by Aiden Eksteen
Toyota's small SUV, the C-HR, is one of those vehicles that is instantly recognizable for its unique style - it has broken the typically temperate design style we are accustomed to from Toyota. As a subcompact crossover SUV with a coupe-styled rear-end, the 2020 C-HR is part of the first C-HR generation that's been around since the 2018 model year. Though its interesting aesthetic may appeal strongly to some, the C-HR brings little else to the table relative to its competitors - with the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 delivering better-rounded packages overall, including superior powertrains and optional all-wheel-drive configurations. An underpowered 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with meager peak outputs of 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque is mated to a CVT automatic gearbox to power the default front-wheel-drivetrain of the C-HR. Not all is bad with the C-HR crossover, though, as it has an expansive list of features available to every model, sports decent ride and handling dynamics, and boasts exceptional safety expectations.
There have been some cosmetic enhancements and specification upgrades given to the new Toyota C-HR for the 2020 model year, including a restyled front end and new wheel designs for all models. The addition of Supersonic Red and Hot Lava (Orange) to the exterior color palette is also noteworthy - additionally, a contrasting Silver R-Code roof is also now an option. Feature-wise, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are now standard across the lineup, along with SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity on a three-month trial basis. The top-spec Limited model has been fitted with an adaptive front lighting system and an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat as standard.
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
The Toyota C-HR is easily recognizable by its futuristic and unique exterior aesthetic, it's certainly a standout from Toyota's typically demure design norm. This year's model comes with a fully redesigned front end including an aerodynamic lower diffuser with a back rear, and lip spoiler, vortex generators, aerodynamic underbody panels, and front and rear wheel spats. Multi-reflector LED headlights are standard on the LE and XLE with adaptive automatic LED projector headlamps and high-performance LED fog lights standard on the Limited. The LE rides atop 17-inch steel wheels, the XLE is equipped with 18-inch C-HR vortex styled sport alloy wheels and the Limited with 18-inch C-HR turbine styled alloy wheels.
The C-HR's moniker stands for Coupe - High Riding, which is a good visual description for the subcompact crossover SUVs dimensions. In body length, the C-HR spans 172.6 inches overall, which is 2.2 inches longer than the Honda HR-V; its wheelbase is 103.9 inches long, 1.1 inches longer than the HR-V's. With a total height of 61.6 inches, the C-HR is 1.6 inches shorter in stature, but it's 0.9 inches wider at 70.7 inches. The HR-V is far better prepared for rough terrain though, with the C-HR's ground clearance of 5.9 inches, the HR-V rides 1.4 inches higher; the C-HR approach angle is capped at 14 degrees and its departure angle at 26 degrees. The C-HR lineup's curb weight teeters on the 3,300 lbs mark, making it around 400 pounds heavier than the H-RV.
There are six monotone exterior color schemes available for all the C-HR models, with Blue Eclipse Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Silver Knockout metallic, and Magnetic Gray Metallic being the only cost-inclusive options. Blizzard Pearl and new for 2020 Supersonic Red carry an additional charge of $425 each. There are another six two-tone exterior color schemes available for the XLE and Limited, either Silver Knockout, Blue Eclipse, or Hot lava Orange can be optioned on for $500, all three of which are paired with a black roof; Black Sand Pearl is paired with a Silver Knockout Metallic roof and also asks an additional charge of $500. Blizzard Pearl and Supersonic Red can be paired with a black roof for $925.
With the C-HR's standout design and styling, one would expect something as daring from under its hood, but the C-HR's 2.0-liter four-pot motor is only second-rate, to say the least. It's certainly not about reaching exhilarating top speeds, offering only meager outputs of 144 hp and 139 lb-ft, which are only enough to have the C-HR saunter from 0 to 60 mph in an uninspiring high-ten-second attempt at best. This is significantly slower than most other vehicles in the class. The Honda HR-V managed to achieve a slightly faster 0-60 mph time of 9.6 seconds and the Mazda CX-3 an even faster 0-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds.
