Toyota Canada’s little C-HR is a modest but not cheap four-door hatchback designed for city-dwellers. It has a base price below $24,000, which can easily climb above $30,000 when loaded. If you finance the Premium version for 48 months, nothing down and at 1.99%, you’re looking a $768.67/month, all in. That’s just a hint above the average new-car finance payment in Canada.
The C-HR is a perfectly useful and quite unremarkable all-around, front-drive car, though it tries hard to appear more dramatic. That is, the exterior design is all edges and corners, highlighted by a bit of nonsense: rear door handles mounted high up on the rear edge, rather than amidships.
I would imagine that Toyota expects millennials to be its best C-HR customers, though scads of pensioners also want Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth, and all sorts of electronic safety features. Seniors will like the easily understood and managed infotainment interface, though the graphics and general functional presentation are less than ground-breaking. The colour screen is adequately sized and well placed, but we’re not talking about a Tesla or a Volvo here.
Power comes from a small four-cylinder engine (144 horsepower/139 lb-ft torque) mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission capable of mimicking a traditional seven-speed automatic. Though buzzy, this is a completely modern powertrain, one that calls for regular gas and gets a combined 8.2 litres/100 km combined.
In driving, a warning: that 2.0-litre mill under the hood starts whining like a tired toddler when you’re loaded up with, say, four decent-sized folks. The electric steering is leaden, a common compliant across a segment filled with Mazda CX-3s and Honda HR-Vs. Ride quality is fine; braking effectiveness very good. And visibility all around is first-rate – in part because of the angled dashboard. Just remember that ride height is car-like; this is not a tall SUV.
What surprised me most was the passenger and cargo space, along with front bucket seats which were more comfortable and supportive than the majority of affordable grocery-getters. The footwells are sized for winter boots. If you’re a fairly large person, you won’t be squeezed.
The C-HR’s slim seatbacks create a bit more space for adults in the back seats – seats which split and fold 60/40, as they should. When flat, there’s enough length there for my skis and enough width for lots of groceries or suitcases. The big rear door is handy for loading.
If you suck it up and make just 48 payments, when done you are almost certainly looking at another 10-11 years of payment-free driving of a typically trouble-free Toyota.
Not sure the design will age well after 15 years, but the car itself almost certainly will.
What is it? An elaborately over-wrought compact hatchback with lots of cabin space and a strong quality history (of the brand).
How much? $23,950-$29,150, plus fees and taxes. Three models: LE, XLE Premium, Limited. A loaded Premium will run about $35,000, all in.
What’s good? Cabin, space, reliability history, fuel economy, safety features, simply infotainment interface.
What’s not so good? The powertrain whirrs and howls when pushed. The steering is next to numb. Thin sound insulation results in a noisy highway ride.