The 2019 Toyota C-HR rolls into its second year with some minor tweaks, but retains its polarizing looks, loads of active safety features, and decent handling. At the same time, its tepid performance and cramped rear seat are disappointing, and did we mention that its design was offbeat?

Best Value

The 2019 Toyota C-HR offers a number of revisions that further distance the model from its Scion roots. The variations include a new entry-level model, while last year's XLE Premium has been replaced with the Limited trim. In addition, two option packages are available: Entune Audio Plus on the XLE and Entune Premium Audio on the Limited.

Pricing starts with the new base LE at $21,990 ($1,505 less than last year's XLE), and rises to the uplevel Limited model, with a two-tone paint scheme and Entune Premium audio, that checks in at $29,270 – a $3,425 increase over last year's most expensive model.

A long list of standard features includes the usual power bits plus LED daytime running lights, a rear spoiler, 17-inch steel wheels, heated outside mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay capability, a leather-trimmed shift knob, a cargo cover, and keyless entry. A rearview camera, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic headlights with high-beam assist are standard on all models.

With a single engine and transmission offered, we'd step up to the XLE trim that adds 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding power outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and touch-sensitive keyless entry with push-button start.

Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2019 Toyota C-HR XLE
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 144 hp / 139 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Continuously variable transmission
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 27 City / 31 Hwy
  • Options:None
  • Base Price:$24,025 (including a $1,045 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$24,025

Performance

Toyota C-HR

The C-HR stands above the rear twist beam-equipped crowd with Sachs dampers fitted to the front struts, a beefy front stabilizer bar, and an independent double wishbone rear suspension. Coupled with nicely-weighted steering, Toyota's subcompact crossover handles better than past small Toyotas.

But unlike many competitors, the C-HR isn't offered with the option of all-wheel drive here in the US, which is probably a good thing since it lacks the ground clearance for any serious thoughts of off roading. In addition, despite three different driving modes, zero-to-60 acceleration lies somewhere between "leisurely" and "eventually," as the physics of moving 3,300 pounds with a mere 144 horsepower rears its ugly head.

Style

With the Nissan Juke history, Toyota's entry stands out as the lone extrovert in the subcompact crossover class. With headlights that wrap tightly into the wheel wells, deeply sculpted sides that press into a skeletal shape, and a busy rear fascia with bracketed taillights that are equally expressive, the C-HR offers a new interpretation of the "rising window line, sloped roof line" crossover design.

That expressive, polarizing exterior is wrapped around an interior that offers plenty of room for front seat occupants and enough head room for six-footers in back. Flipping and folding the rear seats creates 36.4 cubic feet of cargo space with a flat load floor – something not typically found in this class.

On the other hand, with just 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the C-HR falls well short of the segment-leading Honda HR-V's 24.3 cubic feet, while rear seat passengers literally take a back seat to style – with awkward rear door handles and cutouts that cut into rear leg room, and a rising beltline and thick C-pillars that limit outward visibility. Topping things off are average interior materials and plenty of hard plastics that give the cabin a low-rent feel, while bits of silver trim do little to liven up the all-black interior.

The Best and Worst Things

The C-HR's combination of style and active safety features set it apart from most competitors in its class.

Despite having better than average handling characteristics for a small Toyota, a lack of performance means the C-HR just isn't much fun to drive.

Right For? Wrong For?

Toyota C-HR

A long list of standard active safety features makes the C-HR a solid choice for the safety conscious.

Enthusiasts need not apply. With a portly 3,300-pound curb weight that's anywhere from 176 pounds (Chevrolet Trax) to 491 pounds (Mazda CX-3) heavier than its competitors, an uninspiring 2.0-liter engine, and a performance-robbing CVT, there are much more enjoyable vehicles in this class.

The Bottom Line

With an urban mission in mind, where its lack of performance is less of an issue, the 2019 Toyota C-HR excels. But it's too compromised to stand out while navigating suburban sprawl and freeways or cosseting drivers during traffic jams, landing it mid-pack in the subcompact crossover class.