Cars

2018 Toyota C-HR: In Production Form, And, Oh, What a Form That Is

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With the Scion brand consigned to the dustbin, Toyota slid its new, Scion-intended C-HR small crossover into its mainstream lineup. Of course, the C-HR was always planned to sell as a Toyota in other markets, such as Europe (where that market’s production version was shown in Geneva early this year). Look, just because the lifted-coupe thing hasn’t been cool to us since “Eagle” was an American Motors brand doesn’t mean that other folks don’t find it impossibly hip. Just ask the Germans. If the Japanese want to ape some of that perceived Teutonic snap, who are we to discourage them from making a vehicle with a name that stands for “Coupe High Rider”?

As befits the modern definition of “coupe” so handily revised by—you guessed it—the Germans, the C-HR features four doors with a sloping roofline and hatch. It rides on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) which also underpins the current Prius; carries a 144-hp, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-banger up front, routing its 140 lb-ft of torque through a CVT with a manual-shift mode that simulates seven forward gears. Engaging Sport mode snugs up those “shifts” and adds heft to the electrically assisted power steering. As of now, the C-HR is front-wheel drive only; there’s no AWD option.

While Toyota goes to great lengths to brag that TNGA was tuned at the Nürburgring, any legitimate sportiness is second to style, utility, and amenities in this segment. To that end, the C-HR’s dash features a 7.0-inch multimedia screen and a 4.2-inch multifunction display between the gauges, and on XLE models, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-folding and heated exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror, and dual-zone climate control. The XLE Premium adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, and puddle lamps that project “Toyota C-HR” onto the ground. Fog lamps and keyless start are also part of the XLE Premium package, while both trim levels get AM/FM/HD radio, Harman’s Aha app, a USB port and an aux jack, Bluetooth, voice recognition, and a 60/40 fold-down rear seat.

Style, however, is the C-HR’s real calling card. Whatever one thinks of the new little ute-coupe, it certainly has been styled by people concerned with adding styling to it. According to Toyota, the mission brief was a mere two words: “distinctive diamond.”

Whatever the directions handed to the styling people, the result looks like the Incredible Hulk about to bulge his way out of his shirt. With 18-inch wheels. And some cybernetic stuff. Bulging Borg Hulk. But small scale. And, lest you forget, a coupe. Small Borg Hulk Coupe. “SB-HC” isn’t a lamer name than C-HR, is it? We suppose the trademark stuff would get complicated—potentially as complicated as the C-HR’s aesthetics. Toyota does point out that the rear wing is functional.

All grades of C-HR are equipped with a forward-collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control. Inside, there’s a complement of 10 standard airbags, while a rearview camera surveys the surroundings behind you.

Toyota has yet to announce pricing, but we expect the C-HR will be competitive with Kia’s Soul and the Nissan Juke, its primary competitors in the funk-zazz-uticle segment. We admit, if you’d asked us 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have pegged “funk-zazz-uticle” as a viable market niche, but here’s behemoth Toyota, dropping a distinctive diamond right into the middle of it. Maybe they’ll do one up in Evangelion livery.

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