As consumers continue to shun traditional cars, as in sedans, they are flocking to the various Crossover Utility Vehicle segments. The tiny little guys are arguably the coolest bunch of the segment. Not much larger than a four door hatchback, they ride higher and have a stance closer to that of an SUV than that of a car. Each entry into the segment offers their own brand of quirk, often creating polarizing reviews from viewers.
Toyota’s player in this space, which is made up of the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, is the plucky little C-HR. The Honda and Mazda models offer styling which can best be called mainstream conservative, while the Toyota joins Nissan at the more, umm, creative side of the spectrum. True, the C-HR doesn’t seem to have lit up the weird meter like the Juke does, it definitely seems to make onlookers scratch their head a bit.
The two-tone roof and body treatment, which seems normal for the MINI camp, created the most conversation with friends and family during our week with the test unit. I actually like the look, but I was the only one who was feeling the love.
Entering the driver’s seat shows off a beef I have with a lot of small vehicles: seat height. While I am only 5′ 10″ tall, I have short legs and a long torso, coupled with a bad back that doesn’t bend too well. Even with the height adjustable seat in the fully down position, I whack my head off the roof edge unless I consciously duck my head under the edge before swinging my butt into the seat. My 5’2″ wife and daughter do not have the same complaint. Your mileage may vary.
Once inside however, the cabin is comfy and modern stylish. One rear seat passenger did comment that the space felt a bit claustrophobic due to the high line of the window sills which curve upwards to those funky outside door handles.
The first thing I noticed when heading onto the highway was how quite the little bug is at speed. Such a quiet cabin is impressive at this price point. That serenity vanishes when one mashes the right pedal to the floor.
As is becoming popular these days, Toyota has chosen to hang a CVT unit onto the end of its lovely 2.0L four banger. To simplify the description a bit, a CVT is essentially a larger version of a snowmobile transmission, which uses a belt that is driven via a cone shaped device to increase and decrease vehicle speed based on throttle position. There are no gears to change. If the driver applies full throttle, the engine will spin to its redline and stay there until the desired speed is reached and the driver lessens the pressure on the pedal. Regardless of how well insulated a cabin is, an engine at high revs is making some noise!
It is interesting to note that unlike the offerings from Mazda and Honda, Toyota has chosen to offer the C-HR in front wheel drive only, where the others have all wheel drive available. I suppose this won’t bother some buyers, but it seems like a bit of an odd contenting decision, especially for the Canadian market.
The cargo area is spacious enough for daily life with a young family and with the seats folded would easily swallow everything needed for a couple to go camping.
Careful attention should be paid to package content, as the $24,690 base price of the C-HR is substantially more than the base price of both primary competitors. The base price does however include Toyota Safety Sense, a bundle of active and passive driver safety aids that include Pre-Collision System , Auto High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (full speed), Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.
Overall, the Toyota C-HR is a fun and funky little ride which is definitely worthy of a look while shopping the segment.