Tom Crosby: Toyota launches eye-catching small SUV for 2018

Tom Crosby

Last year Toyota discontinued its Scion brand designed to lure and acquaint young first-time buyers to its brand.

But some Scion DNA remains intact with Toyota’s new 2018 C-HR subcompact SUV designed with a quirky and attention-getting exterior.

It looks built for speed with squinty headlights, a slash of a grill, pugnacious front nose and recessed fog lights in front. The rear has a roof overhang, shallow spoiler and fender-low and window-high rear lights. Side swales, high rear door handles and rising beltline ending in thick back pillars complete the unusual look.

Unfortunately, the 2.0-liter engine with continuous variable transmission doesn’t produce any memorable on-road performance even with manual selection in Sport mode, hindered somewhat by the vehicle’s ton-and-a-half weight.

The lack of quickness, however, rewards those watching their pennies because our XLE Premium C-HR test drive (there is a base XLE also) averaged 30 miles per gallon in predominantly city driving, beating EPA’s estimates.

Our options included a white roof and color-matched side mirror casings, dubbed “iceberg” by Toyota, above a ruby-red body, reminiscent of Toyota’s discontinued white-roofed FJ Cruiser.

It’s Toyota’s first subcompact and resides below the popular Toyota compact RAV4, with more space, more pep but costing several thousand dollars more.

Safety appeal is C-HR’s strong suit with Toyota’s Safety Sense standard, bringing aboard lane departure alert, dynamic cruise control, pre-collision braking and pedestrian detection – costly options on many competitors.

Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert come with XLE Premium.

C-HR stands for Coupe High Rider, although there are four doors and ground clearance is 5.9 inches.

All 2018 cars are federally mandated to have rear view cameras and the C-HR view is mounted on the left corner of the rear view mirror with a shallow cross-traffic alert range.

While sluggish from a stop, the C-HR navigated curves with minimal lean and the European tuned suspension contributed to a smooth and comfortable ride on 18-inch all-season steel-belted tires on (there is a spare).

There is considerable engine noise upon acceleration and wind/road noise at interstate cruising speeds.

Cabin space is surprisingly ample, with comfortable cloth seats in all positions, including rear, although wide pillars hinder rear side window views. Cargo space is adequate with flat folding rear seats. Visors don’t extend and no options exist for navigation or audio connections like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Toyota’s Entune.

LIKES: Attractive style, cabin space, safety aids, handling, mileage, ride

DISLIKES: Acceleration, missing options, wind/road noise

BOTTOM LINE: Not as sophisticated as competitors but visually attractive



Base price w/destination fee: $25,310 ($26,794 as tested)

Vehicle weight: 3,300 lbs.

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches

Length: 171.2 inches

Width: 70.7 inches

Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC 4-cylinder

Horsepower: 144 hp at 6,100 rpm

Torque: 139 ft.-lbs. at 3,900 rpm

Transmission: Continuous variable auto/manual  shift

EPA rating: 27 mpg city and 31 mpg highway

Range: 13.2-gallon tank, regular

Performance:  0-60 in just under 11 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.