CAR REVIEW: 2018 Toyota CH-R

Then, you more or less nod your head. At least that’s the order in which I reacted to the CH-R. I was in Geneva in March 2016 and Los Angeles last November for the unveilings of the CH-R and honestly, gave it no mind whatsoever. Here is a vehicle with limited interest, usefulness and well, look at it.

2018 Toyota CH-R

Harsh as this may sound, I understand why these niche, off-the-wall product exist. There’s a minute portion of the new car buying market that looks for this type of vehicle and it serves as a poster child for Toyota’s wild side. If anything, it proves that Toyota’s got massive resources that I wish they’d put towards getting the next Supra here quicker, or bringing the FT-4X to market sooner or building a Celica concept.

My feelings towards the CH-R, and its name, are clear. Toyota brands it as a crossover, which it could be, but in Canada, a CUV must offer AWD and the CH-R does not. Time, and consumer acceptance, will tell if Toyota was wise in unleashing their version of Nissan’s Juke.

Styling inside/out

The CH-R’s looks are without a doubt polarizing, albeit less so than the Nissan’s Juke were when it was first launched back in 2010. With relatively few sold, they remained an unusual sight but shortly after, most would never give the thing a second glance. It is very likely that the same will happen with the CH-R.

The front end is um, not terrible. It gives the impression that it belongs on a far larger vehicle and that’s the idea. The rear end looks pinched at the beltline with Dame Edna’s glasses sitting in the middle with the ridges poking out on each side. The rear ¾ view is, well, I can’t aptly describe it. And then there’s the rear door handle…

2018 Toyota CH-R

No, I’m no fan of the CH-R’s styling but if you must go for one, opt for the Premium package as the 18” wheels help.

The cabin’ design is mercifully more conventional – this is after all where we spend the majority of our time. The center console is well thought out and I do like the shifter. The dashboard’s layout is original and entirely functional.

Comfort/space

I did the old Costco test. This is a fun if not expensive test and it’s always interesting how things turn out. I’ve become quite the trunk Tetris expert (although the wife doesn’t think so…) and I’ve continually managed to make everything fit. This time around, the Boy was at daycare and so we had access to all of the CH-R, thankfully. With the rear seatback in place, trunk space is only suitable.

Up front, passengers are treated to more than sufficient room for all appendages. The seats are surprisingly supportive and comfortable. The rear bench is equally welcoming however for anyone over 5”10’ or so, headroom will be snug.

Value/equipment

At $24,690, the CH-R is a tough sell. Just across the showroom, there’s an ex-Scion looking for just as much love and as far as I’m concerned, it deserves it more. The Corolla iM’s starting price is of $22,540, features similar levels of equipment and incorporates a larger trunk (588 litres vs. 538). I’m all for product diversification but this one’s a difficult one to understand. To boot, it’s better on gas and far easier on the eyes. Like I said…

2018 Toyota CH-R

As part of the entry price, Toyota includes a terrible rear-view camera display in the rear-view mirror. This is the result of the use of an antiquated head unit with graphics from the 90s. The 7” screen is not much good for anything else than displaying your favorite radio channel. I suspect this will be addressed sooner rather than later. Heated front seats, dual zone A/C, and a 4.2” TFT Multi Information Display are also included.

As expected, safety is high on the list of priorities and the CH-R is loaded with Toyota Safety Sense and many other passive safety features.

Powertrain/handling

This is where the nod comes from. Obviously, I’m no fan of this vehicle but the driving experience, mixed in with the more sedate cabin, prevented me from outright disliking the car.

In fact, I though the little bugger to be somewhat entertaining. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is peppy enough to get the 1,500kg car moving along. It is especially “fun” at midrange where 139 lb.-ft. of torque come into play. From a standstill, the standard CVT transmission suffers from rubbery response, not unusual for this type of ‘box.

2018 Toyota CH-R

There are a few drive modes to select from and their effect is mostly felt above 3,000 rpm. There are 144 horsepower on tap but they need a heavy right foot to be solicited. When cruising, the CH-R’s steering proves to be responsive and with good weight. The brakes are noble but my favorite part is the ride.

The suspension is firmly tuned for nimble handling. Over some rougher surfaces, it can get somewhat jarring but overall, I like the chassis’ agile and light feel.

Beyond the drive, I see no reason why someone would purchase a CH-R. For less than a grand over the Premium version, a 2017 AWD Hyundai Tucson can be yours. For only a few hundred bucks more than the base CH-R, you can call a delightful 2018 Mazda CX-3 GS AWD yours (if trunk space is not that important). I think I’ve bashed on the CH-R enough for now. Up to you to see if it’s for you at this point.

Then, you more or less nod your head. At least that’s the order in which I reacted to the CH-R. I was in Geneva in March 2016 and Los Angeles last November for the unveilings of the CH-R and honestly, gave it no mind whatsoever. Here is a vehicle with limited interest, usefulness and well, …

Review Overview

Comfort - 85%
Performance - 80%
Interior Space - 75%
Exterior Design - 70%
Interior Design - 80%
Fuel Economy - 85%

79%

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