First Drive Toyota C-HR: Like Gomer Pyle Said, “Surprise Surprise Surprise”

2018 Toyota C-HR Greetings From Autin

When Toyota killed off the Scion brand you wondered, a bit, what they were going to do with the C-HR they had been showing off for eighteen months or so.  Since they sell the car in the rest of the world as a Toyota, they decided to do the same in North America as well.

The C-HR (Coupé-High Riding) is a “B” segment crossover that is set to go up against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax, Jeep Renegade, and Nissan Juke.  In Toyota’s presentation for the C-HR, they talked about just how important this segment is for them, sighting that by 2020 they project 1-million sales a year of small crossovers in the U.S.

So what is the C-HR, why should you care, who is Gomer Pyle and what should be we surprised about when it comes to Toyota?

2018 Toyota C-HR Rear 3/4

First and foremost, this is not your standard Saltine Cracker Toyota.  In every way that the Corolla iM is different to the standard Corolla, that is C-HR to every other Toyota crossover.  Within five minutes of driving it, you can tell this vehicle spent quite a bit of time in Europe being developed.  Your first indication is the inclusion of SACHS damper on all four corners, and a double wishbone rear suspension.  Well controlled is the best way to describe the ride quality of the C-HR.  Yes it’s a cliché, but in this case it’s true, it rides like a properly tuned Euro car, it’s along the lines of the Golf in ride quality.  Steering is also accurate with decent road feel.  Personally, I would have liked a little more weight in in the wheel, but if you weren’t told this was an electric rack, you wouldn’t guess that it was.  There was no on-center numbness and actions were quick and direct.

Driving in and around Austin, Texas we went over a number of different road surfaces.  In some cases where the road was aggressively textured you did get a good amount of road noise, yet on smoother roads, it seemed to better than you’d expect in the class, certainly better than the Mazda CX-3.  Being a crossover, no matter how well designed it is to cheat the wind, you do get some noise from around the a-pillars.  You notice it because the rest of the cabin is rather quite.  You don’t get the boominess from the rear hatch area that you do in some SUV and crossovers, Toyota has done a good job with the NVH.

2018 Toyota C-HR Texas

Power for the C-HR comes from a two-liter four-cylinder engine making 144 horsepower at 6,100 RPM and 139 ft/lbs of torque at 3,900 RPM, and this is backed by a CVT transmission as the only option.  Fuel economy is EPA rated at 27 city, 31 highway and 29 combined.

The C-HR will come as a front drive only, no all-wheel drive as an option, and while a hybrid version will be available in Europe and other parts of the world, there will not be one available in the U.S., which is really a missed opportunity to stand out in the segment.

Let’s talk about the CVT for a second.  For a CVT it’s pretty good.  Most “good” CVT’s are usually backed by engines that make a lot of torque down low.  While the C-HR doesn’t have a high torque number, it does make its peak number in the middle of the powerband, rather than near the top, which is oh so very common in current small displacement, naturally aspirated engines.  It also is VERY aggressive in it’s “downshifts”  Now, it might not be Michael Caruso aggressive downshifting, but it’s not far from it.  Coming up to a stop, it was fairly common to see the tach blip up to 4,000 rpm as it “changed down” on it’s own.

Materials on the inside are very good for the class.  Sure there is hard plastic around, but there are plenty of soft-touch materials as well.  One area that I usually look for when it comes to hard plastic is the center console, where often times your knees lean up against it.  The lead engineer for the C-HR is 6’2”, and it was very apparent that the driving position was done with him in mind.  My knee didn’t touch the center console, in fact, the leg area for the driver was much wider than is standard for the class.  The seat has a large range fore and aft, and the steering column telescopes as well as tilts.  The cockpit layout and design itself feels very inspired by the current Lexus IS.

2018 Toyota C-HR door panel

The infotainment system is the seven-inch unit seen in the Toyota 86 and Corolla iM.  It’s a good unit, but Toyota still does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.  The system does have Bluetooth and comes with six speakers.  It also has what Toyota are calling “Driver Distraction Secure Audio”.  Things like album art are removed from the display when the car is in gear and other information is limited.

While the C-HR does have a rear view camera, the display is NOT in the head unit, rather it is in the rear view mirror.  It’s an odd choice, and if you owned the vehicle you’d adapted quickly to it, but it’s not as intuitive as the industry standard of having it in the head unit.

2018 Toyota C-HR Rear View Camera

Toyota is loading up the C-HR with safety systems.  It will have Toyota Safety Sense with pre-collision and pedestrian detection, ten airbags, smart stop, and full speed range dynamic cruise control.

There is a diamond theme that abounds both inside and out.  Inside there are diamond styling indents in the headliner, the speaker grills and door panels, on the exterior there are angles abound.  Unlike with the new Prius, these are well done, not overly done.  In the briefing Toyota said they wanted a “sensual shape”, I’m not sure it’s that, but overall its a decent looking car.  The nose is a little too Corolla and the tail lights look straight off the latest generation of Civic, but from the side view and rear 3/4 view it looks good.

