry in the B-segment class, the C-HR.
Toyota has been the brand par excellence in terms of quality and reliability for as far back as many of us can remember. But, as value became its hallmark, someone decided to turn the excitement volume down to a faint whisper — breaking the knob off entirely in the mid-2000s, when the MR-2 and Celica were discontinued. Even with the company’s introduction of the 86 in 2013, its mainstream designs were about as safe a play as one could make.
If you haven’t noticed (let’s face it, you have) Toyota’s styling has changed immensely of late. The automaker has a new attitude and affixed angry gaping maws onto the core brand and added folds to the bodywork we never would have anticipated.
This wasn’t an accident. Toyota is intentionally trying to push the envelope in terms of design and rattle a few cages along the way. Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Co., decreed that boring cars would be a thing of past and has given designers the means in which to accomplish that goal.
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?
People want to talk to me about the 2018 Toyota C-HR.
Since I took possession of a Toyota Canada-supplied C-HR last Friday, more people have approached me to discuss the C-HR than any other car I’ve ever had the pleasure or displeasure of testing.
Naturally, I assume they’re not going to have kind things to say. Let’s be honest: the Toyota C-HR is not a conventional beauty. “It’s not mine,” I quickly declare to a couple examining the C-HR in the grocery store parking lot as I approach it, bags in hand. “You can say whatever you think.”
And then they do. But the words they speak are not in keeping with my expectations.
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.
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