2018 Toyota C-HR: another small crossover to consider

“Just like anything else, once someone figures out that something works, the rest of the market jumps to copy it”. Pretty soon they all pretty much looked and drove the same. Manufacturers started working to stand out from the crowd, and the design of this all-new 2018 Toyota C-HR definitely does the trick. The problem is that is causes other problems, and at the expense of just looking weird – not necessarily ‘good,’ just weird.

2018-Toyota-CH-R-Review-Chicago-NewsThere’s no getting around it, the 2018 Toyota C-HR has a wild exterior design. Toyota has been pushing an edgier new design aesthetic for the last few years, culminating in the new Camry and Avalon’s angular shape. The C-HR has its fair share of angles too, but they don’t all lineup. There’s a disjointed quality to the design that makes it feel forced – this is not a car you’ll look at in 10 years and think ‘that was a great-looking car.’ The attention it gets is just by being different for the sake of it, not by truly being different from the all-new Volvo XC40 we recently reviewed.

You can’t really do an apples-to-apples comparison, because the Toyota is available with only a 144hp 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder engine, not really enough power to properly motivate the chassis. The engine also feels at odds with the CVT transmission, requiring higher RPMs to get going. That means the engine is at its buzziest as opposed to being down at the smoother lower RPMs. The Toyota is only available in FWD too, no all-wheel-drive is available. And this is where the 2018 Toyota C-HR kind of loses us.

Essentially it’s a lifted Corolla hatchback, with even less room. When you raise a vehicle like this, you are actually raising the floor up too, which makes it look as if it has more ground clearance. What it effectively does is cut off headroom. You end up with your head hitting the roof.

2018-Toyota-CH-R-Review-Chicago-News2In the front seats, there’s actually enough room – or there would be if the seats went lower. When adjusted to their lowest setting, there was still a considerable amount of space under the seat. Why not allow it to go lower to accommodate us taller drivers?

The materials used throughout are actually pretty fun, they have used the design style of funky/cheap. Using materials with interesting patterns makes it look modern without having to use expensive materials. The interior is one of our favorite parts of the 2018 Toyota C-HR. That is until you try to sit in the back seat. It’s just not going to happen, it’s a tiny space for both shoulders and heads. What makes it worse is there really isn’t that much cargo space either. That futuristic and modern-looking exterior actually infringes on interior space quite a bit. The tradeoff is not worth it, we’d rather went for a slightly more conventional style and had more space. Or, even better, if the designers pushed the modern style while still considering its impact on interior space.

There are quite a few active safety features, and they come standard with the $24k starting price. Forward-collision alert and lane assist, as well as adaptive cruise, are supplemented on the ‘Premium’ trim with blind-spot monitors as well. The glaring omission is that you can’t get navigation, even as an option and there’s no support for smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. With this being an all-new offering, it seems at least making that optional would have made sense. The Premium package also adds heated seats, push-button start and little projectors on the side mirrors that project ‘C-HR’ onto the ground at night. Honestly, we wish Toyota had skipped this one in favor of some more tech. It doesn’t make sense to us for a car this futuristic to be missing key technology features and integration. In the end, even though the fully loaded version caps out at $25k, this seems like a half-effort from Toyota and misses the mark for us in a very crowded class of small crossovers. If you have to stand out, then take a look at one – but make sure you sample the competitors as well.

Special thanks to Toyota Motor Corporation for providing the 2018 Toyota C-HR for review.