Extroverted styling. Based on the same underpinnings as the Toyota Corolla and Toyota RAV4, the 2020 Toyota C-HR takes its design aesthetic in an entirely different direction, brandishing spectacular creases, astonishing folds, and an outsize serving of tucks and slits. Some may find the funky look disconcerting, but it grew on us, and, besides, you’ll never be accused of being a wallflower driving a C-HR.
For 2020, Toyota has rearranged the ducts and slits on the front fascia, smoothing things out without toning it down, with the most noteworthy change reserved for the headlights – swapping out last year’s projector-beams for either LED reflectors (LE, XLE), or adaptive LED projector units (Limited).
Wide-ranging safety. In addition to addressing the poor headlight performance of the previous two versions, the latest C-HR, in addition to 10 airbags and a rearview camera, comes with advanced safety features that include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic headlights with high-beam assist.
While standard on the XLE and Limited trims, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – nearly must-haves considering the poor rear visibility – aren't offered on the base LE model.
Features galore. Along with the usual power bits (windows, locks, mirrors), even the $22,415 entry-level C-HR LE is offered with LED daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, an acoustic noise-reducing windshield, keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-trimmed shift lever, one-touch auto up/down power windows, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information instrument display, and an 8-inch touchscreen with satellite radio, Bluetooth, and Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa capability.
For an additional $2,035, XLE buyers receive those additional safety features plus larger 18-inch alloy wheels, touch-sensitive outside front and hatchback door handles, outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators, “Toyota” puddle lights, keyless push button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the ability to choose the $500 R-Code Paint Treatment – a color-keyed body with a silver or black roof and outside mirrors.
But despite all those goodies, what you will find lacking is the ability to order a C-HR with either a factory-installed sunroof or all-wheel-drive – a couple of niceties offered on many rivals.
Smooth ride, so-so performance and fuel economy. The C-HR offers up a smooth, comfortable ride, and a surprisingly fun-to-drive character thanks to Sachs dampers and a beefy stabilizer up front. Also, an upmarket double wishbone setup in back stands in contrast to the cheaper twist-beam suspensions fitted to many competitors.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine offers decent off-the-line acceleration, body lean is minimal through the corners, and there’s surprisingly good feedback through the steering wheel and brake pedal. In addition, Sport mode offers clever upshift steps built into the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
At the same time, acceleration post step-off – accompanied by wind and tire noise, along with CVT drone when you put your foot into it – lies somewhere between "languid" and "momentarily." Not to mention, the C-HR only manages to achieve a modest EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 29 combined. During a week of mixed city and highway miles, we only managed a vehicle-measured 25.6 miles per gallon.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Toyota C-HR is heavier than rivals, by anywhere from 176 (Chevrolet Trax) to 491 (Mazda CX-3) pounds. And it's powered by an adequate by uninspiring engine mated to a performance-robbing CVT. These two metrics underscore the issue that there are more enjoyable vehicles in this class.
At the same time, the C-HR soldiers on as a practical – though not particularly thrifty – crossover for urban drivers, offering cleaner styling, brighter headlights, and updated technology. But that lack of power, along with no AWD option and a cave-like rear seat, keep it mid-pack in the subcompact crossover class.
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