2021 Toyota C-HR Nightshade Review

Written By: Terry Box | Apr 7, 2021 1:00:00 AM

Red can “right” a lot of wrongs in an uninspired car.

It’s not miracle juice, but if a vehicle wears red badly, it’s got some serious style issues.

Heck, I even look OK in red.

So, I had pretty high hopes for the 2021 Toyota C-HR, another odd compact sedan/SUV/crossover somewhere between ugly and intriguing.

Nobody designs cars and crossovers quite like Toyota.

Huge grilles. Constant, beeping safety devices that can’t be turned off. Bodies too big or too small -- but always plenty busy, and greatly dependable.

As you probably know, the C-HR is some sort of small, four-passenger crossover/SUV that can average nearly 30 miles per gallon and has developed its own, uh, style.

Like lots of Toyotas today, it seemed confident of where it was going even if no one else could figure it out – a mishmash of curves and flat surfaces that initially felt at odds with each other.

Mine had a front end that relied on a broad, raised hood with large, slender headlamps that rolled back onto the tops of the front fenders.

Short overhangs up front kept the C-HR contemporary, while the car’s sides remained mostly flat with strongly flared fenders and a curved black top.

Meanwhile, the car’s lower rocker panels were trimmed in slabs of black cladding, and it rolled on spoked, optional 18-inch black wheels wearing 225/50 tires.


2021 Toyota C-HR Nightshade. Credit: Toyota.

If you look closely, you will see that the C-HR has back doors, but their door handles are hidden near the top of the back door. Why? Why not?

I took to calling the C-HR Fast Eddie, not knowing whether it flashed fast or just seemed jarringly ultra-modern.

The 3,300-pound, front-wheel-drive car/crossover got its power – so to speak – from a 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 144 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Though fairly smooth at suburban speeds with decent surge from stops, the C-HR ran out of push quickly, its engine going flat and the CVT droning, and droning some more.

In fact, the car felt old and ultra-new at the same time – a flashy, contemporary exterior powered by an engine and CVT that need 11 slow seconds to reach 60- mph.

Oddly, though, the car’s platform and suspension felt fairly lively, absorbing bumps and bad roads reasonably well.

As long as I stayed under 50 mph, the C-HR seemed OK – the “red syndrome” at work.

But the car was not even remotely sporty. Most of the time, at least, it was better overall than its engine.

Cruising along at 40 mph was typically pretty pleasant, but the ride got more intense as the speed increased.

I liked the steering, which was weighted nicely and even provided a little feedback.

Unfortunately, it was tied to a suspension designed to be relatively soft and uninvolving. Oh, well. At least the C-HR rode pretty well.

Likewise, the car/crossover wore a black interior heavy on plastic and more than a little style.

2021 Toyota C-HR Limited Edition. Credit: Toyota

A deep upper dashboard in black plastic dropped down to a protruding mid-dash dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen seasoned with silver plastic trim and piano black.

Toyota puts a priority on safety, so my oddball C-HR came equipped with lane-departure alert, steering assist, dynamic cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.

In addition, the car/crossover’s black headliner had nifty diamond-patterned imprints in the front part of the liner, though the rear passenger area suffered from a shortage of leg and head-room in back.

My $26,000 C-HR had two sizable options: the special searing red that is part of its optional Nightshade configuration (mainly the exterior color), $425; and carpeted floor mats, $269.

So, what we have here is a car/crossover that will make you smile, cause a laugh or two when you bury the accelerator and make you wonder if Toyota is satisfied with it.

I may need to dump the red syndrome, though, simply because there are no truly bad vehicles in 2021.

2021 Toyota C-HR

  • What I liked most: The C-HR’s exterior style, which no one will call beautiful but is unique enough to attract attention.
  • What I would change: How about the engine, the CVT and all the nagging safety nannies.
  • MSRP: Base price, $24,245; as equipped, $26,291.
  • Official color: Supersonic Red with black roof.
  • Fuel economy: 27 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway and 29 mpg combined with filler on the left.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 867 miles.
  • Spare tire: Temporary compact.
  • Weight: 3,286 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 171.2 inches long/70.7 inches wide/61.6 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 13.2 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Not applicable.
  • 2021 Toyota C-HR in a few words: A stunningly slow, different-looking vehicle that is actually an OK car or crossover
  • Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Isawa, Japan
  • Manufacturer’s website:
  • Up next: 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata