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Article Highlights:

  • 2021 Toyota CH-R ($21,595- $26,650)
  • “2021 Top Safety Pick” Award – IIHS
  • 2019 Best Resale Value Brand – Toyota” – Kelley Blue Book
  • Pro: The Toyota CH-R is a quirky crossover with strong resale value and excellent safety features
  • Con: It’s sluggish acceleration was almost unsafe at times and there’s no option for all-wheel-drive.
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

The 2021 Toyota CH-R blurs the line between a compact hatchback and an SUV. Its small dimensions make it easy to maneuver in everyday driving situations in addition to small parking spaces. However, its slightly higher ride height gives the driver the elevated feeling of driving a bonafide crossover.

Aside from its interesting look and smaller size, some may find the CH-R’s lack of all-wheel drive and lazy acceleration a deal-breaker. But for others that can overlook these slight flaws, the Toyota CH-R will undoubtedly provide a reliable, safe, and fun means of transportation.

Choosing the right Toyota CH-R for you is easy

Toyota has always been known for value packaging its models, which makes it easy to find the right CH-R for your daily life. For the 2021 model year, the CH-R comes is available in four different trim levels: LE, XLE, Nightshade Edition, and Limited. I had the pleasure of spending time in the new Nightshade Edition and found that its black accents complimented its Magnetic Gray Metallic paint job well.

The 2021 Toyota CH-R is an eccentric sight to see

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

Take one look at the Toyota CH-R and you’ll be sure to notice its unique body lines and sharp edges. Its high beltline slopes toward the rear of the car, which gives it an athletic look while leaving excellent visibility out of the side windows for the driver.

The great visibility ends toward the rear quarters of the car, as the high rear doors look sleek, but block the driver’s view when backing out of parking spots. It’s a good thing that the car has a backup camera and sensors. Otherwise, the CH-R’s styling is much akin to its stablemates, especially the Venza. For 2021, the CH-R is available in six different solid colors and six other colors with black-contrasting rooftops.

Opting for the Nightshade Edition will give the car 18-inch black wheels, black badges, a black chin spoiler, black door handles, and a two-toned black rooftop. This trim level is specifically offered in black, white, red, and gray; all of which come standard with a black cloth interior.

Is the Toyota CH-R’s interior comfortable?

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

The Toyota CH-R might be relatively small, but it doesn’t feel cramped when you’re sitting inside it. No matter which seat you’re sitting in, you’ll find that the CH-R has an adequate amount of room for the daily drive and for long road trips. All of the lower trims, including my Nightshade tester, are outfitted with sport cloth seats with six-way manual adjustment for the driver. But if you want power-adjustability and leather seats, then you’ll need to opt for the Limited trim.

My only gripe with the CH-R’s interior is the overly plastic feel of it, but considering it’s a low-$20,000 car, I can excuse that. Also, another redeeming quality that I found is the seats are actually pretty comfortable, but not in an ergonomically supportive way. Instead, they’re comfortable like a squishy couch at your grandmother’s house.

What tech features does the CH-R have?

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

The Toyota CH-R provides a lot of tech-savvy features that will fit almost anyone’s needs. Every CH-R comes standard with the Toyota Safety System 2.0 suite of driver-assists, Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a six-speaker audio system.

In terms of options, stepping up to the CH-R XLE trim adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, a keyless entry system, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Stepping up to the Limited model adds full LED headlights, 18-inch turbine wheels, and leather seats. I personally suggest aiming for the top trim Limited considering it comes with everything you would want out of a CH-R for not a lot more money than the base trim.

The CH-R handles well, but it’s not a sports car

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

According to Toyota, CH-R is an acronym for “compact high-rider,” and that’s pretty accurate. The CH-R has 5.9 inches of ground clearance, which means it’s half an inch higher than the 2021 Corolla. When that tall stance is combined with the 18-inch wheels, it feels like you’re driving a Corolla Hatchback in high heels – and that’s not a bad thing.

Drive the Toyota CH-R on some dirt backroads and it will handle it just fine. However, if you try and push it through corners at higher speeds, it won’t be like it too much. There’s not too much body roll, however, you can feel the car’s weight tilt with every turn, which doesn’t inspire too much confidence. Its front-drive configuration doesn’t help either.

But if you drive the CH-R at regular speeds, it feels calm, quiet, and collected. In fact, I recorded an average of 70 decibels when cruising on the highway. By comparison, many of the Lexus vehicles I’ve tested measured at an average of 72 decibels at freeway speeds.

Acceleration is not the CH-R’s strong suit

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

I have to say it: The Toyota CH-R is slow. Don’t worry, its 2.0-liter, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine will get you on the freeway just fine. It will also get you up to the speed limit just fine. However, it will just take some time do to so.

That 2.0-liter engine produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque and it’s mated to a CVT, which is really smooth. However, the combination makes for some slow acceleration off the line. Car and Driver tested the CH-R and confirmed that it takes 11 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standstill. For reference, they tested the Toyota Prius and it covered the same distance in 10.2 seconds. If Toyota happened to equip the CH-R with the Prius’ powertrain someday, I wouldn’t mind.

The good news is that the CH-R is fuel-efficient. According to the EPA, the CH-R can achieve up to 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. After a week of combined driving, I personally averaged 30 mpg, which is a little better than the EPA estimate of 29 mpg.

The Toyota CH-R is packed with safety

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

Toyota likes to pack its vehicles with a multitude of safety features and the CH-R is no different. The compact crossover comes standard with the aforementioned Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver-assist aids. Some of the notable features on the list include forward-collision mitigation, low-speed emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a lane departure warning with lane tracing.

The Toyota CH-R also comes standard with 10 airbags and all but the base model comes with a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. For more assurance, the 2021 CH-R even took home a “Top Safety Pick Award” for 2021 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Is the Toyota CH-R expensive to maintain?

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

According to CarEdge, it should cost an average of $1,450 in maintenance costs for the first five years of ownership. That estimated cost includes expenses like scheduled maintenance and normal wear and tear items. Additionally, JD Power rated the CH-R an 86 out of 100 in its “quality and reliability” category, which means that you can count on it being dead-on reliable.

Fortunately, you won’t need to worry too much about repairing the Toyota CH-R in the first few years because it’s also backed by the brand’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty in addition to a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The 2021 Toyota CH-R is a quirky crossover that deserves your attention

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition
2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition | Joe Santos

Is the Toyota C-HR Worth Buying?

While the 2021 Toyota CH-R is undeniably a unique entrant in the automaker’s lineup, it deserves some attention for anyone that’s looking for something slightly bigger than a compact car. The CH-R’s long list of standard features and bulletproof reliability make it a standout contender among rivals like the Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona. So if you’re in the market for a small crossover vehicle that won’t break the bank, you may want to add the Toyota CH-R to your shortlist.

MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Toyota CH-R an expert rating of 6.5 out of 10

The editors at MotorBiscuit gave the 2021 Toyota CH-R an overall rating of 6.5 out of 10. This plucky crossover provides a smooth and efficient means of transportation, however, its sluggish acceleration hinders it a little. Regardless, the CH-R will make a great first car, or even second car, for anyone that needs compact with more space and a higher ride height.