When high fashion collides with the grocery-getter.
A friend once told me to check out this great band, Local Natives. Being a good friend, I indeed gave it a fair shake. I played the heck out of that album. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. Nothing really stuck out, but one thing was constant – it was perfectly competent. “Man, those guys can really play their instruments”. And, honestly, sometimes that is all you need. Lawrence Welk built an empire on less.
…and a one…
Toyota went the other way with the C-HR. It could have easily been another faceless player in the segment, but instead they went kookoo-bananas. I’d throw out a bunch of weird architectural terms about space and light, pretending I have a clue, but I don’t. From some angles, it looks as stunning as that weird building in Bilbao (The Guggenheim. – Ed.), and in others, it’s as lumpy as leftover oatmeal you’ve squeezed into a likeness of an ex-lover.
In short, it’s not competently designed – It’s exceptional, with all the good and bad that goes with it. Queen wasn’t for everyone. Nor Zeppelin. The car could be Susanne Sundfør, live. What it isn’t, is rehashed solo-artist crap that is safe, predictable, and on the radio 24-7.
…and a two…
With the superlatives and the exterior out of the way, what is this crossover all about? It drives like John Mellencamp.
There are no surprises, everything is as expected, though I found the steering feedback to be a highlight. It’s not dead-numb like a past Corollas or Camrys. I did find the brakes not up to the task of repeated stopping, but that’s a test I don’t believe many buyers would be attempting.
With the CVT, the engine is generally a muted affair until you decide to stomp on it, and instantly it seems you’re on a motorboat, riding the revs. Requesting a 3300lb vehicle to boogie-woogie-dancing-shoes using 144hp is a tall ask – this is no slot racer – but at city speeds, it manages to keep up.
The interior feels like shades of BMW and the split dash is attractive, functional. There’s no excess and everything falls at hand. There’s a whole lot of plastic, but it’s cleverly dispatched, enough to offset the inexpensive nature of the material. Everyone has lambasted Toyota/Lexus regarding their reluctance to embrace Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and I’ll join the ranks. There is no good reason other than foolish pride to omit it. I’ve read their missive about owning the screen and its content, and I don’t buy it. Because of this, you have to depend on your phone for NAV – and there’s no obvious place to mount one. Boo.
The front seats are heated and plenty comfortable, despite looking flat. Getting a decent driving position, in combination with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel was quick and easy.
Blind spots? Oy. Yes. One of the tradeoffs of the swoopy design and the high-mounted rear door latches. The “C” pillar is more of a wall. In fact, a passenger commented that being back there felt tomb-like, and it didn’t sound like a NVH compliment. They did like the armrest cupholder in each door, though.
…and a three…
One highlight is that on the steering-wheel stalk there is an “AUTO” mode for the lighting system. Excuse me while I go on a mega-tangent here.
It’s about bloody time.
In fact, I’d go so far as to eliminate “Off”, “Parking lights” and “On”. This is a Toyota. Toyota drivers almost never turn on their lights at night, but don’t know it, because the dash-cluster is always lit. Let’s just solve the problem completely, and either eliminate all Toyota drivers*, or just get some crazy-glue and as part of the PDI, and solidify that selector in “AUTO” mode. Thank you, thank you. (I hear cheers, a crowd applauding in my head right now – hey, who are those guys in the white coats? Get off me!).
…and a four…
We’re almost at the downbeat, so I’ll wrap it up.
After a week with the C-HR, I observed as many lookie-loo’s and scowls as I did when in a very loud droptop Jag or Toyota’s own (also loud) Lexus LC500. The design simply demands attention. I love that Toyota took a chance and created something that is (IMHO) automotive art, when everything else in the segment is design-by-committee-brand-harmony.
The vehicle inside the design is a solid, but imperfect product, but I’m sure it will be typical Toyota-reliable. If you’re an adventurous consumer, this may be the small crossover for you.
*Full Disclosure: I also own and operate a Toyota, and know how to operate the light switch, however, generalizing is fun!
2018 Toyota C-HR
Base Price: $24,690.00
As Tested: $28,178.47;(includes $1,760 freight and PDI, + taxes, et al)
Notable Options:Premium Package $1,600.00 (P225/50R18 , 18″ Aluminum Alloy Wheels, Blind Spot Monitor;System with RCTA , Push Button Start, Smart Key System, Power;Folding, Puddle lamps). Neat stuff included on all models: Pre-Collision System , Auto High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (all speed), Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.
Drivetrain: 2.0 Litre, 144hp, 139lb-ft, 4-cylinder, CVT transmission, front wheel drive
Performance: 11 litres per 100 km in mostly city driving
VVUZZ Summary: A solid entrant in the small crossover space, but one that values style over driver enjoyment
Images courtesy of the author.