by James Allen
Better late than never, Toyota has finally introduced a compact crossover to its line-up. Better still, the Toyota C-HR is quite a pleasant first attempt, with the distinctive styling inside and out being backed up by a spacious, well-built cabin, an impressive array of safety equipment as standard and satisfactory driving manners. Sadly, an otherwise impressive overall package is marred by being less practical than some chief competitors – as well as only being available with a merely adequate powertrain for the time being. In a class as hotly contested as this, those faults really do affect the Toyota C-HR's competitiveness in this segment.
'Well-built, stylish and – despite the sloping roofline – actually quite spacious'
Matching the Toyota C-HR's exterior, the cabin is amongst the most visually arresting to grace any modern Toyota. Better still, it's not just a design showcase: complementing the angular layout and striking features are swathes of premium-feeling soft-touch plastics and a solid-feeling construction. Sadly, the slightly clunky touchscreen infotainment system does spoil the ambience a tad. Practicality is pretty good in the Toyota C-HR, albeit not quite where the class-leaders are at: the glovebox and door bins can swallow up decent-sized water bottles, and there's enough room all-round for five adults to be seated comfortably on journeys that aren't long road trips.
Cargo capacities are satisfactory too: though the high load lip can make access a tad tricky, the 36.4 cubic feet capacity is of a decent size by segment standards. This extends to 54.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded away, though it's worth pointing out the seat backs generate a big step instead of laying flush with the trunk floor.
Despite the racy proportions and sports car-esque styling cues, the Toyota C-HR doesn't feel all that dynamic to drive. Nevertheless, whilst it isn't the last word in behind-the-wheel thrills, the C-HR is a pleasant and straightforward vehicle to drive, with good body control when cornering, direct controls and a well-judged ride that strikes a good balance between ironing out bumps and preventing the Toyota from wallowing in the bends.
Forward visibility is good too, with the large windshield giving the driver a broad view out ahead. Rear visibility, though, is atrocious, with the high belt line, tiny rear window and thick rear pillars making it really difficult to see obstacles and other road users behind you. A standard-across-all-models rear-view camera does alleviate those concerns somewhat when reversing, though.
More engines are expected to be introduced at a later date, but the Toyota C-HR's engine range consists of only a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline system for the time being. Sadly, it isn't a particularly satisfying engine: power and torque outputs are lacking, so there isn't much to call upon under acceleration, and the unit isn't that smooth or refined either.
'Overall, an adequate engine for this type of car. Fuel efficiency and power are lagging behind class leaders, though.'
Thankfully, fuel economy fares much better: whilst not exemplary by class standards, the claimed consumption rates of 27mpg in the city and 31mpg on the highway are pretty good in comparison with the best in the compact SUV segment. The only available transmission (a CVT automatic) works well considering the engine it's paired up with, but refinement issues make it far from being the best automatic transmission you'll find in this class.
'Very well-equipped, with lots of safety gear as standard'
Considering the base price of $22,500 for the entry-level 'XLE' spec, the Toyota C-HR comes with quite a few items as standard. As well as the aforementioned reversing camera, all cars are fitted with dual-zone climate control, heated side mirrors and HD radio as standard. Better still, good amounts of safety gear are included in the standard spec list, with highlights including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and autonomous low-speed emergency braking.
Upgrading to the 'XLE Premium' trim introduces a very handy blind spot monitoring system and a rear cross traffic alert device, though we'll let you decide whether those items justify the $1,950 premium over base 'XLE' cars. Sadly, it's impossible to verify how safe the Toyota C-HR is, as there haven't been any official crash tests conducted for the car at time of writing.
As a safe, stylish, well-equipped and fairly spacious compact crossover, the Toyota C-HR does impress in isolation – albeit with a few inconsistencies to contend with. When cross-examined with rival cars, though, those quirks become hard to justify in such a crowded and competitive class, so we can only rate the Toyota C-HR overall as a 'to consider' alternative rather than a model we can definitively recommend.