One styling option that looked very good in person is what Toyota are calling their “R-Codes” A Ruby Flare Pearl, Radiant Green Mica, or Blue Eclipse Metallic with a white roof.  In person, it really stands out and should be a popular option.

Being a “coupé” design, there is no sacrifice in rear headroom, again six-footers should have no issues back there with head or leg room, however, it does cut into the cargo area.  With the back seat folded down, and thankfully it does fold fully flat, the cargo area does open to a good sized space.  According to Toyota, they put 768 cans of Red Bull in the back without having to stack them.

When Toyota announced a new crossover, most people who would call themselves car enthusiasts couldn’t run away fast enough.  And give what Toyota has produced over the last number of years, they’d not be wrong.  But here is the “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise”, the C-HR is as engaging to drive as the supposed driver focused Mazda CX-3.  That is not hyperbole, as when I returned from driving the C-HR I picked up a CX-3 as my press car so this is all very fresh in the mind.

The value for money is going to be very solid as well.  Toyota is keeping the Scion theme alive with the C-HR in that it comes in two trim levels XLE at $23,460 with destination and XLE Premium at $25,310 with delivery, and both will be almost fully optioned as delivered.

For some people the lack of an all-wheel drive option will be a deal killer for them, others will not like the styling and as we said earlier not offering a hybrid option when the car is built off the same platform as the current Prius is a big miss.  That said, if you are shopping in this segment, you should at least drive the C-HR and decide for yourself where it ranks in your priorities.  The C-HR will arrive in showrooms in April.


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35 responses to “First Drive Toyota C-HR: Like Gomer Pyle Said, “Surprise Surprise Surprise””

  1. Elliott Avatar

    That “THING” is utterly HIDEOUS!!

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      The first million dollars I make in my life will be selling body kits that make… cars (?) like these look less outlandish.

    2. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      Right? It’s a hodge podge of odd design elements, with none of them really working together to form a shape that’s pleasing to the eye. The Japanese car companies, Toyota/Lexus in particuliar, seem to have completely lost it when it comes to exterior design.

    3. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      It does seem odd that a conservative Japanese company like Toyota would let their designers use so many drugs. What other reason could it be?

      1. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        do you think it was pulled up from a design studio in san francisco?? that could explain some of it but i think it more likely the studio was in aspen where they do serious thc smoke and do truly idiotic after hours entertainments.

    4. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      see here. notice the small windows. when sitting inside the car you won’t be able to see how bad it looks. admittedly, it bears a striking resemblance to the pontiac aztek but squashed down a bit. that was a car that no matter how small the windows were, one was still impressed by how far one needed to go to get one’s self respect back after driving in it.
      but then the japanese designers at toyota had always found it necessary to “dress” the side panel styling.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    If only because I spent the past week in a Kia Soul, the C-HR makes me long for a 3rd gen Scion xB (whatever they would’ve called it as a Toyota). This looks a bit too try-hard, and I wonder if the lack of AWD will drive some consumers away (whereas the tallboxwagon leaves no illusions about its pavement-oriented purpose).

    1. Citric Avatar

      I wonder if the Canadian model will get AWD. I mean, maybe my thinking is altered thanks to the MASSIVE snow dump that my area got earlier in the week, but it seems to me that AWD should come with the package on something like this, if I’m going to get something tall it’s going to be because it can manage winter better than something low. Selling it without AWD seems like a dumb move in this market.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        I’m not sure, but it looks like the only powertrain they’ve set up with the AWD system currently is a 115hp 1.2 turbo – I think that might be a little weedy for us, at least for something probably pushing 3000lbs.

        1. Mirko Reinhardt Avatar
          Mirko Reinhardt

          The 1.2T must have more torque down low than the 2.0 NA though…

          1. Maymar Avatar

            I’m seeing a 0-60 of 11.4 sec on the 1.2/AWD – I’m sure Toyota decided it’d be easier to upsell to the RAV4 than get North Americans (outside of the absolute cheapskates) to buy something that slow.

    2. Professor Bananahot Avatar
      Professor Bananahot

      Can’t I just stuff this engine into a first-gen Xb?

    3. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      i am here in the foothills of colorado where wintertime travel is hot and cold. vehicles which often have merit for bad weather travel up in the deep rockies are found to be conglomerations of several vehicles types with specific missions in mind. jeep wranglers with cummins powerplants, the odd tracked vehicle that used to be an F-350 six pack, you know; what gets you to the beer and wine store in early march thru several feet of powder snow. seeing some of these beasts makes me blink at times. so far my favorite had been an XB body welded to a stretched wrangler frame and drive train..this gal came blowing out of a side road south of meridith off the south fork of the frying pan river thru three feet of fresh snow. followed at a respectful distance down to basalt and the adult beverage store. i hear crested butte has about a dozen feet of snow on the ground.
      wonder what they drive up there in the winter

  3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    And people complained about Audi’s big mouth bass grill and the one sausage look.

