The Scion brand was Toyota’s attempt to lure young buyers to a brand whose average customer was anything but young. Scion may be gone but not forgotten – the 2018 Toyota C-HR is proof. Originally intended to wear a Scion badge, the funky little utility vehicle with polarizing styling was easily converted to a Toyota when the Scion brand got the axe. It is sold as a Toyota in overseas markets. The C-HR (Compact High Rider) was obviously destined for the American market. It is front-wheel-drive. There is no provision for an all-wheel-drive version.
The C-HR is built on the same global platform as the latest Prius.
It is much smaller than the RAV4, with about half the cargo volume. It gives Toyota an entry in the hot subcompact utility vehicle segment where the Chevy Trax, Buick Encore, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul and Nissan Juke are attracting younger buyers and taking sales away from compact cars.
The C-HR looks nothing like a Toyota with sharp edges and severe angles everywhere you look. The aggressive front fascia, sloping roofline and bulging fender flares shout “look at me”. The overall shape is much like that of a tall station wagon. The rear doors blend into the roofline with handles mounted at eye level. Unfortunately the wide pillars and narrow windows mean dismal rear visibility. Thankfully a rear view camera is standard, but in another twist of individuality, the display is contained within the left side of the rear view mirror.
The design team says it used a diamond for inspiration
There are diamond motifs on the seats, automatic climate controls, speaker surrounds, door pulls and headliner.
The interior continues the modern theme with hard plastic surfaces everywhere. But, they are covered in a piano black finish for a more upscale look. The infotainment screen juts up from the center of the swoopy instrument panel. The steering wheel has a pair of interesting cut outs, framed in the shiny black plastic used on the IP.
The front doors open nice and wide for easy entry/exit, the rears not so much. A cowl, making them easy read in bright sunlight, protects the oval analogue displays for engine and road speed. They flank a 10-cm configurable display. The front seats are heavily bolstered and proved comfortable for long sessions. Considering the small shadow cast by this vehicle, there is a surprising amount of room in the rear seat, not exactly commodious, but reasonable for two medium-sized individuals.
Evidence of the Scion roots is the single trim level, a basic tenant of the Scion system.
Scion was also noted for an audio system that made provision for adding on features. The C-HR does not have navigation – even as an option, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.
Mechanically the C-HR is pure Toyota. Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. There is not a surplus of power. You need to use a heavy right foot and listen to the engine’s constant high revs thanks to the CVT, when trying to hurry or pass.
Tackling the turns is a much more rewarding experience. The chassis engineers deserve a raise. There is no evidence of cost cutting here with a multilink rear suspension and Sachs shock absorbers at all four corners. Road imperfections are nicely absorbed and ride quality quite pleasant for such a small and light vehicle, riding on a short wheelbase. It is also surprisingly adept in the turns.
The C-HR is extremely well equipped and competes favourably with the competition in terms of value. For some, the styling might be a put off. But for others, the ability to stand apart from the pack can be an attraction.
Model: 2018 Toyota C-HR
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 144 horsepower, 139 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 8.7 / 7.5
Length: 4,350 mm
Width: 1,797 mm
Wheelbase: 2,640 mm
Weight: 1,497 kg
Price: $24,690 base, $28178 with Premium package and freight
Competition: Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke
Standard equipment: dual zone automatic climate control, tilt & telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, alloy wheels, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs, voice-recognition and 17-cm screen, auto high beam, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, lane departure warning.
Options: Premium Package, $1,600: 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitor system with rear cross traffic alert, power folding mirrors.