The 2021 Toyota C-HR seems a bit confused. In my eyes, it’s a taller, more comfortable Corolla made for in-town driving. The size makes it ideal for a young couple with no kids or an empty nester who just wants something comfortable and easy to park. Sure, it has seats for four and can work as a family car, but there are some caveats that we’ll address.
The car’s sporty look, including a spoiler above the hatch, give the CH-R the allure of being a quick CUV. In reality, it lacks all-wheel drive and only makes 144 hp. At least it gets almost 30 MPG combined. I test drove a Nightshade Edition in Supersonic Red for over 900-miles. Showing it to my parents and a few close friends, all of them liked it and found it “cute and interesting,” but nobody loved it.
Clean Sleek Design Elements Throughout
What has 2-spoilers, a sleek roofline, flush rear door handles, and a leaf pattern design all over the place? That’s right! The C-HR. At first glance, you may not notice the pattern, and then you notice it all at once. The door sills, trunk liner, door cards, and even the ceiling have this leaf-style pattern molded into them. It’s very unique. The ceiling impressions look like Bigfoot walked across the panel while the car was in production. The patterned area on the door cards will fool you as the panel looks soft, but the material is hard plastic.
Vehicle Access & Interior Space Considerations
The front door handles on the C-HR are painted in contrasting black paint. The rear door handles are located at the top of the door and are about two fingers wide. This gives the C-HR a coupe look. The handles are about 8-inches below the roofline placing them at four and a half feet off the ground. This might make it difficult for some children to open the door. Speaking of which, the door opening is definitely on the smaller side. Be warned that loading an infant carrier or helping your toddler buckle up should be done only after stretching and your morning yoga routine.
If your rear passengers are adults, they’ll have decent headroom and legroom so long as everyone in the car is under six feet tall. I am 5′ 8″ and was able to sit in the back seat comfortably. As the car is on the smaller side, there are no air conditioning vents in the rear. Due to the location of the door handle, the rear windows are small and make the backseat a bit dim. This makes the space seem smaller than it is, and rear passengers might feel a bit cramped.
Toyota CH-R Styling
The 2-tone color scheme with black roof, window trim, rocker panels, and black 18-inch sport wheels makes the CH-R’s body seem slim in the midsection. Tight-creased hiplines along with protruding taillights and the double spoiler on the rear, give the C-HR a futuristic and athletic appearance.
One downside to the styling is the curved lip of the mini spoiler below the wiper on the hatch is always visible in the rearview mirror, reducing visibility slightly. And though the sporty lines make it appear like the C-HR should be quick, it is anything but.
More Power Please!
Under the hood, the 2021 Toyota CH-R sports a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine making 144 hp and 139 lb.-ft. of torque. For comparison, the 2021 Prius makes 120 hp and 120 lb.-ft of torque. Though the CH-R’s engine is more than adequate for city driving and helps achieve those 30 MPG numbers, for a car that looks like it should be good fun and able to take you to the snow, it doesn’t deliver.
All-wheel drive is not available for the C-HR in the U.S and neither is a hybrid option. In other parts of the world, the C-HR is available in hybrid form with 182 hp and close to 50 MPG. I never found it to be dangerously slow, but it did feel to be lacking when merging onto the freeway. Once up to speed with cruise control turned on, it’s a nice ride.
Asymmetry: CH-R Interior Design
In the 2021 Toyota CH-R asymmetry is abundant in the cabin. The steering wheel has shiny plastic on the bottom half but not up top. The touchscreen display has a vertical line on the left side but a sloped line on the right side. The buttons on the steering wheel are askew and uneven in number.
I would have liked fewer buttons and more cupholders. The front has 2-cupholders in the center console and a bottle holder in each door. However, there’s almost no other storage room in the center console, so I would put my phone (while plugged into CarPlay) and sunglasses in one cupholder and keys in the other, rendering the front cupholders as storage cubbies. The space near the shifter could be utilized more efficiently.
Cruise control is activated with a stalk on the right side. Lane-keeping and radar cruise are controlled via 2-buttons on the right side of the wheel that you can access with your thumb. The radar cruise system is pleasant at highway speeds with mild traffic but can feel like a teenage driver when in traffic — lurching forward from a stop and hitting the brakes a bit too hard. Lane-keeping assist (LKA) is exactly that, an assist. Hands-free driving is not recommended, as the C-HR did seem to lose the lane several times per minute. I’d opt to turn off LKA and keep radar cruise only which can be especially handy for long trips.
Room For 4 Left Me Asking For More
Cargo room in the trunk of the CH-R was smaller than I expected in terms of height. Though 19.1 cubic feet is decent, for comparison Honda’s HR-V has 24.3 cubic feet. The sharp angle of the hatch cuts into the cargo room, putting form over function. If you put the rear seats down — they fold in a 60/40 split — you’ll nearly double the cargo space to 37.0 cubic feet.
I found the lack of an interior trunk release button surprising as you won’t find a button on the key either. The only way to open the trunk is from the button below the Toyota emblem on the hatch. This is similar to the 2021 Corolla XSE Hatchback.
2021 Toyota CH-R Is A Contender
Overall, the C-HR is a good car for 2-people. The rear passenger area is tight and dim. If Toyota wanted to stand out from other CUVs, the inclusion of an air vent for the rear passengers would have been an easy way to do it. The trunk space is great with the seats folded down but less than expected with them upright. Storage space up front is also not the best.
My list of favorite features on the CH-R isn’t long, but they’re all solid points: 30 MPG, effortless parking, and radar cruise control that works for freeway cruising. For a sub-$25,000 crossover with a starting price of just $21,545, the C-HR is a contender, although it wouldn’t be my top choice.