  4. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    It looks like Toyota took a Nissan Juke and blended it with the design language of Douglas Adams’ Kill-o-Zap gun
    “The designer of the gun had clearly not been instructed to beat
    about the bush. ‘Make it evil,’ he’d been told. ‘Make it totally clear
    that this gun has a right end and a wrong end. Make it totally clear to
    anyone standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for them.
    If that means sticking all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits
    all over it, then so be it.”
    That seems to be the only explanation for all the angry pointy bits all over an otherwise innocuous thing. Not that it really matters since I am far from the target market for this vehicle and my next purchase will probably be a used Mazda5 to replace the one that was totaled by a bro truck running a stop sign.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      When that bro truck hit your Mazda, I bet you wished you had a Kill-o-Zap… 😉

  5. theskitter Avatar

    There are any number of small criticisms I could make with this.
    But it’s interesting.
    And it makes Toyota cooler.
    I’m glad it exists, that I’ll be seeing them out on the road.

  6. Alff Avatar

    Being able to see out of your car is such an antiquated notion.

  7. dukeisduke Avatar

    “Outward visibility is too good – is there any way you can fix that?”

  8. dukeisduke Avatar

    ” In the briefing Toyota said they wanted a ‘sensual shape’, I’m not sure it’s that, but overall its a decent looking car.”

  9. Professor Bananahot Avatar
    Professor Bananahot

    I don’t love the world’s smallest rear seat window…but I like what I’m hearing about the rest of this.
    Like the HR-V though…it’s not really that impressive for the price or fuel economy with the RAV4/CR-V is right there, even if this drives better than all three of them.

  10. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    “Let’s go for a ride in the new car. Get in the back seat, kids.”
    “C’mon! Get in the car!”
    “Dad, we can’t reach the door handle.”

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Combine this with Elliott’s comment, and it is clear that this is designed for Young People, and to prove that Toyota is Not Boring.

    2. Vairship Avatar

      And once they’re in the back seat, they’ll be glued to their phones because they can’t see out the window due to the high window sill and the giganto C-pillar right where their heads are..

  11. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    ok. i have read the post. now. why am i trying to imagine the behavior of “Gomer Pyle” in a battle situation???
    similarly trying to imagine this car in the cut and thrust of a soccer mommy driving during rush hour in the morning…..OOOOOOOOOoooooo…….

  12. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    the comment in the 9th paragraph on cabin room is what is going to get me into the showroom and the clutches of the sales manager. oooooh i hate those guys……

  13. stigshift Avatar

    When did rear visibility become obsolete?

    1. Vairship Avatar

      When they invented rear view cameras. Which only work when the car is in reverse… And which will be broken and too expensive to fix once the vehicle is on its second owner.

  14. Jamey Burgess Avatar
    Jamey Burgess

    “Hey! Lets make a fugly cross over for teh Millenials! Awd? Whats that?”
    Why in the hell would you not make a crossover with AWD???

  15. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    Toyota appears to have benchmarked HR-V…for styling at least, The rear quarter screams “HR-V!”, and whispers “Veloster.”
    This might make a nice car for some enthusiast’s wife.

    1. Kenneth Avatar

      For someone’s wife? Yep, that’s something this “Harry Callahan” would think (a negative implication toward women).

      1. Harry Callahan Avatar
        Harry Callahan

        Do you not understand that these “cute utes” are specifically designed and marketed to appeal to women?

  16. JBsC6 Avatar

    Sporty cuv s will be the next hot market segment. Not a huge fan of a low powered engine and cvt transmissions but I do believe an electric powered dual motor cuv with sporty styling like the jaguar I pace will shake up the industry if it can be priced starting at 35 grand….I’ll keep wishing for a GMC version of the bolt…meanwhile this Toyota is right on the money from a market research perspective.
    I think these will sell very well and eclipse the Nissan Juke in sales

  17. salguod Avatar

    I’m generally a less is more kind of guy when it comes to design, but the Japanese are heading in the opposite direction, mostly unsuccessfully. This, however, I like. There’s a lot going on but it’s all working together as opposed to the shape salad of other designs.
    This comment from the review made me scratch my head:
    “While the C-HR does have a rear view camera, the display is NOT in the head unit, rather it is in the rear view mirror. It’s an odd choice, and if you owned the vehicle you’d adapted quickly to it, but it’s not as intuitive as the industry standard of having it in the head unit.”
    Before back up cameras, where did one typically look, if not turning around? In the center mirror, which makes it the perfect place for the back up camera display. I’ve owned 2 cars with back up cameras, a Saturn Outlook and now a Prius. The Outlook had the display in the mirror, the Prius’ is in the dash. I used the Outlook camera all the time, I frequently forget to look at the dash screen in the Prius.

  18. CraigSu Avatar

    If Toyota’s intention was to out-ugly the Juke, well, mission accomplished! This looks like it graduated from the Pontiac Aztek School of Design.