Before Toyota shuttered its youth-focused Scion brand in 2016, it had built up a pipeline of cars too good to abandon.
So they grew up and became Toyotas.
The last of these Scion orphans, the C-HR subcompact crossover, arrived last year.
Arguably, because it’s available only with front-wheel drive, the C-HR ($20,945) is not a crossover at all, but a hatchback.
Its 5.9 inches of ground clearance also mitigates against the CUV designation; the C-HR rides low enough to scrape its chin on steep driveways.
Heavy and slow but surprisingly engaging
The C-HR is heavier and slower than its prime competitors. It compensates with a grown-up ride, an engaging personality and a raft of safety and driver-assist functions.
The C-HR is a well-equipped four-passenger whatever-you-want-to-call-it. It’s remarkably slow (0-60 in 10 seconds-plus) but handles well and dishes out more interior space than you'd expect. There's plenty of room up front and a pair of adults will be reasonably comfortable in back.
A small cargo hold limits utility but the 60/40-split rear seatbacks drop to increase space.
For the 2019 model year, Toyota debuts a new LE base trim that cuts the C-HR’s sticker price by $2,600.
Even so, the LE doesn’t scrimp on equipment. Standard features include keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights, an 8-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, heated mirrors, LED daytime running lights, driver-selectable drive modes and cloth upholstery.
Seventeen-inch steel wheels are standard.
Infotainment steps up in serious way
Toyota makes leather upholstery available on upper trims this year and adds the Entune infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay. (To date, Toyota has resisted Android Auto over security concerns, but is rumored to be nearing a change to that policy.)
Entune Audio Plus is optional on the XLE ($22,980) and standard on the Limited $26,000); Entune Premium, with in-dash navigation, real-time traffic and weather updates and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot, is available on the Limited.
Bluetooth phone and streaming audio are included. There’s a single USB port and a six-speaker sound system.
Standard driver-assist features plentiful
Driver-assist features include automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, brake-hold at stoplights, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
The C-HR is powered by a 144-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The powertrain responds lazily to driver input. Floor the throttle and the CVT lapses into the breed’s familiar drone.
Steering effort is low at city-traffic speeds but firms up nicely with vehicle speed. The steering rack has a good on-center valley and the C-HR tracks well in its lane.
The system is direct and accurate but communicates little information from the road surface.
Firm and compliant ride
The suspension is taut and the ride is firm yet compliant and never harsh or jittery. The fully independent suspension soaks up road-surface bumps and the hatch is settled and stable at speed.
The C-HR enters corners with quick turn-in and well-controlled body lean.
The headlights feature automatic high-beam control. However, while the headlamps are very good on low beam, they’re dim enough on bright to have earned demerits from the Institute for Highway Safety.
The cabin is a mixed bag of upscale touches — an electronic parking brake, leather-wrapped steering wheel and nicely padded seat cushions — and a smattering of subpar materials. It’s not an especially quiet cabin, as both wind and road noise intrude.
There’s plenty of room for a pair of adults in the rear seats, but small windows and a tall shoulder line limit smaller riders’ view and may feel a bit claustrophobic to larger ones.
Those small windows — and accompanying thick pillars — reduce the driver’s rearward vision. Complicating matters, the backup camera image is displayed not on the infotainment screen but on the smaller rearview mirror.
Because the steering wheel doesn’t telescope far enough, I sat closer to the pedals than normal — and in a more upright position. By the end of my test week, though, I’d adjusted.
The would-be Scion adds a new dimension to Toyota’s portfolio. The orphan has found its way home.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Vehicle base price: $20,945
Trim level base price: $26,000
As tested: $28,980 (includes destination and handling)
Options included Entune 3.0 Premium Audio, with navigation, voice recognition, HD radio and Toyota Connected Services; two-tone paint; Ruby Flair Pearl paint.
EPA rating: 29 combined/27 city/31 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified