Zipping along in the 2018 Toyota C-HR

After a wave of luxury SUVs with $50,000 price tags, it was a breath of fresh air to have a week behind the wheel of a more modest budget crossover, the 2018 Toyota C-HR. It’s a little car – perhaps a bit too little for some families – and while it’s not powered by a big engine offering a performance drive, it’s still reasonably responsive and typically well designed and engineered by Toyota. There are some features I loved, and one that was so poorly designed that I actually backed into another car without realizing it. Yes, my first accident in a review vehicle.

But first, let’s have a photo, because the C-HR is a really cute car that looks very much like it came from a Hot Wheels set or slot car track:

2018 toyota chr

Have a close look at that photo: you can see one of my favorite things about the car: The location of the rear door handles. To avoid messing up the streamline design, they’re located near the roof and have a very unique design and style. Because cars are so standardized, I found this unusual design choice delightful and everyone who saw it thought it was extremely cool too.

The back hatch area looks deceptively small in the photo too, but in fact it’s quite spacious:

2018 toyota chr rear compartment

It’s good news that it’s spacious because, well, the vehicle itself is pretty cozy. The driver’s seat is a bit narrow, making me feel a bit squished when driving the car and particularly getting in or out of the C-HR. And the space for back passengers who actually have legs and aren’t in a carrier or carseat?

Well, this photo tells the tale:

rear passenger space 2018 toyota chr

While car companies market smaller vehicles as being great for “growing families” I really think that a car of this size is better for a single person or couple. Add a baby and you’re good for a few years, but once you get past toddler, it’s pretty cramped in the back and when you then add backpacks, sports gear or anything else that a growing family is likely to tote around and that back hatch is going to permanently be stuffed full. Leaving you no space for groceries.

Maybe it’s just s mindset thing, getting used to a really small vehicle. Or maybe it’s just a better car for a starter family or couple than one that’s growing and has need for more than two adult size seats. Then again, I’m tall, so that means I always push the seat back as far as it can go so I can be comfortable in the driver’s seat. Do you have a compact car? If so, what’s your experience with passenger leg room?

Back to the C-HR, however. The interior, as I said, is beautifully designed, a modern Toyota instrument layout with plenty of bells and whistles:

2018 Toyota C-HR interior dashboard

One thing I noticed, however, was that there was no place to store sunglasses. No little holder on the roof controls, and the one cup holder was needed for cups. It’s hard to see, but there’s very little space for things which proved a hassle with phones too. Look at the big, bright display of the entertainment system too. Very nice, well designed and easy to use. Except it had one odd quirk: the rear view camera view is actually embedded in the rear view mirror:

rear view mirror - camera - 2018 toyota chr

Coupled with the lack of any proximity sensors at all, that’s what contributed to my accident with this vehicle: I was backing up and bumped into another vehicle. No beeps, no alerts, and I wasn’t paying attention to the tiny backup video as I was going. Bad driving is my fault, not the cars, but be aware that if you’re used to sensors helping you have spatial awareness of your vehicle, the C-HR doesn’t have that feature and you’ll need to keep that in mind every time you’re behind the wheel.

Fortunately the damage was primarily cosmetic, but still, frustrating and annoying both.

Overall, however, this was a fun car to drive either solo or with one passenger. The design turns heads and there’s a sense of fun to the vehicle that’s missing in many of the Toyota cars on the road today. With its pricetag, however, a few more safety features might have been a reasonable expectation.

AS DRIVEN: 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium in Blue Eclipse Metallic, with 2.0L 4-cylinder DOHC 144HP engine with CVT and electric power assist front wheel drive. Options: carpeted floormats, mudguards, emergency assistance kit, universal tablet holder, rear bumper protector and wheel locks. Price As Driven: $25,945.

Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the C-HR for a week so I could write this review. My opinions are my own, as was the mistake that caused my accident.

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