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2018 Toyota C-HR: Frugal can still be fun

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

But it's more of a city slicker than a freeway flier. Though the CVT allowed the engine to hit 70 mph while spinning at barely above 2,000 rpm, I found the size and weight of the car, on the standard tires and suspension, didn't inspire the confidence required to stay at passing speeds very long.

The C-HR comes standard as the XLE and in a more luxurious trim line, the XLE Premium. Though both models share the powertrain and include a suite of safety systems -- such as lane departure warning, pre-collision sensing and pedestrian alerts -- blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert come only on the higher trim.

The base model is pretty basic.

The driver cockpit is appropriately minimalist. The dash and center console are made of practical, easy-to-clean plastic. The rear-view backup camera is not a screen but a window in the rear-view mirror. There is no navigation screen. There is no Sirius XM. Neither is available as an option.

The rear seating section is also very spare. The three back-seat passengers will need to be small ones, as the car offers limited head, leg and side-to-side room. There are no amenities back there either, save a cup holder. Don't look for ports for your devices.

But those rear seats fold down and offer about 40 cubic feet of cargo space. That's room enough for your golf bag, and underneath, the C-HR offers an actual spare tire, with the actual tools to change it.

The model I drove also had a roof rack suitable for carrying a surfboard, skis or snowboard. (That's a $299 option.)

Toyota reported that nearly 15,000 C-HRs had been sold in the U.S. from the time of the vehicle's debut in April through the end of September -- below sales numbers for the comparable Honda HR-V, and dwarfed by Toyota's own RAV4.

If you've suffered as I have, and been forced to drive pricier SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne or Jaguar F-Pace, you may unfairly find the C-HR lacking some niceties.

But if you're a starting-out car buyer, shopping for a smaller RAV4 or perfectly serviceable alternative to the Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3, the C-HR is a lot of car for the money and could be a smart choice.

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