What is it?
A subcompact crossover with stand-out-from-the-crowd looks. The CH-R inexplicably stands for Coupe High-Rider, although it rides low and actually has four doors — you can see the rear door handles up near the roof.
Why it matters
Kia started the subcompact crossover trend in 2009 with the Soul. Since then, this submarket has proved one of the fastest growing categories in the hot crossover market.
Toyota (like Ford,with its EcoSport) is jumping in late. "I've been a little shocked at the lack of offering on the subcompact SUV side" from both companies, said Karl Bauer, analyst at Kelley Blue Book. The vehicles "appeal to such a wide range of people: those who don't have a lot of money to spend and want to save on gas, but also want room to carry around people and cargo with a high SUV ride."
Toyota's more sedate but more refined compact crossover, the Rav-4, is highly popular. With the CH-R, Toyota offers a smaller, cheaper, edgy-looking option.
The look, which will provoke lovers and haters. Toyota's marketing team describes the CH-R's design as a "Distinctive Diamond … matchless, sexy, muscular and edgy."
Toyota deputy chief engineer Hiro Koba, a race car enthusiast, said the suspension system was designed for a sporty ride.
The choices are many. The most direct competitor in the freaky-funky design category is the Nissan Juke.
The Juke employs a 188 horsepower four-cylinder turbo to blast from zero to 60 in 6.9 seconds. (The CH-R comes in at 144 horsepower; zero to 60 time not yet made public.)
The Kia Soul maintains a boxy sort of funk with less power but still draws good reviews.
The Mazda CX-3 looks like a grown-up compared with the CH-R and the Juke. It's no speedster, but a smooth powertrain, a tight fit and finish, and sport tuned suspension have won many fans.