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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

2021 Toyota C-HR LE FWD

We had the opportunity of driving the Toyota C-HR. The C-HR letters stand for Coupé High-Rider, which describes its bold styling perfectly. Our test model had an MSRP of $26289 and was assembled in Japan.

Toyota has updated their design language so that their lineup resembles their other vehicles, as you can see with the new Corolla, RAV4, Highlander and Sienna. The C-HR kind of stands out as it's closer to the 4th generation RAV4. The futuristic-looking concept was presented in 2014 as Scion, and it received a facelift in 2019, making it the little quirky crossover it is today. It differentiates from the competition by not playing the aesthetic card and making it as practical as possible.

The infotainment is an 8-inch touchscreen, the same screen found in other Toyota products. It's not the fastest screen or the crispest, and it might be one of the less user-friendly ones on the market but does everything a buyer needs. It comes standard with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and these worked without too much hassle. The sound system is quite average sounding. The optional JBL sound system package isn't available anymore, which means that the only option available is the base 6-speaker system. The climate controls are well laid out and accessible to the driver and the co-pilot. It comes standard with dual-zone climate control, front windshield de-icer and heated mirrors, features often only offered as options by other automakers. Now for the gauge cluster, the C-HR is only offered with 2 physical gauges (tachometer and speedometer) and a 4.2-inch display in the middle, which indicates the basics such as fuel economy, your speed, outside temperature.

This vehicle comes standard with Toyota Safety SenseMC 2.0, a host of safety features like Lane Departure Alert and adaptive Cruise Control. On the highway, the vehicle was vulnerable to crosswinds resulting in the cruise control feeling very unstable as we would swerve left and right to hug the lanes. We had to disengage this feature; it became unbearable to use; this demonstrates this type of system's limits. The pedestrian traffic alert is quite intrusive for a good cause; it will alert you by beeping and interrupting the sound system. You will also see a notification in red with the word "BRAKE!", the vehicle will not break by itself. We would've felt safer if the car braked when the screen went red. It's still a nice feature that Toyota added; we could see that someone might not take these alerts seriously after several false alarms.

When it comes to the interior, the trunk space is acceptable for a vehicle this size; you can fit a stroller, and the rear passenger room is sufficient for teenagers. The placement of the back door handles is very high. Unfortunately, children will not be able unable to open the vehicle doors from the outside. It may look good and is fitting with its design, however not very functional. The process to install the car seats is one of the easiest we have seen. The outer rear seats have a flap held with velcro that hides the Isofix ports; it gives passengers full comfort when they are not in use. Overall, the seats are comfortable for a vehicle in this segment, with decent back support for longer journeys.

The fuel economy aspect of the C-HR is a mixed bag. It is decent for a non-hybrid car but nothing exceptional. It's a miss on Toyota's part not to offer the hybrid variant available in Europe as the fuel consumption in the city is quite disappointing for 2021. 9.2L/100 km isn't the worst result by any means but knowing it could've been better with a different engine is the worst part in this. As said earlier, it may be uncomfortable to drive this small vehicle on the highway with the tendency to be lighter than a balloon. Still, the fuel economy is decent, with 5.3L/100km at 100kph and 7.3L/100km at 120kph; both figures are lower than the official Toyota numbers. We had an average of 6.9L/100km with 80% highway, and for that, we have to congratulate Toyota because this figure is lower than what is announced by the automaker.

Moving on to the driving aspect and this is by far the less enjoyable part for the Toyota C-HR. The combination of the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with the CVT is the opposite of engaging. The vehicle does have a Sport mode that barely makes a difference compared to the Eco mode. In fact, Eco mode should be engaged at all times to experience excellent fuel economy as we did during our test. Driving onto a highway ramp is quite the experience; the engine screams to get up to speed and then settles down to at 2000rpm once at cruising speed. You can shift the transmission manually; however, due to the CVT, this provides no enhancement. The steering is quite vague but not dangerous. That being said, the suspension isn't too harsh nor too soft, and braking is adequate. The C-HR is only available in front-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive would've made the car more desirable in our climate; it would have increased the fuel economy. In a nutshell, this Toyota model, like many other models from this automaker, looks sporty but fails to meet expectations when jumping behind the wheel. Special mention for the wheel; it feels good when you hold it and find all the buttons you need on it.

Before we close this out, if the C-HR is on your shortlist, the best option is the middle trim (XLE Premium) at $28889. This gets you heated front seats and blind-spot monitoring within the mirrors and allows you to choose the two-tone colour, which is currently very trendy with different automakers and elevates this vehicle to a more premium look.

In conclusion, The Toyota C-HR is an interesting entry in this world where crossovers and SUVs are becoming more popular than ever. It is spacious, family-ready and fun looking; its biggest drawback is the driving experience that is less than exciting. We feel it may be a bit pricey; thankfully, because of the Toyota crest, you'll be sure to get great resale value and might be worth every penny because it offers a higher ground clearance than a Corolla.

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