Some automotive designs are easy to imagine starting as clay models. The Toyota C-HR, on the other hand, looks like it was designed using origami paper.
A riotous blend of sharp angles and creased sheet metal, the C-HR has tons of visual interest. Whether that's good visual interest or bad visual interest is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that C-HRs are represented at Chattanooga-area car stores in fairly modest numbers leads us to believe that the small SUV has not pirated many Toyota Corolla or RAV4 buyers.
* Model: 2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
* Exterior color: Ruby Flare Pearl
* Interior color: Black
* Engine: 2-0-liter, four-cylinder
* Horsepower: 144
* Transmission: CVT
* Fuel economy: 31 mpg highway, 27 mpg city
* Local Dealer: Capital Toyota, Toyota of Cleveland, North Georgia Toyota
* Price (as tested): $29,643
A search of digital inventories at Toyota stores in the Chattanooga area turned up one C-HR in Cleveland and two in Dalton. By contrast, RAV4 compact SUVs are available by the dozens at most dealerships.
But for buyers of a certain age (read young), with a certain design aesthetic, the C-HR may be "all that and a bag of chips." In any case, it gives Toyota an entry into the small crossover market to compete alongside the Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks and Mazda CX-3, among others.
For Toyota buyers wanting more interior volume and perhaps some off-roading capability — the C-HR does not come with an all-wheel-drive option — the butch-and-boxy Toyota FT-4x small SUV will reportedly arrive later this year.
WHAT IS IT? The Toyota 2019 C-HR is a sub-compact crossover in its second year of production. New for 2019 are updated exterior and interior colors.
WHAT DOES IT COST? There are three trim levels to the C-HR line, the LE (starting at $20,999), the XLE ($23,030 and up) and the Limited (beginning at $26,050). Our tester rings up at $29,643, including about $2,800 in options — navigation, two-tone paint, leather seating, all-weather floor liners and more — plus a delivery fee of $1,045.
WHAT WE LIKED: Toyota provided a Ruby Flare Pearl C-HR Limited for a one-week test drive. Among the "likes" recorded in our log-book were light steering, great throttle response, aggressive 18-inch wheels, exacting fit and finish and exemplary build quality.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The exterior design is not our cup of tea. Specifically a huge roof-mounted spoiler, copious side-cladding and bulging headlamps are design flourishes that we find a bit over the top. The C-HR has a modest cargo cargo capacity, too. Shop the larger RAV4 or Highlander if you need a roomier vehicle for hauling people and gear.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: While the C-HR looks fast, it's built more for fuel economy than speed. The only available engine is a normally aspirated, 2.0-liter, four cylinder. Many car-makers are putting turbocharged engines into their small crossovers, but Toyota has resisted on the C-HR. Also, the lack of and all-wheel-drive option is puzzling.
BOTTOM LINE: The C-HR makes a bold styling statement for those who value standing out from the crowd. We have no doubt that Toyota's legendary durability will reward buyers of the C-HR. On the other hand, those looking for sporty performance have better choices in the segment.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.