What we now know as the Toyota C-HR debuted as a Scion concept back in 2015. This was the crossover that was supposed to save Toyota’s aging forgotten child. Sadly – or maybe not so sadly – Toyota finally scrapped the ill-thought-out Scion brand before the C-HR made it to production. Toyota did us a solid, though, in absorbing the C-HR into its brand, and in 2018, the production model is here and isn’t too far off from the concept.
I’ve spent the past week in the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium, and here’s what I think of it.
When Scion launched the C-HR concept, there was no misunderstanding – this crossover was primed to push the brand in a new, more aggressive styling direction. Over the years, Scion had become stagnant and the brand was sinking like a rock because nothing ever really changed. Had the Scion C-HR made it to production, it would have almost immediately become the brand’s top seller. But, Scion died (RIP) and Toyota slid this sharp-looking rig into its portfolio.
Thankfully, Toyota didn’t slop a big ‘ol dollop of vanilla ice cream and four wheels and call it the production C-HR. It actually had the guts to take the C-HR almost from concept to production. Everywhere you look, there’s the concept’s fingerprints.
Up front, you have the sharp, stylized nose with the gloss-black insert, expressive headlights, and flared fenders that wrap nicely over the 18-inch wheels.
Down the sides, you have creases swooping down and back up and another shooting straight back, creating almost a raised section in the middle of each door. In one of the better executions of the coupe design in a crossover, the C-HR’s A-pillars kick up with a sleek rake from the fenders and the roofline slowly swoops back down. And the rear doors, while tiny and hard to squeeze through, play nicely in this design with their high, almost-hidden handle.
The unique design continues in the rear where Toyota puts the concept-inspired taillights on full display, perching them atop the body a bit. The hatch glass boasts a tight rake that gobbles up cargo room, but the way it completes the overall styling makes it forgivable.
Inside, the wildness tones down a lot, but there are still some unique touches that are very un-Toyota. These include the raised, soft-touch section of the dash, the diamond touches on the overhead light area, and the creatively positioned divots in the headliner that add style and make it a touch easier to grab the sun visor. The textured door panels are also a nice touch, but the hard plastic Toyota used was a letdown.
The 2018 Toyota C-HR pulls in a healthy 8 out of 10 for its bold styling.
In the front, the C-HR is more comfortable than I expected. The front seats sit lower for a crossover, giving it a sportier feel and a little extra headroom. The seats also are well padded and feature strong bolstering that keeps you in place. In the rear, though, things are a bit more mixed. With just 31.7 inches of legroom, the rear seats are useless for anything but kids. That said, Toyota formed the lower portion of the front seats in a way that allows for more foot room, and the rear seats’ higher seating position make it more tolerable.
While the rear seats are OK for kids, as I mentioned, you will want to think twice about a car seat. The rear door is so tight you have to pull off a little magic to cram the car seat back there. Once it’s in, all is good, but you won’t want to remove it for all eternity.
The ride is OK enough, but rough conditions combine with the 18-inch wheels to make things jarring. The engine has to work double-time to make up for its lack of power, but sound deadening reduces the buzzing and makes it tolerable.
Hauling cargo is not something you’ll want to consider in the 2018 Toyota C-HR. Its capacity with the seats up isn’t terrible at 19 cubic feet. Drop the rear seats, though, and you have a subpar 36.4 cubes.
Comfort rings in at a 5.5 out of 10 because the front seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, but those rear seats are tight.
Tech & Features
Tech is likely where the 2018 Toyota C-HR lets us down the most.
Toyota, we need to talk about that infotainment system. Look, I understand this was supposed to be a Scion, so Toyota designed it with all the Scion doo-dads, including that terrible infotainment system. But did you not have the time to re-engineer the center stack to include something with maybe a few features? I find that hard to believe.
You can connect Bluetooth and play aha radio – I don’t even know anyone who ever listened to aha – and is just about it. I spent 10 minutes trying to find the home screen so I could see all the apps until my wife informed me I was already on the home screen. What’s worse, being a Scion carryover, there are no tech options – what you see is what you get. This will change in 2019 when Toyota introduces a new optional infotainment system.
While its Scion roots means it flops in infotainment, it means the exact opposite in standard features. The 2018 C-HR comes standard with many goodies, including a rearview-mirror backup camera, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone auto climate control, leather-trimmed steering wheel, keyless entry, a 7-inch touchscreen, and more.
Once you get into safety tech, things get even better. Toyota loaded the C-HR with standard TSS-P, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control.
I give the 2018 Toyota C-HR a 6 out of 10 for features. It lost a ton of points because of the ancient and featureless infotainment system, but gained it back with its slew of standard features.
Performance & Fuel Economy
With how the C-HR looks, one may expect it be quick. Sadly, its looks are very deceiving.
The C-HR’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is inexcusably underpowered at 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, and its continuously variable transmission does nothing but muck things up even more. Sure, you can hit Sport mode and get seven simulated gears, but it is still God-awful slow, especially from a dead stop.
Also disappointing is that the C-HR is only available with front-wheel drive. Toyota markets the C-HR as a crossover, so it should have at least optional all-wheel drive. But it does not, and there’s no sign of this coming soon.
However, handling is above average. No, it’s not a canyon carver, but for a high-riding hatchback, it’s better than most in its class. One of my favorite parts is the steering system’s accuracy and quick response, as it changes lanes with a quick flip of the wrist, but its suspension holds up well in most corners too. Sadly, it’s this handling that also makes me wish Toyota put a little more under the hood.
Look, I know Toyota isn’t listening to me, but it has an awesome thing here in the C-HR. It looks incredible and sporty, and it handles well enough with no modification; why not massage it a little more and create a legit performance crossover out of it?
With its detuned engine, buyers may expect some kind of return in fuel economy, but the C-HR refuses. While it is not Ford EcoSport bad, its 27 mpg city, 31 highway, and 29 combined isn’t far off. Being based on the Toyota TGNA underpinnings makes the 2018 C-HR wider and heavier than most of its competitors, which likely plays heavily into its subpar fuel economy ratings.
I love the tight handling the 2018 C-HR offers, but every other part of its performance is just bad. It earns a 3 out of 10.
What Would I Do?
The C-HR XLE starts from $22,500 and the XLE Premium like I had starts from $24,350. If I had that cash, would I feel comfortable buying the 2018 C-HR?
While I would love to say “yes,” there is just too much that’s not quite right with the C-HR yet. I believe its shortcomings are a product of the Scion-to-Toyota transition, so I would wait at least until 2019, which is when the C-HR will get the latest Entune infotainment system and Apple CarPlay support.