Toyota CH-R: Aggressively Mediocre

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The new Toyota CH-R is a killer. And its first victim? Everything you thought you knew about crossovers. All right, not quite, but it does what everyone else does just as good. And as crossovers begin to work themselves into the “people’s everyday driver” category, it’s important to remember who set the standard for reliability and performance. The last couple decades, Toyota has filled the roads with comfortable drivers in Camrys, Corollas, and now… the CH-R.

Fair to Middlin’

So this vehicle won’t set the world on fire with its horsepower or torque (144 hp and 139 lb-ft, respectively). And it’s not going to be the go-to platform for most aftermarket companies…It tops out at 115 mph and goes 0-60 in 11 seconds, with its quarter mile time clocking in at around 18 seconds.

The word we’re looking for is “slow.” Maybe “noticeably” slow. Okay, the Toyota CH-R is “Ben Stein reading the Gettysburg address while chewing a caramel candy” slow.

But that’s not the point, here. If you can get past the lack of giddy-up and engine noise, you’ve got a solid vehicle on your hands. The 2.0-liter inline-four teamed with a CVT and front-wheel drive gets the job done. And this crossover gets a combined figure of 29 mpg (31 highway and 27 city). It’s incredibly spacious with a passenger volume of 83.8 cubic feet. Plenty of room for the nuclear family or a group friends who you call family. The front bucket seats are heated (XLE Trim), with 4-way movement for the driver and 3-way for the passenger. In the back, is a 60-40 folding bench suitable for more people or additional storage. It does what a crossover is supposed to do.

A Crossover for Crossovers

The CH-R, much like Toyota’s other ventures, is safe as well as functional. It features Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and cross traffic detection in the higher XLE trim. It also has a pre-collision system, driver knee air bags, and an airbag occupancy sensor. However, there is a major feature noticeably missing from the model: no all-wheel drive in any trim. And this is a knock against it that should not be taken lightly. Again, Toyota has the ability to be a taste-maker in a vehicle class. So what reason is there to eliminate AWD? If you’re not holding it down in a sunny state, this causes reason for serious reconsideration, even despite its other gold-star features.

Beyond safety, the Toyota CH-R has some features that make it a true crossover’s crossover. Though lower to the ground than some contemporaries, it’s wide for its compact classification, at 103.9 inches. To account for that, the rear double wishbone suspension will help handling in most situations paired with the front strut suspension. Not only that, but the steering is electrically assisted and the ABS brakes employ ventilated discs in front and solid discs in back. As Car and Driver notes, the engine is positioned transversely up front driving a CVT; which is a standard, but tried and true approach.

Sometimes Just Good is Actually Good Enough

For the adventurers the Toyota CH-R features gas-pressurized shock absorbers and also has front and rear anti-roll bars. It even stashes away some interesting, yet busy, stylistic gems with a wing spoiler, deep tinted glass, and black grille set within a hard-to-miss exterior design. There’s an undeniable sportiness to the aesthetic, yet it doesn’t scream I WORK OUT! PLEASE RESPECT MY “13.1” STICKER!

What’s perhaps most appealing about the CH-R is its affordability. It starts at $23,545, which is a godsend for someone purchasing their first family vehicle. Now it wouldn’t be fair to call the CH-R a grocery-getter, the sometimes pejorative term for the trusty vehicles we love. But it’s also not necessarily a jock. It really is the “crossover” of styles we’re so accustomed to seeing on our daily commutes and fun outings. And really, who says blending in always has to be a bad thing?

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