Despite its bold styling, the 2021 Toyota C-HR is an SUV designed to deliver high fuel economy rather than satisfying speed or eye-widening handling. Its four-cylinder engine is underpowered and slow to get up to speed, but the C-HR’s 37-mpg result in our highway fuel-economy testing is the payoff for your patience. The C-HR’s cabin is nicely outfitted and brings enough of the exterior’s funky styling inside to avoid being ordinary. All three of the available trim levels come with touchscreen infotainment and a full suite of driver-assistance features as standard, but other small SUVs in this class offer more practicality, available all-wheel drive, and more satisfying driving dynamics. This one for saving fuel and looking hip doing it.
What’s New for 2021?
Toyota’s smallest SUV receives a boost to its safety cred for 2021 with an updated suite of driver-assistance features. Standard across the lineup is Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 active safety system, which includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist with road-edge detection, traffic-sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlamps, and adaptive cruise control with the lane-trace assist—which keeps it centered in the lane. On top of that, a new Nightshade Edition appearance package is available on the mid-range XLE model that blacks out much of the C-HR’s exterior trim and adds 18-inch black wheels.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The C-HR’s four-cylinder could use a turbocharger or a supercharger—as it’s incapable of hustling this crossover up to speed with anything approaching enthusiasm. In our testing, the C-HR was only able to muster an 11.0-second saunter from zero to 60 mph, and it is significantly slower than most of its rivals. When driving normally around town, the lack of power is well-disguised thanks to a responsive throttle that launches you eagerly off the line. But put your right foot deep in the accelerator pedal and the engine revs to its peak and stays there, droning on while you wait for the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to adjust its ratios in a futile attempt to provide rapid forward motion. Over bumps, the C-HR delivers a ride that is comfortable, but it isn’t a standout in this segment. The suspension quickly rebounds after large road imperfections but hit a stretch of patched or broken pavement at speed and you’re treated to a cacophony of noise; harsh bumps send reverberations throughout the cabin. The C-HR’s steering feels accurate, and its front wheels respond directly to commands. Handling is lively, body roll is well controlled, and the C-HR feels playful from behind the wheel.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Acceleration isn’t the C-HR’s main focus; fuel efficiency is where this crossover shines. While its EPA estimates of 27 mpg city and 31 mpg highway have the C-HR neck and neck with most rivals, it blew away all but the Nissan Kicks (the two mini-utes tied for the same result) in our real-world highway fuel-economy testing: The XLE model we tested smashed past its EPA rating and delivered a phenomenal 37 mpg over the course of 200 miles. For more information about the C-HR’s fuel economy.