What it is: The Toyota C-HR is Toyota’s extremely quirky-looking compact crossover. If you see a Toyota RAV4 and think to yourself that it’s a little too plain or a little too expensive, then the C-HR is aimed at you. Priced about 10 percent below a RAV4, the C-HR starts at an easy-to-stomach $20,945. What might not be so easy to digest is the exterior appearance of the C-HR. Extremely bold styling certainly has the C-HR turning heads. Available two-tone paint choices allow consumers to further embrace the uniqueness. I’m rather partial to the models that pair a typical body color with a black roof, but the metallic blue body with white roof pairing is likely too much for most buyers. My test model was equipped with a silver exterior with black roof, and it is quite handsome.
All C-HRs have the same powertrain, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces a lethargic 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission that is certainly tuned for fuel economy. That fuel economy is there with a nice 29 combined mpg rating.
My headline is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how the C-HR is basically a compact car with a lift kit. The modern buyer has been demanding a higher ride height for the better part of a decade, so it’s understandable that Toyota would release the C-HR. Toyota also has a brand new Corolla Hatchback that just came out that is priced slightly less, but has more power, fun to drive, better fuel economy, and only 1.2 cubic feet less storage space. Toyota will likely sell several more C-HR just because it’s a few inches higher off of the ground.
The C-HR has plenty of power to commute at Houston highway speeds, but feels lethargic with its wheezy engine and slushy CVT. My test model was the Limited model, which includes leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, LED fog lights, and the optional ($1,040) Entune 3.0 Premium Audio Plus with navigation. Toyota has inexplicably decided to only offer Apple CarPlay compatibility and not Android Auto. They have their own suite of apps that you can download, but I’ve yet to come across anything that tops Google Maps.
I was surprised at how small the rear seat and cargo area are. It appeared to be about as spacious as my old Fiat 500. While appearing svelte is usually a compliment, you don’t want that applied to your cargo capabilities.
MPG: 29 combined/27 city/31 highway
Price: $20,945 base price. $28,585 as-tested.
Upsides: Unique appearance.
Downsides: Not as fun as it looks.
Wrap-up: The C-HR is all show and no go. Will it make plenty of buyers happy? Absolutely, but they probably don’t know any better. I certainly think that the RAV4 is worth the extra few thousand dollars, and if you were dead set on something this size, then just buy a normal hatchback and not one of these faux SUVs.