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Car Review: 2018 Toyota C-HR Road Test and Review By Steve Purdy

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(Coupe-High Rider)
Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

You know how your composition instructor graded your essays on both style and content? Well, I thought of that while spending quality time on a long road trip in Toyota’s new C-HR compact crossover. It does a great job focusing on its target customer – that is, the urban millennial – by providing high style to attract attention and modest content to keep the price reasonable. In my book it gets a solid A for style and a passing C for content.

Initial impressions when I first saw the new C-HR (name means “coupe high-rider”) were of the cool little Veloster by Hyundai. The genre that came to mind was more sporty hatchback than small crossover. It is bigger than Veloster and has four doors instead of three, a much more usable rear seat and more cargo capacity.

Think of the C-HR occupying the same space as the cute-ute Kia Soul, the more conventional Mazda CX3 or the new Nissan Rogue Sport. C-HR is certainly the most style-conscious of them all. With deep sculpted lines and angles going in multiple directions, deep cheek vents flowing into the lower front fascia, exaggerated wheel arches, standard 18-inch flashy wheels, rear door handles mounted high on the C-pillar and protruding taillights, it is an eye-catcher of the first order. Our test car is a lovely pearl white that nearly glows in the dark.

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The interior is considerably less flashy, but convenient and reasonably functional. Audio is managed on the 7-inch touch screen that juts up from the center of the dash and it does not have a tuning knob making it difficult to get to the station you want. It does not come with satellite capability, rather it has the Aha app that facilitates using the owner’s content and claims to make accessing the content easier and safer in automotive environments. That appeared to be an overwhelming learning curve and setup for a one-week review loan. (I’d be interested to hear from readers who have experience with Aha.) Dual-zone HVAC controls on the lower dash are easy to manage. Tactile quality of all the things we touch and manipulate are first rate. The screen for the backup camera is in the rear view mirror and if you use bifocals you’ll get a kink in your neck trying to focus on it. But, I guess, few millennials wear bifocals.

Interior quality, fit and finish are all better than we would expect in an economy car. This was, we were not surprised to learn, intended to be a Scion before that brand (Toyota’s sub-brand focused on the youngest of car buyers) went away. Some stitching and other dressy materials, the light above the visors, and other details are well thought out. Auxiliary input jack and USB port hide deep under a ridge at the front of the center console and the power outlet is tucked into the small console. Both are hard to see and get at.

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I found the driver’s seat remarkably comfortable for the long drive referenced above – 9 uninterrupted hours each way in a space of three days. Rear seat room is limited, as you would expect, but still adequate for small to average sized youngsters. Cargo space at 19 cubic-feet is better than we expected. Rear seatbacks fold 60/40 with the pull of a handle on top but the front seats must be substantially forward for the rear headrests to clear the front seatbacks allowing them to fold flat.

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Under the hood we find a simple 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque mated to a smart CVT (continuously variable transmission). The EPA rates it at 27 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 29 mpg combined using regular fuel. We reset the trip information often to get a sense of our mileage under different conditions. On stretches that covered high-speed freeways at modestly extra-legal speeds we managed 27 mpg, but on the 120-mile stretch across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on two-lanes roads at around 65 mph we got 37 mpg. Darn good, I thought for this 3,300-pound car. It will do 0-to-60 in a leisurely 10.5 seconds and is a bit buzzy because of the CVT but otherwise, under normal driving it is quick enough. Power and feel of the drivetrain are nothing to write home about but adequate.

A rigid platform and well-tuned chassis with fully independent suspension and quick steering make for good ride and handling. It is tuned for balance between comfort and agility. The powertrain gets three driving modes – sport, normal and eco – that will adjust throttle and steering response, transmission performance and some other elements to fit the driver’s priorities. C-HR shares Toyotas new global platform with Prius but has a distinctive personality.

Toyota offers just two trim levels of the C-HR – XLE starting at $22,500 and XLE Premium starting at $24,350. Both are modestly equipped and we have not many extras to consider. The only option available is a two-tone paint scheme with special colors for more splash and pizzazz. We cannot get navigation, sunroof, all-wheel drive, leather seating, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or other luxury features.

Standard are all of Toyota’s safety technology including forward-collision warning with pedestrian protection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, automatic high-beams and adaptive cruise control.

Toyota’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

You can find many small CUVs with more content for the money but you’d be hard-pressed to find one with more style and panache.

Seems to me the C-HR would be a good candidate for a manual transmission but, after all, how many millennials can drive one?

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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