(Contributing Editor: George Straton)
When Toyota pulled the plug on it’s aspirationally youthful Scion North American sub-brand in 2017 it admitted a re-thinking of the product needed to compete for younger hearts and minds. Only the later term Scion models, such as a Toyobaru (86), a European hatchback Auris (Corolla iM) and a Mazda Demio (Yaris iA) would survive un re-badging.
But also just then making the auto show rounds was brazenly imaginative, ready for production concept “mini cute ute” called C-HR. For Compact-High Rider. Or Coupe-High Rider. Possibly a portmanteau of Honda’s CR-V and HR-V?
With a simple badge swap, this temporarily badged Scion would not be still born. For it was foretold that the 2018 C-HR would become the Little Engine that Could bring younger buyers into the Toyota fold.
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WHAT: All-new 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE sub-compact sports activity vehicle, built off the G-AC floorpan of the automaker’s new Toyota New Global Architecture flexible platform.
Standard Power: 1987 cc, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 144 hp/ 139 lb-ft;
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Unlike anything Toyota or Scion has ever offered before on these shores; A collection of oblique concave panels reminiscent of Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House. √ V-shaped hood floats over razor thin wrap-around front projector beam light housings; √ No grille; √ Dark cladding runs entire perimeter, also forming mud flaps; √ Jutting chin lower air dam;
√ Muscular front fenders; √ Large wheels arches filled by 18″ smoked wheels; √ Rising beltline and cheat-line rise to meet [opt.] contrast color teardrop roof; √ Flush door handles fitted at the top most joint with the C-pillar = Floating Roof;
√ Rear quarters, pierced by boomerang lighting, crease into cubic corners; √ De-rigeur roof spoiler = slatted; √ Sloped tailgate culminates in a concave panel with subtle lip.
WHY: A sticking-its-tongue-out cute-ute with an available two-tone dye-job to match the alternative young crowd’s.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2017
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Sakarya, Turkey
WHERE TO: Anywhere with pavement; Eminently fittable in tight urban quarters; With only 0.5″ more clearance than a Prius, don’t even think about off-road adventures.
HOW ROADWORTHY: The youthfully wacky design belies a surprisingly couth character:
The power / drivetrain is copped from the 300 lbs. lighter Corolla iM sportback; Extra mass does no acceleration favors; Only using the cumbersome MFI screen to select Sport mode + Manumatic CVT shift lever toggling will permit quasi linear locomotion to 5500 rpm and thereby avoid humiliation by a Prius.
Camber on the front strut, rear dual wishbone chassis is set for some straight tracking on the wide, grippy 225-50VR/ 18 Dunlop Sport SP5000’s; Behold two suprises: Quick steering is accurate, while stiff springs paired with improved damping rebound control yield Camry-esque compliance; Pedal modulation on the biting 4-wheel disc brakes dislikes jabs.
HOW FAR: 33 combined miles per gallon; 475 miles highway range
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ C-HR wheelbase = 1.7″ > Honda HR-V, 2.8″ > Mazda CX-3; -1 only 31.7″-inches Row 2 legroom = 7.6″< HR-V, 2.7″ < CX-3; -1 500 lbs. > CX-3;
HOW USEFUL: √ Low load floor w/ 60/40% split 2nd Row seat backs; √ Flexible cargo shade; √ Acceptable front, modest rear door pocket storage; +1 Front seat bolstering; -1 Outward visibility from high cowl, obtrusive side pillars, short liftgate window; –1 Heavy liftgate action; -1 No liftgate grab ledge or release switch; Tow Rating: Not Rated.
-1 Cargo space (expanded) = 40% < HR-V, 18 < CX-3;
HOW SAFE: √ 8 airbags; √ Rear camera; √ Full adaptive cruise control; √ Lane departure warning, prevention; √ Collision avoidance emergency braking; √ E-parking brake w/ auto hold; -1 Lane departure warning has difficulty sensing lane markings; -1 Rear camera display in rear-view mirror;
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Sport bolstered front bucket seats; √ 4 power windows = full express; √ Height adjustable front pax seat; √ Tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel w/ spoke-integrated controls; √ Dual zone automatic climate control; +1 Wind & road noise isolation; -1 Hard to reach / buckle front safety belts;-1 Annoying occupied safety belt disuse chime; -1 Non-distinctive steering wheel redundant controls; -1 Inconvenience of navigating MFI Trip menu to change drive modes; –1 Fuel door release and auto high beam switches obscured;
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Rear door concealed exterior high-mount handles; √ See exterior “STYLING” (above);
Details Done Right: √ Piano black gloss instrument panel & steering wheel ; √ Exposed stitch padded layered dashboard canopy; √ Metallic vent bezels; √ Partial simulated carbon fiber door panels; √ Blue-green night switch illumination; √ Front and 2nd Row dome courtesy lights;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Industrial grain hard dark plastics throughout, -1 Monolithic dark plastic covers much of rear door windows filtering out light; -1 Cheezy, fussy elastic loop hooks for cargo shade; -1 Headliner dimples;
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Semi- dash-top 7.0″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; √ Voice learning hands-free communications; √ 6-speaker, 160 W w/ streaming audio & HD radio; √ Mobile powered APPS = Siri-Eyes, Pandora, aHa radio, podcasts & Nearby
√ Subscription based: Sirius XM (90 day free trial);
√ USB x 1, 12V x 1; +1 Acceptable lower center stack mobile device shelf;
HOW MUCH: $24,381 = monospec 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE;
WHAT’S MISSING: All Wheel Drive; Greater locomotion; Modern infotainment (either Entune or Android Auto / Apple Car Play will suffice); Extra USB port; 2nd Row power supply; Row 2 ceiling grab handles.
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Ecosport: +1 Conventional 6-speed automatic transaxle, AWD, Sync3 infotainment; Honda HR-V: +1 Rear seat space & cargo versatility, AWD, Infotainment; Mazda CX-3: +1 Conventional 6-speed automatic transaxle, AWD, Performance, Fuel economy, Soft touch surfaces, Infotainment ;
BOTTOM LINE: Filling the bizarro styling void left by the departure of the Nissan Juke.