Designed for Europe but going global.Sometimes you need more than flowers or chocolates or even a dewy-eyed kitten to say, “Sorry.” Sometimes you need a subcompact crossover. That’s the case with the new Toyota C-HR, which will be coming to the U.S. next year and which is at least as much an apology as it is a car, one delivered from the automaker to its European buyers.
More precisely, its non-buyers. While Toyota dominates in much of the world, it has always struggled to gain traction in the land of cheese and sauerkraut, particularly in the hard-fought hatchback segment. Last year the Toyota Auris, a British-built version of the Corolla, sold just 140,000 units across the Continent, barely more than a quarter of what the Volkswagen Golf managed. Hence the need for a Euro-focused crossover to add some sales magic and compete with entries such as the Nissan Qashqai and the Peugeot 2008.
Europe will be getting the option of a 114-hp 1.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 1.8-liter hybrid that pretty much repackages the Prius’s gas-electric powertrain. (Both the C-HR and that hybrid hatch are based on Toyota’s TNGA platform.) Sadly, neither of those powertrains will be coming to the States, at least not initially. Chief engineer Hiroyuki Koba has confirmed that the U.S. will be restricted to a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which will make up for its relative lack of sophistication with a dose of extra power: 144 horsepower and 140 lb-ft. We’ll have to wait until the car arrives stateside to tell you what that engine is like in the C-HR, as we didn’t get a chance to sample it at the European launch.
Americans should be disappointed at not being offered the 1.2-liter turbo, which is a sweet little engine that makes up for its relative lack of firepower with a torque output that’s too flat to be accurately described as a curve—the peak 136 lb-ft is available from 1500 rpm all the way to 4000 rpm. There’s enough midrange punch to minimize objections to its extremely low, 5600-rpm redline. It feels quicker than its factory-estimated 11.4-second zero-to-62-mph time suggests, especially when working with the slick-shifting six-speed manual that will be standard in Europe, and which even has a rev-matching function to help smooth downshifts.
There’s also a continuously variable automatic, which will be the only transmission choice in the U.S. By the standards of such things it’s not too bad, allowing the engine to coast along on its brawn at lower speeds or during constant-velocity cruising. Requests for acceleration, however, produce the familiar slurring soundtrack as the engine and gearbox both give their best. The hybrid drives pretty much exactly like a Prius, the electrical assistance making it quieter under gentle use but not making it feel much quicker.