While the newest Toyota C-HR is a front-wheel-drive-only affair with no all-wheel-drive option offered, both rivals, the CR-V and the CX-3, are available with either FWD or an AWD setup. However, even with the AWD advantages offered by those vehicles, none of the vehicles in the class are rated for towing in the U.S.
If there was one thing we could change about the C-HR, it would be its underpowered powertrain; the 2.0-liter engine's outputs of 144 hp and 139 lb-ft are just not strong enough to get the C-HR up to speed at any rate faster than ponderous. Acceleration off-the-line is laggy, but it is adequate and consistent enough to have the C-HR drive comfortably within the confines of the city. But, hammer down the accelerator pedal and the engine revs to its peak and then just hangs there, droning on as the CVT takes its sweet time to adjust its ratios in an ineffectual attempt to provide forward propulsion. Once underway, the only consistency then is lethargic acceleration - highway merges and overtaking maneuvers will have to be carefully planned. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT, not even an AWD system to replace the FWD - which may actually be better as the heavier setup would likely just slow the C-HR down even more.
It's unfortunate that the C-HR's powertrain is so underpowered and unrefined, as the subcompact crossover is actually somewhat fun to drive down a windy road - it can even feel playful from behind the wheel. Its handling is lively by virtue of its sharp and accurate steering responses, with the steering proving to be relatively communicative, giving the driver decent levels of feedback from the front wheels. Body roll is exceptionally well controlled around extended corners and sharp bends, chassis composure is well-maintained, and the C-HR always feels firmly planted to the asphalt. Its brakes provide appropriate levels of stopping power and the brake pedal is easy to modulate in most driving conditions.
The C-HR doesn't deliver the best ride quality in the class but it's reasonably comfortable nonetheless; its suspension soaks up most road imperfections, even prominent ones, but when riding over a stretch of broken asphalt at speed or when going over larger undulations, the cabin is plagued by reverberations and jarring noise.
Every C-HR trim, with its 2.0-liter four-pot motor, CVT, and FWD system, returns EPA estimates of 27/31/29 mpg city/highway/combined. The Honda H-RV, which is equipped with a 1.8-liter four-pot motor, CVT, and FWD system as well, proves a little more fuel-efficient, returning EPA estimates of 28/34/30 mpg on those same cycles. The Mazda CX-3 does even better, returning EPA estimates of 29/34/31 mpg from its 2.0-liter four-pot motor, six-speed automatic gearbox, and FWD system.
The C-HR is equipped with a 13.2-gallon gas tank, which, when full, allows the C-HR with a maximum range of around 382 miles before requiring a refuel.
The build quality of the C-HR isn't perfect, and while most panel gaps are even and most fixtures and fittings properly attached, the doors close without the solid-sounding clunk we'd like to hear and some of the fittings on the inside are rather flimsy. Most of the materials used throughout the cabin are otherwise of high quality and exude a high-quality impression as well. The overall visual impression is very futuristic and may, or may not, be appealing to some. Key touchpoints are covered in soft-touch materials, the dash is wrapped in upscale leatherette, and the XLE and Limited feature a comfortable leather-wrapped steering wheel. Even though quite spaceship-like, the interior layout is very ergonomic and the cockpit feels exceptionally cozy. An eight-inch infotainment touchscreen is the centerpiece of this mothership.
Although there is seating for up to five occupants in the C-HR, the center rear seat will be far too cramped for an adult, especially with the outboard seats occupied. The seats are, otherwise, very comfortable - they're well-cushioned and feature contouring and bolstering that provide ample support. The front seats of the Limited model are heated and further bolstered to provide even more comfort and support. Head and legroom are ample upfront, even for passengers upwards of six feet in height. Legroom does, however, get rather cramped in the rear seats, as does headroom as a result of the sloping roofline. The driver's seating position is ergonomic, the controls are all in reach, and are logically arranged. Outward visibility is decent all-round, with rearward visibility being slightly hindered by the back seat headrests. The rearview camera makes things easier, in this regard. Ingress and egress are as easy as can be thanks to moderate step-in and seating height.
