The 2021 Toyota CH-R Makes Fun Roads Feel Boring

Let’s be clear, the 2021 Toyota CH-R is by no means a bad car. In fact, if you’re looking for a crossover-type vehicle that will be comfortable and capably get you to your destination in quirky style, then the CH-R is a great choice. But if you’re looking for any type of spirited performance out of this car, then you will be sorely disappointed.

The Toyota CH-R has “slothful” acceleration

2020 Toyota CH-R in blue
2020 Toyota CH-R | Toyota

We know, the Toyota CH-R is a smallish crossover – that Toyota technically designates as an SUV – so complaining about its lack of performance is as futile as complaining about a Prius’ performance numbers. But that’s the kicker, the Toyota Prius is quicker than the CH-R!

According to Car and Driver’s testing, the 2021 Prius went from a standstill to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds. The CH-R, on the other hand, took 11 seconds to get to the same speed, which the publication described as “slothful.” And while you might think that 11 seconds doesn’t matter in real-world situations, it does. Do you need to get onto the freeway quickly or pass a car in the next lane so you can get over? Good luck, it’s going to take you a while.

Is the lack of power really that bad?

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade | Toyota

While it’s easy to rag on the Toyota CH-R’s lack of power, it’s better to understand it. The crossover gets its power from a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. The engine is connected to a CVT that transfers the power to the front wheels. Considering the car weighs 3,300 pounds, which is about the same as a large sedan, we can see why it could feel a little sluggish off the line. Low power and heavy weight equate to a slow car.

To get a better understanding of the way the car performs and handles, I took a 2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition out to the canyon roads that I normally test press vehicles on. These roads are some of the most fun ones that I have found in the Denver, Colo., area, and I have enjoyed them in many cars, especially the Mazda MX-5.

As you can imagine, the CH-R is no Miata. When driving through the twisty canyons roads, I felt the car plow through the corners and lazily gain RPMs when coming out of them. It was so slow to get up to the 45-mph speed limit that it actually took the fun out of driving the roads. But once I got it up to speed, I could use the car’s momentum to get through the canyons with haste. Thus, bringing some fun back into the mix.

However, the fun stopped when I realized that the car’s suspension and semi-high ride height weren’t really made for taking corners at speed. So I slowed things down and drove the car like “normal.”

The CH-R is not a sports car, but owners don’t seem to care

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade | Nightshade

After returning from my not-so-high-performance jaunt through the canyon roads, I decided to look up owners’ reviews of the Toyota CH-R. I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be alone in my thoughts about the CH-R’s performance. Surprisingly, I was wrong.

After checking out reviews from various owners on Cars.com and Edmunds, I decided to put my thoughts to rest. As it turns out, CH-R owners love the car for its quirkiness, spacious cabin, and good fuel economy. In fact, no one complained about the car’s performance. This shows that the CH-R’s main highlight is that it can get you to where you’re going comfortably, stylishly, and efficiently. But don’t count on it getting you there quickly.

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