G. Chambers Williams

C-HR brings small crossover entry to Toyota lineup, starting at $22,500

For 2018, Toyota has added another crossover utility vehicle to its lineup, this one a five-passenger model called the C-HR, which plays in the fast-growing “B-segment,” also called subcompact. smaller than the compact Toyota RAV4.

Other players in the field include the new Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Kona, along with the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Buick Encore, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Soul, Audi Q3, Infiniti QX30, Jeep Renegade and Nissan Juke.

Similar to the Nissan Juke design, the C-HR – which stands for “Coupe High Rider” – is designed to look more like a coupe than a boxy SUV, and, also like the Juke, the C-HR has nearly hidden rear doors with hard-to-spot handles at their top rear that are flush with the body and painted the same color.

Still, the C-HR has room for four adults, or five in a pinch (pun intended), with bucket seats up front and a bench in the rear. Knee room is limited, though, especially with the front seats pushed back enough on their tracks to accommodate taller or larger drivers and front passengers.

To illustrate how camouflaged the rear doors are, at least in some people’s perception, one of my companions who was getting into the C-HR’s back seat to go on a dinner run thought she was going to have to climb into the rear through the front door. “There is no rear door,” she insisted when I told her she didn’t need to enter through the front.

The rear side windows, though, were another issue. They are quite small, and make it difficult for the rear passengers to see out to the side. Two different backseat passengers complained about them while riding in the C-HR. My take is that the target consumers for the C-HR probably won’t have many adult rear-seat passengers, or many rear passengers at all, except for a baby, perhaps.

The rear hatch also has a rather small oval-shaped window that limits visibility to the rear for the driver – except for the rearview camera, whose display is integrated into the left side of the C-HR’s otherwise conventional rearview mirror.

There are two trim levels of the C-HR, the base XLE, which starts at $22,500 (plus $995 freight), and the XLE Premium, beginning at $24,350, which was our test vehicle for this report. That compares with a starting price of $24,510 for the larger RAV4.

Front-wheel drive is standard on the C-HR; all-wheel drive is not available.

Under the hood of both models is a normally aspirated 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, rated at 144 horsepower and 139 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission, the only gearbox available.

EPA fuel-economy ratings are 27 mpg city/31 highway/29 combined. With mostly highway driving, we averaged just under 29 mpg during our week in the C-HR, with it switched to “Eco” mode. That gave our C-HR a limited range on a full tank of gas, if the onboard “Distance to Empty” readout was to be believed. When we filled the tank with 25 miles until empty showing on the instrument panel, the DTE readout only went to about 280 miles.

But with 25 miles to empty showing on the dash, our C-HR took just under 10 gallons of fuel to fill the 13.2-gallon tank. That means that either the DTE readout was way off, or our tank didn’t really hold 13.2 gallons.

The C-HR was surprisingly fun to drive, though, even with the continuously variable transmission. There was never any doubt that we had plenty of power, even when we needed some extra zip for overtaking and passing on the open road.

Acceleration was smooth, and pickup was quick, even from standing still. There are driver-selectable Eco and Sport drive modes for the CVT. There is also a seven-speed sequential-shift feature for the transmission, which can help boost acceleration.

Handling was decent as well, with quick and sure steering response. The ride was comfortable, although not overly cushy, and our cloth front bucket seats were comfortable even for a medium-long highway jaunt.

There’s lots of technology on board, including, on our XLE Premium, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and a front pre-collision system with pedestrian alert.

The blind-spot monitor and the integrated rear cross-traffic alert were part of the included XLE Premium Package, which also brought integrated fog lights, the Smart Key system with pushbutton start, auto-folding outside mirrors (they folded in when the car was locked from the outside), front seat heaters, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar, and a puddle lamp with “C-HR” projection onto the ground outside the driver’s door.

Our car also came with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic projector-beam halogen headlights. LED daytime running lights with on/off switch, color-keyed outside power mirrors with integrated turn signals, and a rear-window wiper and defroster.

Interior amenities included dual-zone automatic climate control with outside temperature readout, seven-inch touch-screen audio system with six speakers, AM/FM/HD radio with AHA, iPhone integration, auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming, leather-trimmed manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a 4.2-inch driver-information display in the center of the instrument panel, with digital speedometer readout.

C-HR also comes with a driver knee air bag, front passenger seat-cushion air bag, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side air bags, self-dimming rearview mirror, LATCH child-seat anchors (rear seat), and tire-pressure monitoring.

Our vehicle, which was assembled in Turkey, came with the special “R-Code” Blue Eclipse Metallic exterior paint with Iceberg white top, outside mirrors and A-pillars, for $500 extra. I’m not a big fan of two-toned cars, though, so this configuration was lost on me. I did like the Blue Eclipse paint, though.

The interior was black with unique diamond accents on the climate controls, speaker surrounds, and black headliner. The audio display sits on top of the dash.

Other exterior color choices include Ruby Flare Pearl, Blizzard Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Black Sand Pearl and Silver Knockout Metallic. Also available with the R-Code two-tone configuration are the Ruby Flare Pearl and special Radiant Green Mica colors.

There is also an electronic parking brake, along with bolstered sport front bucket seats. There are two front cupholders – one in front of the shifter, and one behind, in the center console area.

Front and rear bottle holders are included in the doors, but there are no center cupholders for rear passengers.Plenty of sound-deadening material helps keep the cabin quiet, even at highway speeds.

The rear hatch is manually operated, and the rear seatback has a 60/40 seat split-fold-down feature to expand the 19-cubic-foot cargo area to 36.4 cubic feet with the full seatback folded.

There is an integrated cargo cover that rises up when the hatch is opened. A hidden cubby on the side of the cargo area and compartments under the floor can keep small items out of sight.

The C-HR has low ground clearance – just 5.9 inches – so is not suitable for off-road operation. No trailer-towing information was provided.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2018 Toyota C-HR

The package: Subcompact, five-door, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: Toyota joins the growing small SUV (”B”) segment with the introduction of the 2018 C-HR, a crossover smaller than its RAV4 model, with a stylish coupe-like exterior, well-designed interior and sporty handling.

Negatives: Back seat tight for three adults; limited rearward visibility for driver.

Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with seven-speed sport-shift manual mode.

Power/torque: 144 HP/132 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock, with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Electronic stability control: Standard, including traction control.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain, both rows.

Overall length: 171.2 inches.

Cargo capacity: 19 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 36.4 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).

Curb weight (range): 3,300 pounds.

Towing capacity: Not provided.

Fuel capacity/type: 13.2 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city/31 highway/29 combined.

Major competitors: Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Soul, Buick Encore.

Base price range: $22,500-$24,350 plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $26,039, including freight and options (XLE Premium).

On the Road rating: 8.3 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.