Toyota C-HR Preview

What it is:  A Nissan Juke competitor. We know it’s hard to believe, but apparently there’s a burgeoning market out there for them.

Why it matters:  It’s a new high-water mark in rear-doorhandle silliness. And it’s proof that the Old World is just as impractical as America. After years of Europeans criticizing our love of crossovers, we’ve arrived at the point where these vehicles are developed with Continentals (and Middle Kingdomers) in mind, with the U.S. as an afterthought, which is the case here. Plus, why should Toyota be comfortable with just 10.2 million global sales, when it can make that 10.3 or even 10.4?

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Platform:  Along with the 2017 Prius and the just-announced 2018 Camry, the C-HR introduces the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that will eventually underpin half the vehicles Toyota sells each year. The C-HR is a significant 8.8 inches longer than the Juke, with an additional 4.3 inches of wheelbase promising a more useful rear seat and more cargo room.

Powertrain:  A 144-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers torque to a CVT driving the front wheels and only the front wheels.

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Competition:  Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul, your soul, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, and that Buick that looks like a potato.

What might go wrong: The U.S. or maybe Uber could adopt a requirement that all door handles be mounted along a vehicle’s beltline, which would totally screw up the delicate balance in the C-HR’s styling.

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Estimated arrival and price: Sales should begin any day now, with prices starting near $20,000.

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