The LE and XLE come standard with black sport fabric upholstery only, with no alternative hue or material options available. Those who prefer leather seating upholstery will have to opt for the top-spec Limited to get it. But even so, the leather upholstery can also only be hued in black. While the LE is fitted with a urethane steering wheel and a leather-trimmed shift lever with a satin-plated shift knob, the XLE and Limited get a leather-wrapped steering wheel as standard.
With only 19.1 cubic feet of cargo room offered behind the rear seats of the C-HR, it's not the most practical compact SUV around. It's more practical than the Mazda CX-3 but far less practical than the FWD Honda HR-V, which boasts 24.3 cubes behind the rear seats. The C-HR's 19.2 cubic feet of cargo room is enough to store up to two medium suitcases and perhaps a couple of soft carry-ons. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split, which expands cargo room to an overall 37 cubes if some storage versatility is required.
As for in-cabin storage, there's a reasonably sized passenger side glove box compartment, small front door side armrest storage trays, front door storage pockets with bottle slots, a sizable center armrest storage cubby, and dual cupholders. In the rear, there are small and shallow door side storage trays, bottle holders in the doors and seatback map pockets behind both front seats.
The C-HR's standard features list is relatively expansive, with the LE model coming outfitted with a remote keyless entry system, a urethane steering wheel coupled to a tilt/telescoping column, a day/night rearview mirror, six-way manually-adjustable front bucket seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control, all as standard. The XLE and Limited are both equipped with a smart key system with push-button start and touch-sensor lock/unlock front doors; its also fitted with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and with heated, power side-view mirrors with turn signals and blind-spot warning indicators. There is now an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat standard in the Limited. All models come with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) safety suite which comprises automatic high beams, lane departure alert with steering assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. All models also feature an integrated rearview camera and hill-start assist, while a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is standard on the XLE and Limited.
An eight-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display tethered to a stock AM/FM stereo and six-speaker audio system is standard across the lineup. The software includes both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality this year; it also includes Amazon Alexa compatibility, Bluetooth audio streaming, hands-free phone functionality, advanced voice recognition, SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity with a three-month all-access trial, and Wi-Fi Connect hotspot capability with up to two GB of free data. There is only a single USB port provided for device charging and connectivity for those that are compatible. Toyota's infotainment software is responsive and the interface intuitive and user-friendly, the visuals are crisp and the audio quality decent. HD radio connectivity is available for the XLE and Limited models only as part of the Audio Plus package.
Though there have been no recalls commissioned for the 2020 Toyota CH-R in the USA, the 2019 model was subject to two, the one pertaining to the non-permanent text on the load capacity label that would fade away too quickly, and the other to insufficiently tightened rear axle bearing bolts which would potentially result in a rear-wheel detaching. J.D. Power availed the 2020 Toyota C-HR with an above-average predicted reliability rating of four out of five. Toyota covers the C-HR with a three-year/36,000-mile new-car limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
While the NHTSA awarded the 2020 Toyota C-HR with an exemplary five-star overall rating, the IIHS is yet to rate the current year model for the US. The 2019 Toyota C-HR was subject to review, however, and received top scores of Good in all six of the specified crash tests that the authority implements, which is expected to carry over for the current model.
Every C-HR comes standard with Toyota's Safety Sense P (TSS-P) - an advanced active safety suite that bundles full-speed adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. That suite is complemented by Toyota's STAR system, which comprises vehicle stability control, traction control, an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and smart stop technology. Also standard across the lineup is a rearview camera, hill-start assist, and ten standard airbags, including front knee airbags. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is standard on the XLE and Limited.
The Toyota C-HR is, sadly, nowhere near being the best vehicle in the subcompact crossover SUV class. There are simply too many aspects that are subpar when compared to its competitors in the USA. The powertrain is severely underpowered, and at the same time, not as fuel-efficient as what its rivals setups are; it's frustratingly slow and the CVT creates more noise than impetus. The back seats aren't very spacious either, and its cargo capacity is less than that of rivals, too.
