It’s interesting how time changes things. When we tested the 2018 C-HR, it was one of the first of the mini-crossovers, and it looked like the small sedan was on its way of going extinct.
Well, the small sedan still isn’t what it used to be, but it’s around. And we’ve found some really good ones lately, including the Toyota Corolla and Kia Forte GT. But what’s even more interesting to us, is that the mini-crossover has now been attracting the interest of a new type of buyer – those who were thinking about luxury vehicles, but with the economy being what it is, are looking to be more frugal – but still get something fun and interesting. Enter the 2020 Toyota C-HR Limited!
C-HR Exterior – From Cheeky to Chic
The exterior remains bold, with a coupe-like appearance and neat little tricks like hidden rear door handles near the top of the C-pillar. It looks muscular and chunky too – there’s no feeling that this is a low-priced machine for those on a budget – and that may be part of the attraction to those with more cash to spend. Already cutely aggressive, the 2020 C-HR steps up with a redesigned front fascia, headlights, bumper grille and spoiler. It’s a more unified look that’s handsome.
The Limited gets some special bits that help it stand out, including LED projector low and high beams, LED fog lights, new Turbine-design 18-inch alloy wheels, red rear garnish, chrome window accent, and piano black B-pillar. The most interesting thing – our 2018 tester was the same Blue Eclipse Metallic as our 2020 Tester. But with a white roof, the previous tester looked like a Smurf. With its black roof, new fascia and cool wheels, our tester looked much more upscale.
C-HR Interior – Cozy Coupe Cabin
Inside, the C-HR feels very coupe like and driver-centric. Heck, the Toyota designers call it “meZONE”. There’s a very sporty three-spoke steering wheel, with oversize tach and speedo that we really like, with a 4.2-inch multi-color info display serving up goods like Sport and Eco modes, outside temp, trip info and even a G-force monitor! Very cool.
Next to it, the 8-inch info-tainment display looks huge, like a giant tablet, and the graphics are nice and clear. Even better, Toyota has gotten with the program and the C-HR is now Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatible, and that large screen makes using our favorite apps like WAZE super easy.
Another reason to love the 2020 model is a new Blue/Black interior for the XLE model, with a blue instrument panel, center console armrest, seat trim and seat quilting in blue. Those plunking the extra coin for the Limited trim will be tempted by an available Black/Brown interior with brown instrument panel and center console armrest, silver instrument panel trim and diamond perforation seat pattern.
While we didn’t get the Black/Brown, we weren’t blue, since our Limited tester featured leather-trimmed heated front seats, with power controls for the driver, and all the nice stuff including keyless remote and pushbutton ignition. Those front seats are über-comfy, but those in back are tight on legroom – par for the class – and the coupe-like lines may make smaller passengers swallowed up. On the bright side, large cutouts make for easy access, and with a generous rear hatch opening and flat-folding rear seats, the C-HR is as functional as it is fun.
Speaking of fun, we liked the cool cutouts in the headliner, and the repeating tread pattern you see on the interior trim. There’s also cool 3D diamond-shaped trim throughout the cabin that’s hip and cool It reminds us that the C-HR was originally meant for the youth-oriented Scion brand that faded away. We’re glad they decided to keep the C-HR in the Toyota family!
C-HR Performance – Cruiser not a Bruiser
If you’re expecting a hard-edged sporty crossover like the Hyundai Kona or Mazda CX-3, you might be a little disappointed. But if you want an entertaining, but more laid-back experience, the Toyota delivers.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing a respectable 144 hp and 139 lb.-ft of torque at 3,900 rpm. Feeding the power through the front wheels is a CVT transmission, that slurs its way around through the rev range – not particularly responsive, but smooth. Dropping into Sport mode really wakes up the experience, with quicker throttle response, and the transmission simulating a 7-speed auto., If you start hand-shifting the lever it’s good fun. Drive sensibly and you can easily top the EPA 29 mpg Combined number.
The handling is better, with good solid steering feel, and the C-HR feels agile around town. Its small size also makes it easy to grab a parking space. It’s excellent on the open road with a surprisingly supple ride, thanks to the multi-link rear suspension usually found in more expensive vehicles. All C-HR models also feature standard full-speed Adaptive Cruise Control nice on those longer drives.
Toyota has really stepped up to make sure all of their vehicles are loaded with safety, and every C-HR comes equipped with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking System, and Smart Stop Technology.
Indeed. The C-HR starts at just $21,295 for the LE and it’s pretty loaded with dual-zone AC, heated mirrors, 8-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, and even 3-month trials of Sirius XM and Wi-Fi connect.
The XLE is the sweet spot in the line up at $23,330, adding 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto-folding side mirrors, “Toyota C-HR” puddle lamps, Smart Key with Push Button Start, Blind Spot Monitor + Rear Cross Traffic Alert and an optional Toyota Audio Plus system. It would be our choice.
Our Limited tester started at $26, 350, and adds leather seats with driver’s 8-way power controls, ambient lighting, LED fog lights and chrome window trim. We had the optional two-tone paint with black roof, ($500), and Audio Plus ($465). Add in $1,120 for Delivery and we totaled out at $28,435. Taking a little of the sting away, Toyota does include complimentary maintenance for 2-years/25,000 miles. Nice!
Competitors would include the Hyundai Kona Ultimate at $29,090, Kia Soul at $28,535m and Mazda CX-3 at $28,225. All three are sportier to drive, but the C-HR beats them in comfort. Choose what’s most important to you.
The 2020 Toyota C-HR is an appealing package with great style inside and out, surprising luxury and a quiet, comfy ride. Perfect for premium buyers who want to spend less, but not miss out!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.