HomeThe MarketDriven: Toyota’s C-HR has some delightful details

Driven: Toyota’s C-HR has some delightful details

Stylish Nightshade edition joins the lineup for 2021 model year


How often to you look at the headliner in your car or truck? Me neither.

But my granddaughter noticed the diamond shapes that are molded into the headliner of the 2021 Toyota C-HR Nightshade edition I’ve been driving and asked my why there were there. 

My response was something intelligent, along the lines of “Duh?” 

But after doing some online searching, I think they are there because back in 2014, when Toyota unveiled the 2-door concept version of its future compact crossover, there were diamond-shaped openings in the car’s roof that created a special light effect in the cabin. 

Toyota’s C-HR has some delightful details

Such things are difficult and expensive to do in production vehicles, but the diamonds in the headliner remain a nice detail and, let’s face it, such details are important when you’re trying to make your entry-level vehicle stand out from the rest.

That 2014 concept was a standout with its bulldog-on-wheels styling. And the C-HR still stands out even in production guise with its aggressive design, and for the 2021 model year it again accents the roof with the new Nightshade edition.

The Nightshade versions gets a black-painted roof, black 18-inch alloy wheels with black lug nuts, black door handles, chin spoiler and badges, and black fabric in the interior that Toyota calls the “MeZone.”

Also new for all 2021 C-HRs are new colors and Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 as standard equipment.

We suspect the “MeZone” nickname comes from the tight dimensions of the car’s cabin. It’s fine for those sitting up front, but snug for any teenager or adult in the second row. On the other hand, there’s decent storage/cargo room under the rear hatch, an interesting unit in itself with its large and proud tail lamps, what otherwise would be called a rear-deck spoiler design, and elongated roof spoiler. 

By the way, you can take your pick for explanations for the vehicle’s initials name. When the vehicle went into production, Toyota said the initials stood for Compact High Rider and for Cross Hatch Run-about.

Between the concept and production versions, Toyota’s European-based Gazoo racing team spent time developing the car at Germany’s famed Nürburgring circuit, even entering a version of the vehicle in the 24 Hours race at the track.

While hardly a track-ready vehicle, the 2021 Nightshade is fun to drive, albeit slow off the starting line as its 144-horsepower 4-cylinder engine doesn’t relay peak power until it’s spinning at more than 6,000 rpm, and that spinning goes through a continuously variable transmission rather than manual or regular automatic.

Once it builds some momentum, however, the car is fun to drive, maneuverable in urban traffic and comfortable, competent, and even quiet on southern Nevada roads where the posted speed limit is 75 mph.

There is an alternative that pumps up the performance. It’s Sport mode. But you have to engage every time you start the car, and instead of a simply toggle switch, you reach Sport by having to manipulate buttons (plural) on the steering wheel. 

Regardless, the 2021 Toyota C-HR is fun to see and in which to be seen, what with its aggressive sculpted style and even audacious stance.

Here’s another delightful detail: Unlock the doors at night and puddle lamps on the underside of the exterior rearview mirrors pivot from their closed, parked position to illuminate the pavement with the car’s make and model designation. A rare treat in what it basically an entry-level vehicle.

The entry-level Corolla sedan, in L CVTi-S form, remains Toyota’s least-expensive offering at $20,025 base price, but the C-HR provides an attractive option with the LE starting at $21,445, the XLE at $23,480, the Nightshade at $24,245 and the Limited (heated front and power-adjusted driver’s and leather-trimmed seats) at $26,500. 

Toyota’s C-HR has some delightful details

2021 Toyota C-HR Nightshade

Vehicle type: 5-passenger crossover, front-wheel drive

Base price: $24,245 Price as tested: $25,665

Engine: 2.0-liter whatever, 144-horsepower @ 6,100 rpm, 139  pound-feet of torque @ 3,900 rpm Transmission: continuously variable

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches Overall length/width: 172.6 inches / 70.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,300 pounds

EPA mileage estimates: 27 city / 31 highway / 29 combined

Assembled in: Isawa Iwate, Japan

For more information, visit the Toyota website.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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