Late to the party but still significant, the new 2018 Toyota C-HR should draw at least tens of thousands of new buyers away from traditional sedans and into the burgeoning subcompact SUV sector.
In describing the C-HR, however, Toyota officials don’t use the terms “SUV” or “crossover.” Rather, it’s about style and tech, with its name standing for “Coupe High-Rider.” Unsurprisingly, Toyota also isn’t talking about best-in-class space or anything. It’s meant to attract trendy young drivers, urban dwellers and tech-savvy consumers. Remember, it was supposed to be a Scion before that brand’s death earlier this year.
Still, many of these little SUVs thrive in tight city spaces and strive for great fuel economy figures. The C-HR will be powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 144 horsepower with a mandatory continuously variable transmission (CVT), roughly the same stats as a Toyota Corolla with a similar engine. Toyota engineers think that’s enough power to tap into the C-HR’s sophisticated new suspension and gives it an “athletic” feel, or an exuberance rivals may not. While it’s down more than 40 horsepower when compared with the Nissan Juke, the C-HR has roughly the same power you get with a Honda HR-V or Chevrolet Trax – neither of which make claims about being particularly involving to drive.
It’s reflected in an adventurous exterior style, which is also a little reminiscent of the Juke’s rakish profile rather than trying to be a box on wheels. It’s unclear whether the design is entirely successful, and adding the corporate Toyota nose might be a misstep, but it is one of the most distinctive-looking Toyota products in a long time.
The interior is also more adventurous than the average Toyota. All models get niceties such as dual-zone automatic climate control, a color display between the driver’s gauges and a 7-inch touch screen for the radio and other information. The uplevel XLE Premium trim adds blind spot monitoring, heated front seats, keyless entry and start and power-folding sideview mirrors.
So while there are some sporty small SUVs and some that are very practical, Toyota hopes the C-HR will fit somewhere in between and find a wide audience. They’ll need all the luck they can get now that rivals have had years to cement identities among consumers.
The C-HR is set to go on sale at U.S. Toyota dealerships in the spring, likely starting from around $20,000.