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Toyota C-HR masks hatchback with crossover label

The Toyota C-HR (Coupe, High-Riding) is a small hatchback that Toyota wants you to view as a crossover – minus all-wheel drive. Originally created to be a Scion, it’s been rebadged as a Toyota to be a fresh, stylized five-door with a high perch.

The C-HR is positioned as an image vehicle for “generation Z“ to help capture buyers that want an expressive design, non-mainstream vehicle – the kind Scion used to offer.

This year C-HR comes in two trims: XLE and XLE Premium. I tested an XLE Premium.

Look at Me

From a design standpoint, and combined with some vibrant color combinations and white roof, C-HR’s styling hits it out of the park. The distinctive sheet metal, with its kinks, hooks, curves and hidden rear door handles delivers an active-lifestyle-coupe look. I liked the “sail” window style and high stance featured in the design. During testing, I received numerous inquiries from old, but mostly young potential buyers.

Shaker, Not a Mover

While the ‘shaker’ refers to the exterior design, the ‘mover’ refers to an 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, generating 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque. The meager horses gallop through the front wheels and power is channeled through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Sharp Focus

Toyota stepped up on the C-HR’s interior, as it has the look of a more premium vehicle. The center dash pod has controls, knobs, and a touchscreen with easy to use/interpret controls. A 7.0-inch display screen resides on the dash but doesn’t look like an add-on.

Using Diamond shapes as a design cue, Toyota integrates them into lower-plastic door panels and the headliner, which adds to the quirky look.

Premium additions

My XLE Premium came with blind-spot monitors, a multi-adjustable power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a keyless ignition, fog lights, and exterior mirror turn signals. The audio system consisted of an AM/FM/HD radio, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, AUX audio jack, Bluetooth® wireless connectivity, and Voice Recognition with voice training.

Additional XLE Premium features included a color-keyed rear spoiler, attractive C-HR vortex styled 18-in. sport alloy wheels, roof-mounted shark fin antenna, power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, rear window defogger and a black front lower grille insert.

A real positive is passenger comfort and interior space. The C-HR is built on a shortened version of a mid-sized passenger car platform. I comfortably fit my 6-foot frame in the second row. You can actually get five passengers into the C-HR for road trips. Cargo room measures 36.4 cu. ft. behind front row and with row-2 up its 19.0 cu. ft. behind the seat.

Looking for more motivation

The C-HR does not offer a turbo or larger engine upgrade. The 2.0-L is miserly with performance, yet generous with the amount of fuel used to get you places. I can say that Toyota does a good job of muffling engine noise while you’re stamping the pedal to the floor to build speed or pull away from the light. Toyota’s CVT (like virtually every current CVT) has trouble keeping up with quick power requests or swift reverse-to-drive actions.

My C-HR greeted the pavement with grippy 225/50R18 95V tires, a newly developed MacPherson strut front suspension with SACHS dampers. A large diameter stabilizer bar helps the C-HR’s front end respond quickly and precisely at initial corner turn-in. At the rear, Toyota employs an all-new double-wishbone style multi-link rear suspension utilizing a 26-mm stabilizer bar and SACHS dampers.

While speed is not the attraction, handling is above average. The CVT is slower to respond, but once you build speed, you can weave your way through the curves and, with the right mode, the steering can provide some response.

There are three selectable drive modes: normal mode, Eco for fuel-efficiency-but it cuts power, and Sport for improved throttle response and firmer steering feel.

So, what you have with the Toyota C-HR is unique, sporty looking, quiet, roomy vehicle, that could use a little bump in power, AWD and slightly higher fuel economy numbers.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication