One of the most interesting aspects of testing an all-new vehicle is watching the reactions of people you encounter, most of whom will never have seen that particular model before.
Reactions are naturally very wide indeed, ranging from total disinterest to “love at first sight.” Often, the models that grab the most attention are not necessarily those with huge price tags or exotic nameplates. There are just some products that immediately seem to capture the hearts of all who see them.
So it was with the 2018 Toyota C-HR I tried recently, both around the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. When BC Ferry crews gather around your set of wheels on the car deck, you know you’ve hit on something a little out of the ordinary. The C-HR attracted so many compliments, I wish I’d had the designer along with me – he or she would have been highly flattered with the reaction of the public.
The C-HR is described by Toyota as “a high style coupe crossover” and that’s about what I would call it. The aim of the designers was to break the conventional language of crossover design and judging by public reaction, they achieved this goal and more. It’s a very edgy styling job that stands out from everything on the market that’s close to it.
People trying it for the first time really do think that it’s a two-door coupe because the rear door handles are cleverly hidden in the rearmost roof pillars. Once you get used to this handle location, it’s a breeze to open the rear doors and it’s a very tidy design feature. The little rig sits on large 17-inch wheels with beefy wheel arches and has a nice, purposeful, stance to it. It’s a good looker from every angle.
Though this is a very compact vehicle and thus easy to maneuver and park in the city, it’s surprisingly roomy inside, both for passengers and cargo. Since I was moving house during my time with the C-HR, I had good reason to stack the load deck with cargo for the occasional trip.
The cabin and instrument panel reflect Toyota’s usual attention to detail and the seats are especially well designed. The product comes in just one well-equipped trim level, XLE, but there is a premium package available for a little more money. My tester came with this package that added lots of upgrades and cost a reasonable $1,600. For $540 you can get the two-tone paint my C-HR had and believe me, if you want to make an impression on your friends, this is the way to go.
Ride comfort is surprisingly good for a short wheelbase vehicle and handling in tight situations is commendable too. The C-HR boasts a wide range of electronic safety features to keep you out of trouble, including a pre-collision system, pedestrian detection function, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control and lots of other goodies.
Power is supplied by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine generating 144-horsepower, more than helpful in giving the C-HR punchy performance and lots of road going fun. It’s a thrifty little rig on fuel and I found that if anything, I was getting better mileage than the manufacturer claims.
After many years of not having a compact crossover in its range, Toyota likely has a hit on its hands with this one. It’s great to drive, easy on the eye and outstandingly finished. And it might just be the most stylish city car out there.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Compact coupe crossover
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 8-secs
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.2-litres/100 km combined
PRICE: $24,690 base MSRP