When we were kids, there were always those who were quick to grab the black cowboy hats, always inclined to “join the dark side” as they evolved through Halloweens and horror flicks, from ogling Batmobiles to black leathers, or maybe going Goth and dredging up other dark culture cues.
So it’s only natural to offer a darker alternative for those now grownup clients, forsaking brightwork and bling for the less luminous, blacked-out, and slightly more sinister styling statement.
Toyota’s Nightshade Edition models (and Lexus Black Line versions) are spreading across the company lineups, including this 2021 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium with the Nightshade Edition package option.
Actually, the C-HR (Coupe-High Rider) probably doesn’t need any help in daring to be different. Toyota designers went all-in blending the best traits of sport coupe, hatchback, and sub-compact crossover stylings. Slim LED headlights slash rearwards and the curvy character lines and stealth fighter-like edged angles flow along a fast-back profile. The Coke-bottle middle flares out to sculpted “wide-body” rear quarter panels. And “hidden type” high-mounted rear door handles and unique “C” pillars emphasize coupe influences while the raised stance shows some SUV swagger. A cantilevered wing at the roof edge and a hatchback lip spoiler combine for a bit of boy racer braggadocio.
The C-HR offers three trim levels – LE ($23,750), XLE Premium ($26,550) and Limited ($29,150). The new Nightshade Edition package, available as an add-on in mid-level XLE Premium trim, comes available in four colours – Black Sand Pearl, Blizzard Pearl, Magnetic Grey or, as tested here, in Supersonic Red. All Nightshade colour choices come with black roofs, part of the two-tone treatment popularized in this segment by the C-HR and competitors like the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Kona.
The Nightshade Edition’s blacked-out elements include unique 18-inch vortex-styled dark alloy wheels and black detailing on door handles and emblem overlays. A black chin spoiler adds a final dark touch.
The doors open to a “MeZONE” interior that is comfortable, simple and uncluttered with a slight driver-centric flavour. The XLE Premium trim adds a Blue/Black interior with blue touches on the instrument panel, centre console armrest, seat quilting and seat trim. Red touches might actually have been more in sync with the exterior colour but that’s just me nit-picking since that interior colour is not available in any trim level.
Other interior touches include piano black glossy surfaces with contrasting metallic highlights and diamond pattern accents, dual zone HVAC, front heated seats, a 4.2-inch multi-info display that allows SPORT and ECO mode selections and more. An 8-inch infotainment touch screen comes with voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and pumping audio through a six-speaker sound system.
Toyota labels the C-HR as a five-seater but four-passenger accommodation would be more realistic and, frankly, putting anyone in the back seat will require move-up compromise from front passengers.
The C-HR’s cargo area will swallow 540 litres, expanding to 1,030 litres when you flop the 60/40 second row forward. Thoughtful trunk touches include four tie-down rings, side cubbies, grocery bag hooks and added hidden underfloor storage compartments around the temporary spare. A cargo cover also comes standard.
Globally, the C-HR boasts a wide range of small gas engines and hybrid alternatives but, here in North America where size matters more, all C-HR models harness the same naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder 3ZR-FAE engine making 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque and mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence and Shift mode (CVTi-S).
The engine is boisterous but not 2021 Toyota C-HR Nightshade Edition but hardly whiplash-inducing and stomping the go pedal, combined with the CVT characteristics, can induce a long-winded drone that sounds sort of like a Cessna struggling for altitude. Some critics might pooh-pooh the performance, but switching to Sport mode’s simulated automatic shifts adds a little more throttle response. Or, if you’re feeling frisky, slap the shifter to the left and the Sequential Shiftmatic system lets drivers shift the stick manually.
Average mom and pop drivers will probably be perfectly happy with the C-HR’s everyday driving abilities and with the 2.0-litre engine and CVT combo’s 8.7L/7.5L/100km (city/hwy) fuel econo rating. My real world results managed to beat that rating with a 7.2L/100km (city/hwy) average.
You can list a few C-HR negatives – a tight interior, poor rearward visibility, blasé performance and no AWD availability but, although it is a bit player on the Toyota stage, the C-HR still serves as a relatively affordable entry-level gateway to the SUV lineup.
New 2022 C-HR models will carry on relatively unchanged and, indeed, its strongest new competitor might well be the brand new 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, a more upright intermediary fitting into the gap between the C-HR and RAV4 and scheduled to arrive at dealers later this year.
But there’s still a place for the sleek and angular C-HR and, if it appeals to your driving demands and sense of style, the Nightshade Edition might just be your ticket to embracing the dark side.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.