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Compact crossover has distinct styling, comfortable cabin, key safety technology

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The all-new 2018 Toyota C-HR is an interestingly-styled compact “crossover” utility vehicle designed with a deceptively spacious cabin, agreeable handling and loads of standard amenities and safety technologies.

Although Toyota refers to it as a crossover, C-HR (which stands for Coupe High Rider) feels more like an elevated five-door hatchback, especially since all-wheel drive is unavailable.

C-HR’s somewhat hidden rear door handles and sloping roofline lend to its coupe-like nature. For me, one of C-HR’s strengths is its distinct, eye-catching exterior styling.

Designed with a more youthful customer in mind, C-HR features a raucous face with cat-eye headlamps, pronounced wheel arches and swoopy lines that draw you in for a closer look. Long known for conservative styling, it is nice to see Toyota offering more expressive design themes in more of their products.

C-HR is available in at least six different exterior color choices. For those seeking more individuality, customers can select from three R-Code paint schemes that feature a white-painted roof, A-pillars and side mirrors.

C-HR’s slightly raised stance makes it easy to enter and exit. Taller folks will find adequate head and leg room in both rows. But because of C-HR’s sloping roofline, taller folks entering the rear will need to duck their head. Surprisingly, rear leg room is augmented thanks to scooped out front seatbacks and slightly raised front seats that allows for extra foot space underneath.

C-HR is a bit wider than others in this segment and there is a decent amount of hip space. For shorter trips, the rear seat could accommodate three average-sized adults.

C-HR’s cargo area offers 19 cubic-feet of space behind the rear seats. That capacity increases nicely to 36.4 cubic-feet with the standard 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks.

Forward visibility is very good thanks to narrow A-pillars, but wide C-pillars produce a large blind spot when trying to change lanes.

Controls are easy to reach and operate. All C-HR models are well-equipped and include remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, a 7-inch touchscreen display for audio, 4.2-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster, auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated backup camera display, dual-zone automatic climate control and Toyota’s Safety Sense P (TSS-P).

TSS-P utilizes a camera and radar to provide a suite of technologies including a pre-collision detection system with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control.

Lacking, though, is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Those are features many customers will likely miss.

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is offered in two trim levels: XLE ($22,500) and XLE Premium ($24,350). All C-HR models are propelled by a 144-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Power is transmitted to the front wheels only. All-wheel drive is unavailable. C-HR offers three operating modes: Normal, Eco and Sport.

Although Eco mode helps deliver the best fuel economy, it is on the low end in this segment with a 27/31 mpg city/highway rating.

Sport mode provides quicker response, but even in Sport mode, the C-HR’s 2.0-liter engine feels weak and underpowered. Acceleration is sluggish and you really have to plan for your merge into traffic.

C-HR does offer a comfortable ride and surprisingly athletic nature thanks to impressive suspension hardware, including SACHS dampers.

Depending on your budget and priorities, C-HR may be worth a look for those shopping the compact crossover segment.