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The 2018 Toyota C-HR fuses crossover and coupe styling and uses the company's TNGA chassis (image: Bill Visnic).

What we’re driving: 2018 Toyota C-HR

Owing to its sharky-oddball styling, you’ll be in your share of gas-station conversions with the C-HR. Apparently originally meant to be a member of Toyota’s Scion youth brand, the C-HR striking to look at—mostly in a good way.

A combination of too much curb weight (3300 lbs!) and sluggish midrange performance from its 144-hp 4-cylinder means the C-HR only kinda gets out of its own path, though you can sometimes coax the otherwise reluctant continuously variable transmission (CVT) to generate passable around-town action. Accompanying the C-HR’s general slowness are glaringly meager fuel-economy numbers of 27 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. What?

Toyota’s relatively new TNGA platform (Corolla, Prius) acquits itself well here, though: the C-HR delivers pleasingly flat cornering and the creamiest ride we can remember in a compact anything. Interior space is decent, too, even if the truncated greenhouse and dark trim makes for a gloomy rear-seat experience.

But the edgy looks and mini-crossover connotation go a long way to sell the C-HR. Like rivals Kia (Niro) and Nissan (Kicks), Toyota is blithely trying to sell the C-HR without all-wheel drive, which many buyers may consider a bait-and-switch and which Subaru’s ongoing success suggests is a mistake. I know FWD helps achieve the attractive price point here, but for a market gone crazy for crossovers, it seems misguided, not to mention more than a little disingenuous, to introduce a subcompact car with crossover looks that doesn’t at least offer AWD.

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE

  • Base price:          $22,500
  • As tested:            $23,495
  • Highs:                  Athletic handling and body control; luxury-car ride; good value
  • Lows:                  Heavy; dark, dreary rear seats; dead midrange; where’s the AWD?
  • The takeaway:     Interesting and unique runabout in seek of development focus.
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