Share Review

Related Articles

Toyota Texas Pledge relief disaster

Toyota Pledges $1 Million to Support Texas

a red Chevrolet Blazer cruising through a tunnel.

Video Review: 2019 Chevy Blazer

2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition

exterior front and left side of a red 2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade parked on a driveway

A 4-passenger Handy-Sized Lifestyler

Aside from the decidedly-strange model name - and we’ll have much more on that later in the show - this new take on the handy-sized C-HR has got me smiling - and really wondering why I’ve (sorta) bad-mouthed CVT transmissions in the past.

By Doug Stokes

Fri, Aug 20, 2021 12:08 PM PST

Photos courtesy Toyota and by Doug Stokes 

Before we get to anything else about this broad-stanced, bouncy little buggy, I need to go on record in reporting that the great 6-speed CVT (continuously-variable) automatic transmission in this one was never fooled, never confused, never "gushy", and always ready to rock. Best of all we had the option of driving along in full automatic, or living a just bit more sportily running in the manual mode.

Honestly, any more on that subject is not going to move this review along, it’s just that, in the past, other cars with CVT transmissions sometimes were a little...let’s just call it “soft” … The 2021 Toyota CH-R's transmission is anything but.

front exterior of a red 2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition with its black roof and dark design elements
The dark accents of the "Nightshade Edition" give the 2021 Toyota CH-R an extra oumph.


This “special” edition was so special that there are only three dollar figures on the entire window sticker - the MSRP: $24,245.00, the delivery processing and handling fee: $995.00, and Courtesy Delivery Veh/TMS/NFS: $425.00* for a grand total of $25,665.00. That means that everything else was covered (including, among other things, Auto-fold side mirrors with “Puddle Lights”, Black Badges, and Black Door Handles & Chin spoiler).

[*Note: The last figure on that list is probably not on the consumer version of this car’s Monroney. Our guess is that it's some sort of internal exchange of monies and that alphabet soup means "Toyota Motor Sales / Not For Sale" - as in a car that is kept by the company for loans to journalists. The sticker here should probably be noted as $24,240.00]

Engine & Power

The C-HR has a nice 2-Liter dual overhead cam engine that happily puts out a well-balanced 144 horsepower and 139 pounds-feet of torque using the latest generation of variable valve timing (for me still one of the true tech-wonders of the age). This power-plant was well up to anything that was asked of it in close quarters as well as out on the open road (and, some readers might remember that I have a bit of motorsports background in my CV).

In point of fact (and we don’t often refer to other road tests, but ...) it seems the Lamborghini-crazed “Motor Trend” thought this car to be a bit weak-kneed, and I’d agree if we were here comparing this young/active, 4-passenger lifestyler to a blood-thirsty C8 Corvette. We, for the record, are not.

red Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition with a black roof parked on a driveway
The Toyota CH-R is sharp-looking - as in "wow, you look sharp" AND literally sharp.

What Is A "Nightshade Edition"?

And ... Back to the model name ... I really had to call the company on this one.  The name "Nightshade Edition" seemed a bit (pardon the way-too-early pun) dark, if you get my drift. Here's what we know from some recent book-learnin':

Deadly Nightshade, belladonna, Devil’s cherries (Atropa belladonna) the original range of Atropa belladonna was from southern Europe to Asia but today is naturalized in many parts of the world. This extremely poisonous plant has a long and colorful history of use and abuse. When Linnaeus formally applied a scientific name to this plant in 1753, he acknowledged its toxic nature as well as its social value.

In Greek mythology, the three Fates (Moirai) were responsible for spinning, measuring the length of human life, and ending it. Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis measures and allots the length of one’s life, and Atropos severs it. The genus name of belladonna is a derivation of Atropos, meaning “inexorable” or “inflexible,” the Fate that severs the thread of life.

The species epithet comes from the Italian word “belladonna” for beautiful woman, a reference to this plants’ use by Venetian ladies of the court who dilated their pupils with a tincture of belladonna eye-drops. There is a painting, “Woman with a Mirror” by the Renaissance painter, Titian, that hangs in the Louvre Museum. It pictures a young, beautiful Venetian “belladonna” who may have used atropine drops to dilate the pupils of her eyes to enhance their beauty.

The ever-friendly people at Toyota PR told me the name was more referring to this one's sleek/cool black/gray top (that looked very young/active over the hot red body color and blacked-out logos). Names for special car models (like "Stingray", "Viper", "Fury", "Lancer", "Prowler" and "Cobra") are always fun, and I think that this one (especially based on the above set of notes) is not all that easily forgotten.

