Toyota’s C-HR Limited:
A Renewed Focus On Youth – And Why Are We Not Surprised?
For the handful paying attention to the 2020 Presidential sweepstakes, you’ll know that the Democratic primaries look to be chock full of anyone and everything. Bernie could return for his second run, Joe Biden is considering his third, and South Bend (IN) mayor Pete Buttigieg is exploring the concept of running as a millennial! If Mayor Pete (which is how you’re known when your surname is B-u-t-t-i-g-i-e-g) should get an electoral majority, we’ll suggest a stretched, armored version of Toyota’s C-HR as the primo presidential limo (if Pete can’t find a stretched Studebaker) for the newly elected millennial. It is – as Toyota’s own execs might put it – expressive, without looking excessive.
Formally announced as a 2018 model in March, 2017, the C-HR ventured into new territory – or so Toyota’s PR department would have us think – for Toyota Design. Dubbed ‘C-HR’ by the marketing brain trust, it’s Coupe High-Rider for the uninitiated. The fact that it’s a 4-door hatch with a completely accessible step-in (my 89-year old mother could do it) shouldn’t give you pause; as discussed in a recent review of the Lexus UX 200, it is also described as a crossover. That Lexus and this Toyota are closer to what we’ve typically regarded as 4-door hatchbacks than all-road crossovers speaks more to marketing than absolute functionality.
For 2019 the C-HR gains a Limited trim which, when equipped with Toyota’s premium audio/nav package, optional paint/two-tone paint and paint protection film(!) nudges $30,000. By anyone’s standard, that $30K is real money, and begs the obvious question: Is it the real deal – and, of course, a real deal?
After two years of digesting the C-HR’s angular, in-your-face design I’ve almost grown to like it. The available two-tone palette helps, with the roof finished in a contrasting color to the lower sheetmetal. Despite the Asian angularity, with the two-tone combo it all looks rather European – you can imagine driving for Uber in Paris, or – for this readership – Paris, Texas. And while its footprint is compact – 171 inches of overall length on a 104-inch wheelbase – there’s a substantial vibe to how the C-HR sits in your driveway; it may occupy a similar amount of territory as Toyota’s Corolla hatchback, but there’s a crossover vibe to the C-HR that you obviously don’t get in a compact hatch.
There isn’t, however, much SUV in the platform. Available only with front-wheel drive, you’ll need to rely on a winter tire/wheel combo to navigate winter. And if thinking boulder hopping, you should find some small gravel in Boulder (CO); with less than six inches of ground clearance you’d best stick to the paved parking lots.
Under the hood is 144 horsepower of 2.0 liter Toyota four. Normally aspirated, and connected to a CVT transmission, the powertrain will deliver you miles of smiles, but none of the more desirable grins; we’re talking 3300 unladen pounds here. The responsiveness (or lack of same) is what you expect, while the chassis – with MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link arrangement in the rear – impresses with its almost point-and-shoot alacrity. You won’t confuse this with a Miata (or Ford’s Fiesta ST), but neither will you confuse it with Toyota’s 4-Runner. This is a genuinely nimble urban-oriented hatch.
Inside, you won’t confuse any of the plastics with those used by Audi, but the leather-trimmed and heated front seats are easy to access, comfortable once seated and seemingly supportive for the long haul. Rear seat room is adequate for two, marginal for three. But the rear seat does fold, and once horizontal supplies over 36 cubic feet of storage. Bring a bike or tent, but know that to accommodate both you’ll need a rack.
With a base price of $22,500, there’s an argument to be made for Toyota’s crossover-oriented hatch. Take it to $30K, however, and there’s a better argument to be made for the Toy Store’s RAV4. You won’t get the leather-trimmed, top-of-the-line RAV for that, but you’ll enjoy far more bang for your hard-to-earn buck.