2018 Toyota C-HR New Review, Design, Ratings, Specs, Prices, and Photos - The 2018 Toyota C-HR is a small hatchback that its maker calls a crossover, despite the lack of all-wheel drive.
Originally intended for the now-defunct Scion brand, it’s a well-equipped and highly stylized five-door that rides higher than most other cars of its size.
The C-HR comes in just two trim levels, XLE and XLE Premium, and its sole option is a white-painted roof offered with just three of its seven body colors.
The C-HR joins no fewer than three other small hatchbacks in Toyota showrooms: the aging subcompact Yaris, the fuel-efficient subcompact Prius C, and the larger compact Corolla iM.
Its mission is to attract new buyers to the brand who want a car with an expressive design. The company hopes that younger buyers will like the kind of statement the C-HR makes about who they are.
We rate the 2018 C-HR at 5.5 out of 10, although that score could go higher if the car gets top ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS, which haven’t yet tested it for crash safety.
That rating is only average for the cars Toyota expects it to compete against. Those include the similarly extroverted but aging and thirsty Nissan Juke (5.0), the capacious and fuel-efficient Honda HR-V (6.8), the fun-to-drive Mazda CX-3 (7.2), and perhaps also the cramped but off-road-capable Jeep Renegade (5.3).
All four of those models offer optional AWD, but Toyota doesn’t expect that to be a problem. If it is, the C-HR has optional AWD in Europe and Japan already, making it possible to fit for North America too.
C-HR design and performance
The C-HR’s design is by far its most distinctive feature, with busy but interesting sheet metal that underscores the “Coupe, High-Riding” explanation of its model name. A rising window line, high stance, and expressive lines, swoops, and accents do actually come together to make an interesting and noticeable design that we grew fond of by the end of our test drive.
The interior is smartly designed and surprisingly capacious front and rear, with lots of diamond shapes in unlikely places (including the headliner) to emphasize the extroverted style.
A 144-horsepower inline-4 with a continuously variable transmission powering the front wheels is the sole powertrain offered in the C-HR. Despite an available Sport driving mode, it’s slow and not particularly fuel-efficient, at 29 mpg combined. The handling and roadholding is good, though, and definitely a step up on those of previous small Toyotas.
Front and rear occupants will find lots of head room, a benefit of the “high-riding” stance, and rear-seat riders in particular get cabin width, a comfortably upright seating position, and plenty of shoe room under front seats. The C-HR looks smaller than it is, to the benefit of its occupants. The all-black interior offers lots of storage bins, compartments, and cup holders. Load space is average to tight compared to other five-door hatchbacks and the crossovers Toyota is trying to compete with.
Ten airbags and a suite of active-safety features are standard on the C-HR, though it hasn’t yet been rated for crash safety by the IIHS or NHTSA. Visibility out the back isn’t very good, not surprising with a rising window line, a steeply raked rear window, and very thick roof pillars.
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The C-HR comes well-equipped in either of its two trim levels, with standard dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen audio system, and more. But unlike other small front-wheel-drive hatchbacks, the C-HR starts at more than $23,000 including delivery, meaning buyers pay for the style.
A host of dealer appearance, functional, and performance accessories is available to personalize each model. The 2018 C-HR will go on sale in spring 2017, imported to North America from a Toyota factory in Turkey.
By far the most noticeable and distinctive feature of the 2018 Toyota C-HR is its exterior design, one of the most adventurous ever to emerge from the conservative Japanese maker.
If you thought the Nissan Juke took a while to digest, the C-HR will have you studying its nonstop collection of curves, slits, upkicks, and crests for days.
The name, Toyota says, stands for “Coupe, High Riding,” and while Toyota may call it a crossover, it’s a five-door hatchback with expressive styling that hides the rear door handles in the rear pillars (they work fine), using a rising window line to imitate a two-door coupe.
It's also a much larger car than it appears, virtually a shortened mid-size vehicle that's considerably wider and taller than the subcompact Yaris in the same showroom.
The C-HR’s shape will pull your eyes from one angle or curve to another. Every time they come to rest, you’ll be distracted by some other design flourish.
Animal-like jowls and cat-eye lamps flow into fenders that wrap themselves tightly around its wheel wells.
The sills and side stampings impress a deep skeletal shape into the sideview. The roofline slopes and the rear pillar turns up—and they meet at the rear door handles.
The taillights bracket a tall rear end, where the three-quarter view of the C-HR turns thick and emphasizes its high-riding stance, making the standard 18-inch wheels seem small despite all the accents meant to distract your eye.
In the end, though, we conclude the C-HR has something that will intrigue us for years. It’s a far more successful expression of the Toyota design language first used in the Mirai fuel-cell sedan and the latest Prius hybrid hatchback.
Neither of those cars has an exterior that’s quite resolved, but the C-HR is all of a piece—and has no glaring feature like the Juke’s bug-eye front lights. The design is still likely to be polarizing, but it may well succeed with the younger buyers Toyota seeks.
Inside, the C-HR has one of the better cockpits among the variety of small hatchbacks and crossovers. Toyota cloyingly calls the center pod of controls the MeZone; let's just agree that it's a stylish, unconventionally shaped set of switches, knobs, and touchscreen controls that’s attractive and far from derivative.
The C-HR's 7.0-inch display screen sits on the dash like the screens in other small vehicles, but it's better integrated, and the surrounding controls complement it well.
Diamond patterns are a design theme not only on the exterior but also inside the cabin, with a grid of diamonds molded into hard-plastic lower door panels and even into the headliner.
It adds visual interest and doesn’t interfere with any controls. We wish the were available in colors other than all-black (with a few silver accents), but we’ll defer to Toyota’s suggestion that it’s what the target buyers are comfortable with.
In the end, we give the C-HR 7 points out of 10 for styling. The interior works well, and the adventurous exterior finally shows that Toyota’s new design language can create a striking and distinctive design without the kinds of jaw-dropping clashes found on the Mirai and Prius.
Not everyone will like the result, but we didn’t hate it on first glance and it grew on us considerably during our time with the test cars.
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