• 2018 Toyota CH-R
  • 2018 Toyota CH-R

Road Test: 2018 Toyota C-HR

Offbeat Looks + Fun Driving

Remember Scion? The junior, fun brand in the Toyota family was supposed to be where young people made their connection with Toyota. It was born because, back in 2003, some folks at Toyota believed that the youth of America saw Toyota was too old and stodgy.

2018 Toyota CH-R

Toyota’s quirky subcompact crossover contender

In 2017, Scion is gone. The brand died when it received too little exciting new product, and, more importantly, when Toyota’s leadership figured out that young people were buying Toyotas after all.

You can acquire three former Scions rebadged as Toyotas—the Corolla iM, Mazda-sourced Yaris iA, and 86 sports coupe (formerly FR-S). Now, the car that was originally meant to be the new Scion compact crossover has become the 2018 Toyota C-HR.

Edgy Diamond Design

The design theme is called “Distinctive Diamond,” and indeed there are many edges and surfaces all over the multifaceted body, especially looking at the side profile. Numerous diamond shapes appear inside the car, too, on the dual-zone climate controls, speaker surrounds, and the black headliner. However, the overall effect of the body design is more stimulating to the eye than the more restrained interior.

2018 Toyota CH-R

Diamonds are the CH-R’s “easter eggs”

Standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, electric parking brake (takes up less room), and “Sport Fabric-trimmed” bucket seats with “sport bolsters,” which are adjustable six ways.

This “urban-dwelling crossover” borrows some of the street style of the Nissan Juke, which is itself slated for an update, having spent the last several years shaking up traditional car design. C-HR stands for “Coupe-High Rider.” Make of that what you will.

Two-Tone Style

My sample vehicle sported the two-tone paint you get when you order the R-Code option. The Radiant Green color, mixed with Iceberg (white) on the roof and mirrors, keeps things lively. It’s only available as a two-tone.

My tester was the XLE model. There’s also a Premium version that gets additional safety and styling updates, along with illuminated vanity mirrors and more seat adjustment choices. You enjoy the safety of blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, two features that are increasingly available standard on modern cars. In the Premium version the front seats are power adjustable and heated, and you get a smart key with push-button start.

The Power & the Infinite Transmission

2018 Toyota CH-R

The storage space is tight, but functional

Whichever model you pick, it’s a 3,300-pound car motivated by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels. It churns out 144 horsepower and 139 pounds-feet of torque through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). CVTs aren’t designed for sportiness, but this one, called a CVTi-S, lets you select Sport mode and use paddle shifters to pick seven preselected “ratios.” That mitigates some of the oddness of the CVT sound, as it searches for the ideal ratio, but it may lower the efficiency. At least it’s more fun.  

2018 Toyota CH-R

Displays tell the story in the cockpit

EPA numbers are 27 city/31 highway/29 combined. I accumulated 26.3 mpg. Green scores are only a 3 for Smog and a better 6 for Greenhouse Gas.

The 2018 Toyota C-HR receives two Toyota-first features: Driver Distraction Secure Audio and Brake Hold Function. The first limits the menus you can view on the screen while moving, complying with driver distraction guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Brake Hold keeps the brakes on slightly when the car is still, even if you reduce pressure on the pedal. That keeps you from rolling inadvertently, I guess. A full-electric car can do that already.

The Inside Story

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is not big, but with a rear hatch and 36.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the split rear seats folded, you can do a lot with it.

2018 Toyota CH-R

The CH-R has “youth appeal” with style and tech

The driving experience is what you’d hope for and expect from a smaller, tauter vehicle. I wouldn’t call it memorable, but it is based on the new TNGA C platform. This fresh chassis design combines a low center of gravity with high strength and low weight, so it makes for a better handling car. In fact, Toyota tested this car on the famous Nürburgring Nordschliefe, where companies take their supercars. No information on its score, but it does give the C-HR some bragging rights.

Things like variable electronic power steering can make a difference. It changes the amount of assist depending on your speed, so you can park easily while getting more feedback out on the highway. A new double-wishbone, multi-link rear suspension isn’t the kind of thing you’d necessarily find on such an affordable car.

Pricing starts at $23,460 for the XLE and jumps to $25,310 for the Premium. My XLE tester ran $24,969 with a few options, including the two-tone paint. 

The would-be Scion C-HR is aimed at customers who want to have fun, stand out a bit in traffic, and don’t have lots of money to spend. That means the 2018 Toyota CH-R is playing its role now, regardless of the brand or the badge it wears.

Other Contenders in the Subcompact SUV/Crossover Category:

Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3

Road Test: 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Road Test: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke Nismo

Road Test: 2015 Buick Encore

Road Test: 2015 Chevrolet Trax


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Recently, Steve became a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore, and is focused on moving to EVs and 100% renewable energy. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

9 thoughts on “Road Test: 2018 Toyota C-HR

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