Most everyone expected Toyota to enter the subcompact SUV segment at some point, but showing up with a sportier, smaller than average entry, and therefore putting styling ahead of practicality was surprising to all.
After all, the segment sales leaders make it clear that passenger/cargo roominess and flexibility is king, with models like the Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-3 and Subaru Crosstrek dominating up until this year, and newcomers like the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Kona finding strong sales due to their pragmatic approach and more. It’s as if the new C-HR picked up where the now discontinued Nissan Juke left off (that latter SUV replaced by the new Kicks), albeit without the Juke’s stellar performance.
C-HR sales haven’t exactly been abysmal, that dejected title belonging to the Fiat 500X that only managed 69 sales over the first nine months of 2018 (with 548 Canadian sales for the entire brand so far this year, Fiat’s days are likely numbered in the North American markets), while Jeep’s Renegade hasn’t been tearing up the sales charts either with just 1,000 units down the road, but the C-HR’s 5,188 deliveries (placing it eighth out of 13 models that have been available all year) are nowhere near as strong as the new Hyundai Kona’s 10,852 units (and it’s only been available since March), while the aforementioned Qashqai has been killing it with 14,755 sold as of the close of Q3 2018. Crosstrek deliveries remain strong at 11,147 units over the same nine months, while the CX-3 was at 10,207 sales, the Soul at 9,226, and the long-in-tooth HR-V at 8,155 deliveries (a refreshed 2019 HR-V should help matters moving forward). Should we call the C-HR a rare sales dud from Toyota? The Japanese brand certainly appears to have missed the mark, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor choice for those who don’t need as much interior space.
In fact the new C-HR, now in its second model year after arriving on the scene in May of 2017, is quite a nice subcompact SUV. I won’t go into just how nice in this garage segment of this 2019 C-HR Limited version, but suffice to say it combines mostly comfortable cruising with the majority of its peers’ high-level features, reasonably good performance and excellent fuel economy.
The 2019 C-HR gets some significant changes that should help it find more buyers, starting with a new base LE trim level that chops over a $1,000 from the 2018 model’s base price. Still, $23,675 is hardly as affordable as some of the sales leaders mentioned earlier, the Qashqai still only available in 2018 trim yet its 2019 counterpart shouldn’t sell for much more than its current $19,998 base price despite the new Nissan Kicks arriving as the segment’s best bargain at just $17,998. Another factor against the C-HR’s success is the fact you can get into the much larger and more accommodating Nissan Rogue for about $3k more than the base C-HR, while the all-new 2019 RAV4 starts at just $27,790 (find new vehicle pricing for all makes and models including the C-HR and RAV4 at CarCostCanada, with detailed info on trims, packages and options, plus otherwise hard to get rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
That base C-HR LE gets Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system, which now utilizes a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and supports Apple CarPlay smartphone integration (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em). Even better, the new display now incorporates the C-HR’s backup camera, which instead was fitted within the rearview mirror in last year’s model and therefore ruddy useless.
Entune also includes the ability to link a Scout GPS smartphone app to the centre display for navigation purposes, plus Entune App Suite Connect that features separate apps for traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, stocks, fuel and NPR One, although I don’t know how the latter U.S.-specific National Public Radio station will do anyone in Canada much good.
Additional base features worth noting include automatic high beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, remote access, an acoustic glass windshield, auto up/down powered windows all around, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, dual-zone auto climate control, six-speaker audio, piano black lacquered instrument panel trim, fabric upholstery, front sport seats, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver’s knee airbag and rear side thorax airbags, plus more.
Last year’s sole XLE trim level is mostly carryover for 2019 other than its higher $25,725 price and new Entune 3.0 Audio Plus that features the larger touchscreen while including automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance SOS button, and enhanced roadside assistance, with additional features including 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, upgraded cloth upholstery, heatable front seats, and two-way powered lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
The $27,325 XLE Premium package adds 18-inch alloys, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, heated power-folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.
Also new for 2019 is as-tested $28,775 top-line Limited trim that adds rain-sensing wipers, a handy windshield wiper de-icer, ambient interior lighting, and leather upholstery in black or brown.
While two new trim levels and upgraded infotainment are improvements over last year’s C-HR, the sole 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine might leave some potential buyers (especially those coming out of the aforementioned Juke) feeling like its performance doesn’t measure up to its sporty exterior design due to just 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a focus on fuel economy, and no all-wheel drive option, front-drive being the only driveline configuration available.
Then again, if you’re looking for a sporty looking SUV with good fuel economy the C-HR’s claimed 8.7 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 8.2 combined rating might be just what your inflation deflated personal budget requires.
I’ll talk more about real-world fuel economy and seat-of-the-pants driving dynamics in my upcoming road test review, and of course ramble on ad nauseum about driver’s seat ergonomics, rear seat spaciousness and comfort, storage space, and new Entune 3.0 infotainment, plus I’ll go on at length regarding the touchy-feely points of this Limited model’s interior quality, so make sure to come back for the full 2019 Toyota C-HR Limited review…