Emphasizing looks over substance
Although Toyota originally intended to sell the C-HR as a Scion, the youth-oriented brand folded before the crossover’s North American debut. The polarizing C-HR lives on as a Toyota, however, and for 2019 gains new trim levels from the base LE to the range-topping Limited variants. With a wider variety of models and new multimedia tech, let’s take another look at this cute-ute to see if it can lure new buyers into the Toyota brand.
Pictured is the 2018 Toyota C-HR.
Exterior styling remains the C-HR’s distinguishing feature. Barely changed from concept form, the spaceship-like crossover is an attention magnet. Inside, the angular design theme continues with triangular patterns on the dash, door panels, and center console. There are soft surfaces near touchpoints while cheaper, harder bits are used in the rear door panels and the lower part of the center console. The 2019 C-HR’s cargo area’s usability is hampered by its sloping rear window, but it does offer 19 cubic feet of space. Folding the rear seats increases capacity, but every competitor except the Fiat 500X has more room for your gear. Regardless of where you sit, the 2019 C-HR’s cabin is claustrophobic and visibility is severely compromised. The small rear windows make the rear seats feel even more cramped, and the dash gives the interior an uncomfortably confining ambience.
For 2019, Toyota replaced the antiquated aftermarket-looking interface from the 2018 model with its Entune 3.0 unit. This system is an improvement over its predecessor, but response times are slow whether you’re using the physical buttons or the 8.0-inch touchscreen. There’s also only one USB port, an epic fail in any smartphone-wielding millennial’s book. Apple CarPlay is standard on all models, but Android users must use Toyota’s Entune apps, none of which are on par with Google Maps and other smartphone apps.
All 2019 C-HRs come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P suite, bundling together adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic high-beams and lane departure warning with steering assist. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available on the XLE and Limited grades. Toyota’s adaptive cruise control system maintains speed with little deviation even when going downhill, but the gap it leaves between you and the vehicle in front is too big even in its closest setting. The lane departure warning system also needs improvement because, in our experience, the crossover had already crossed into the other lane before the system nudged us back.
At the track, the 2019 C-HR proved it’s more show than go, hitting 60 mph in 10.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 17.6 seconds at 80.6 mph. Road test editor Chris Walton noted that revs rise slowly to redline before the CVT “upshifts,” leading to lazy acceleration from a standstill. Between the underpowered 2.0-liter engine, leisurely throttle response, and its as-tested 3,263-pound (1,480-kg) curb weight, the C-HR is agonizingly slow; going up inclines or passing and merging onto highways require planning. The CVT also gets thrashy when accelerating hard. Braking performance is respectable, stopping from 60 mph in 122 feet with minimal fade, but Walton also observed excessive pedal vibration and front-end dive that’s severe enough to cause the rear end to lift up during emergency stops.
Despite its slow acceleration, the 2019 C-HR falls mid-pack in fuel economy. The Toyota’s EPA-rated 27/31 mpg (8.7/7.6 L/100km) city/highway falls behind many front-drive competitors except for the Ford EcoSport, Jeep Renegade, and Fiat 500X. The Subaru Crosstrek and an all-wheel-drive-equipped Mazda CX-3 are also more efficient, as is the larger Honda CR-V in 1.5 FWD form.
The Toyota C-HR features four-wheel independent suspension for improved ride and handling. On the figure-eight course, the C-HR turned in a time of 28.1 seconds with a 0.58 g average and generated 0.83 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Cornering is secure and the suspension does a great job of absorbing big impacts; however, ruts and expansion joints upset the C-HR more than expected, and the steering feels artificial and disconnected. The Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3 offer superior driving dynamics thanks to their superior body control, steering, and suspension tuning. The standard 18-inch wheels shod in Dunlop all-season tires in the XLE and Limited trims also contribute a substantial amount of road and tire noise, especially on poorly maintained roads.
Even with a full model range, there’s not enough substance behind the 2019 Toyota C-HR’s techy looks. Besides the distinctive looks, high expected reliability and an impressive package of safety tech are all the C-HR has going for it. Millennial buyers with active lifestyles will find they barely have any space to fit their gear, and we’d like to see Android Auto added on a future model. Add to that the underwhelming performance, and Toyota’s spaceship-like subcompact crossover becomes a harder sell, especially in a segment that’s growing at such a quick pace.
|2019 Toyota C-HR (XLE)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,198|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/144-hp/139-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,263 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||171.2 x 70.7 x 61.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||10.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.6 sec @ 80.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||27/31/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||125/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.68 lb/mile|