Auto123 reviews the 2020 Toyota C-HR in a long-term test drive. Today, Part Three.
Like Napoleon Bonaparte, the C-HR is small but dynamic. Eccentric even. The small roof lunges back towards the hatch like a head of hair pulled back by the wind. To add to that effect, the roof can be given a Grecian Formula-like treatment, the two-tone grey-black colour scheme being very effective at giving the model a younger appearance. Sporting a shark’s fin antenna, that roof begins, after I look at it long enough, to remind me of nothing if not a young pocket-rocket driver’s backward baseball cap.
There’s nary a panel that runs straight and true on the C-HR. With its many reliefs, indents and angles, this is a piece of sculpture that invites an exploration of its nooks and crannies. Toyota has actually invoked the idea of a diamond. Maybe, but if so the cutter that worked on this diamond likely smoked a big one before setting to it.
It helps to know that the C-HR was originally intended to exist as a Scion, until Toyota pulled the plug in 2016 on the division created to target those backward baseball cap-wearing consumers.
The LED headlights frown menacingly while the rear lights protrude like the bug eyes of a frog that’s spotted a potential mate. Parking the car after dark, you’re tempted to remove them and bring them inside, lest someone make off with them.
Looking ahead to 2021, Toyota is adding to the model range a Nightshade edition. Once you’ve made your choice from among the four available colours (I’ll spare you the Supersonic and Magnetic descriptives and call them black, white, red or grey), this gets added to the edition’s obligatory black roof, black 18-inch alloy wheels, black door handles, black badging, black skirt and black accents spread throughout, for a thoroughly funereal appeal. It all comes across like a car out of Mad Max, but remade by Disney.
The Nightshade edition, which Toyota has provided on other models in its lineup, is in fact a variant of the C-HR XLE Premium trim, which sells for $28,589 before you count the extra $860 for the sombre touches.
Below it, there’s the LE base model, given 17-inch wheels and carrying a $26,089 sticker price. Lording above both versions is the all-dressed Limited, the one given me for my test drive, and priced at $31,189. Take note these prices include the $1,840 transport and prep fees, and $100 A/C and $395 dealer tax, but the final price could vary.
Funky good times
The inside of the C-HR is as funky as the outside. The dials are placed in portholes grouped within a 4.2-inch screen behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel (substitute urethane in the LE). The other, main screen is 8 inches diagonally and bordered by a fake metal surface that undulates like a wave from one door to the other. This clever bit of design spares us feeling like the screen has been deposited on the top of the central console like an afterthought.
A further inspection of the environment reveals elements like the crested door tread, diamond-pattern doors and embossed ceiling, which speak to the designers' commitment to giving the C-HR a slightly offbeat personality.
On to the audio system, an important element in a car that seeks to appeal to those backwards cap-wearing drivers. The 6-speaker system performs… adequately. Several times I cranked up the volume to 11, Spinal Tap-style, to get the full feel of a song, and the results were not exactly dazzling. And it’s not like upgrading is an option; there’s nothing else in the product offering for those who want to make all the other motorists around them take notice. On the plus side, the infotainment system can accommodate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the Limited trim integrates satellite radio.
The IQ and vocabulary of the voice recognition system are limited and rudimentary, respectively. But like with your dog (not cat, since they never listen to you anyways), if you stick to simple, clear instructions, you can have gratifying conversations with the C-HR. I don’t know about you but when I say “FM Radio 100.7” and the system’s voice repeats my command with enthusiasm as it switches to the station I want, I feel great satisfaction and well-being. And I imagine the day I can tell it all about my daughter’s issues with her boss who treats her unfairly and have it council me wisely on what to do.
Last but definitely not least, Toyota has put every effort into protecting the safety of its vehicles’ users; and now offers the Safety Sense 2.0 system standard in all models (soon it will be the 2.5+ suite); it includes drive assist systems that have very quickly become widespread across the industry, and are even considered indispensable. Hats off in this regard to Toyota.
Next time around as I wind up my long-term review of the 2020 C-HR, I present a potpourri of details to round out the portrait I’ve drawn of a colourful crossover I admit to having gotten quite attached to.