For those loyal to the brand, there is still a lot to appreciate from the C-HR: its handling is poised and the ride is reasonably comfortable; it's rated exceptionally well for reliability and was given favorable crash test safety ratings. On top of that, it comes fitted with a vast selection of features at base level, including a great consignment of standard safety and advanced driver-assist features, and an infotainment system fully integrated with your smartphone. Ultimately, the C-HR is stylish and comfortable, but falls into the category of 'good but not great'.
The Toyota C-HR is priced relatively similar to its rivals. The LE has an MSRP of $21,295, while the XLE costs $23,330. The Limited tops the range with an MSRP of $26,350. Those prices are all excluding Toyota's $1,120 delivery, processing, and handling fee as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees.
There are only three models that make up the C-HR lineup, the base-spec LE, mid-spec XLE, and top-spec Limited. All are equipped with the same powertrain - a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a CVT automatic and front-wheel drive.
In terms of features, the LE sets the tone for the lineup, and is fitted with 17-inch steel wheels, multi-reflector LED headlights, a remote keyless entry system, a urethane steering wheel coupled to a tilt/telescoping column, a day/night rearview mirror, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The infotainment system, which is shared across the lineup, comprises an eight-inch touchscreen tethered to a six-speaker audio layout and AM/FM stereo. It comes standard with Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Bluetooth technology, advanced voice recognition, SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Sport fabric upholstery is standard.
The XLE brings in 18-inch alloy wheels, a smart key system with push-button start and a touch-sensor lock/unlock feature on the front doors. It's fitted with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and with heated, power side-view mirrors with turn signals and blind-spot warning indicators.
As for the Limited, it's the only model that comes standard with adaptive automatic LED headlights, genuine leather upholstery, heated front seats with sport bolsters, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
With high levels of feature specification at the standard level, there aren't many packages or standalone options to add to the Toyota CH-R's cost.
For the LE there's a 17-inch alloy wheel upgrade that costs $430, and that's it. The XLE and Limited both have the option to a $465 Audio Plus infotainment upgrade which throws in HD radio functionality.
With the LE model of the C-HR being so well-outfitted with features, even as the base-spec model, and at such an affordable price, it's the trim to go for. It delivers the most value for money and comes standard with a vast selection of higher-grade features including a top-notch infotainment system that's shared across the lineup -this includes an eight-inch touchscreen and full smartphone integration. All the truly appealing feature enhancements, such as leather seats, LED lights, and 18-inch wheels, are only found in the Limited, at which point the trim line loses its affordability. The aluminum wheel upgrade is recommended purely for the improvement in overall quality and style.
The RAV4 is a larger compact SUV and offers the obvious advantages in practicality and off-road-ability over the C-HR. It has almost double the cargo room to that of the C-HR behind the rear seats and offers a maximum tow capacity of 1,500 lbs. With a far greater ground clearance, approach, and departure angle, the RAV4 will be the more capable vehicle when it comes to taking on anything beyond the asphalt. It is also fitted with a more powerful engine and a better gearbox, which makes it peppier than the C-HR and simply a more enjoyable SUV to drive; the powertrain just so happens to be more fuel-efficient too. Considering that the base model of the RAV4 is only around $4,000 more than the base model C-HR, it's certainly worth considering as the vehicle that delivers better performance, capability, and to some, maybe even a more appealing aesthetic.
While the Honda HR-V comes with an even weaker engine than the Toyota C-HR, it's slightly more affordable and far better of an all-rounder than the C-HR. The powertrain, while also underpowered, still makes the HR-V faster than the C-HR and is a little more economical than the C-HR's too. The HR-V is also available with an AWD system, which the C-HR does not have. There's a little more cargo room offered behind the rear seats of the HR-V: 24.3 cubic feet over the C-HR's 19.1. Honda's famous magic seats in the back also bring in a whole other level of passenger seating and cargo storage versatility that no other brand has managed to achieve. All in all, the Honda CR-V is simply the better all-rounder - admittedly, it's still not the greatest car in the class because of its mediocre performance, but it delivers a little more value for money than the C-HR, and far greater practicality for everyday use.
Check out some informative Toyota C-HR video reviews below.