By Peter Perrotta
When one strives to stand out – like going out on the limb with a way different style – there always stands the chance that the result will be a “you either love it, or hate it” reaction.
Pink hair. Blue hair. Purple hair. Maybe, I’m old fashioned, but something about it just doesn’t look right to me.
When the folks at Japanese car importer Toyota began toying with the idea of the crossover SUV CH-R model a few years back, it began as a very edgy looking and sculpted concept car. A lot of these types of cars never make it to the mass market production line.
But, Toyota went out on the limb in 2018 and introduced the C-HR crossover as a worldwide, mass market production car. The CH-Rs that are sold in the United States are actually made in Turkey.
To be honest, I had never even heard of this model until the publicist from Toyota scheduled me for a one week test drive for review recently.
When I told my brother, who sells Toyota’s in Minnesota, that I was going to be test driving one he said, “You’re going to hate it.”
Well, after one week behind the wheel of the 2020 Toyota CH-R Limited recently, I must confess, I didn’t hate it. I kind of liked it, with some reservations.
First off, before I get into all the technical details, being the journalist that I am, I rushed to research just why this compact crossover is called the CH-R.
The answer is a bit confusing, but here goes. It stands for Compact High Rider, Cross Hatch Run-about or Coupe High Rider.
At first glance, the exterior of this vehicle looks like a very snazzy, sculpted flying wedge with the back end of the car sitting up noticeably higher than the front end. Hence, all those different CH-R names.
In it’s review, Car and Driver gave the CH-R high marks for what it termed its “look at me” styling “cheeky interior design” and “plenty of standard features”.
In fact, it is a stylish looking cross over SUV, the smallest Toyota offers in its lineup.
In a very edgy design feature, the handles for the rear doors of this compact SUV are located at the top of the windows. When I first attempted to open one of the back doors, it threw me for a loop for a few seconds. I had never seen a design like this. But, at the end of the day, for this vehicle that design fits and works.
The front seat cockpit and passenger seat ergonomics are superior, nicely designed and comfortable. The back seat, on the other hand, is a bit cramped.
The sticking points – and issues most car reviewers have knocked it for – is the fact that this vehicle is not offered in a four-wheel-drive drive train and only comes with a somewhat inadequate 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine that puts out a modest 144 horsepower.
Quite frankly, this car is crying out for a turbo boost engine so that it can get a little more giddy up than the 0 to 60 in 11 seconds performance.
The 2.0 liter engine is coupled with the ever popular CVT (continuously variable transmission). These transmissions don’t shift gears, using one continuous gear mode instead.
When you stomp on the accelerator, for quick passes or entrance ramp acceleration, the engine just sort of sits there and whines.
When I asked my brother if they sell a lot of these CH-Rs in Minnesota he said that the fact that it isn’t offered with a four-wheel-drive option is a major drawback, especially in a snowy state.
Whether or not Toyota has any plans to add a bit more power and a four-wheel-drive option remains to be seen.
On the positive side of that, the 2.0 liter engine is fuel efficient.
The EPA Department of Transportation fuel economy ratings for this car come in at an impressive 29 miles per gallon average – with 31 MPG on the highway and 27 in city driving.
The EPA estimates that the average annual fuel cost of operating the CH-R is a modest $1,400 as it uses about 3.4 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
Toyota offers the 2020 CH-R in three different trim levels, the base LE (starting at $22,415), the mid level XLE ($24,450) and the top of the line Limited ($27,470).
The test car I drove for one week was the Limited model in Hot Lava with silver/black.
The base MSRP sticker price – with destination included – was $27,470. The only additional options on my tester were $465 for an audio plus HD upgraded radio and $500 for two-tone paint. The final sticker price on the tester came in at $28,435.
As most Toyotas do, this car gets high quality points for its structure, design and safety.
On the government’s 5-star safety ratings crash test it received an overall 5-star rating. For the frontal crash test it received five stars for driver side and four for the passenger. In the side crash test, it got five stars for both the front seat and rear seat tests. And, on the rollover test it got four stars.
The all important these days, infotainment system in this car is above average. It features an 8-inch touchscreen with six speakers. The audio system is average.
However, the functionality of the infotainment system is good. It is fairly easy to sync up your phone, music (from a iPod) and connect to the Apple Car Play or Android Auto system for navigation.
Overall, the CH-R is worth checking out if you are in the market for a compact crossover SUV. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is sure to attract enough consumers to make this an interesting consideration in this segment.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments and questions are welcome. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org