Exterior Design

Friends ... let me explain: The styling here was not meant to be real straight-laced or subtle, as one might just start to expect by casually noting the paint color of our review machine. "Supersonic Red" sounds like a new super-high-gloss lipstick shade, and looks even better.

The C-HR bodyworks has a myriad of folds and creases, tiny deflectors, spoilers, and air damns just about everywhere one looks. The car not only looks like fun, it is. Relax, smile, drive, enjoy, repeat.

left rear tail-lights of the red Toyota CH-R with sharp design angles and a dark "CH-R"-logo
Nightshade means dark letters
right rear tail-light of the red 2021 Toyota CH-R Nightshade Edition, featuring the very sharp angles in the exterior design.
Sharp edges even in the details

By the way - "Moltent Lava" is another "hot" color choice on this special model and - although they look good on the screen - there's really no way that either color hits right except in person ... go see for yourself.

Who Buys A Toyota CH-R? Who’s It For?

This is a fun, small family unit but I can see it as the ride of choice for a young single super-mobile person who has adventurous friends that like to go to faraway places with strange-sounding names on a moment's notice. For example, heading out East for the best Grinder sandwiches on the West Coast at D'Elias in Riverside… Or maybe slipping up to Carpinteria for some superb scoops of Rory's Artisanal Ice Cream (and don't miss the Wildberry Choclate Crisp or Black Pepper Pistachio) or ... perhaps down to Long Beach for some sensational Chili Rellanos at Baja Sonora… The deal here is that this compact sport-ute will get two couples to cool places quickly and look really good doing it. 

The part and parcel list of what one gets - besides spritely looks, good handling, and better than average fuel milage - for one's $25K is long and pretty darn complete, as one would fully expect with an all-in Toyota.

interior of a Toyota CH-R with gray seats and dashboard as well as the standard black dials and knobs of the instruments.
Classic Toyota interior
interior shot of the front seat of the Toyota CH-R with gray design
Sporty-looking seats are included

Included Acronyms

So ... summing the C-HR spec sheet up using those wonderful acronyms that car manufacturers worldwide hold so dear ... this little wonder has: CVT, LED, AFS, ABS, AHB, VSC, TRAC, DRL, EBD, BA, SST, ELR, LATCH, ALR/ELR, BSM, RCTA, HAC, and TRMS, not to mention EPS. 

Did I miss anything? 

What's The Fuel Milage For A Toyota CH-R?

And, oh yeah, with fuel milage with gas prices bumping against $5 per for a gallon of vanilla in some parts of the country, how far down the road that sawbuck is going to get becomes part of the equation - even in spite of all those acronyms you just slogged through). The EPA / DOT batting average for this little slugger is a very nice overall 29 mpg (27mpg city / 31mpg highway). Those are good numbers and you can do even better with a tiny bit of care.

close-up shot of the left headlight of the red 2021 Toyota CH-R
Even the inside of the headlights are sharp


We had a bit of fun with this report, mainly because the C-HR is such a nice car that has cool looks and great comportment. Handling and braking were exemplary and we've already taken a big, prominent motor magazine to task for complaining about this car not accelerating like a Bugatti Ebwhatever. This machine can be a pretty damn good boon companion.

I especially loved the automatic folding mirrors (honestly) and the back-up cam was clear and laser-accurate.  Fill this one up with a couple friends (or kids) a get the heck outta town for a day or two, this one is a good way to do that.

A closeup of the Toyota C-HR license plate, a Texas license plate.
Right ... This is the first Toyota review automobile that we've driven that 
sported a Texas license plate. The corporate offices moved out of the LA area 
in 2017 lock, stock, and barrel; and headed for lower taxes and cheaper 
housing in Plano, Texas ... we miss them here in their old hometown.

About The Author

Doug Stokes's profile picture

Doug Stokes

Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.

You Might Also Like These Articles:

A white 2020 Chevrolet Traverse standing on a driveway with a family approaching.

Review: 2020 Chevrolet Traverse High Country AWD

camo green Subaru Outback parked next to a red fence.

2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT

The 2019 Cadillac XT5 Platinum

2019 Cadillac XT5 Platinum

2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback parked at a dim-lit gas station.

2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

blue Lexus NX300h parked on a sandy empty lot

2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport