Millennials have been the source of angst for executives in just about every field imaginable. They have been blamed for the decline in chain restaurants, plastic straws, starter homes, brick and mortar department stores, football and even bars of soap.
The head honchos and major players of these industries, and countless others, look to Millennials as the quiet killers of business and revenues.
Car manufacturers have always had to deal with the societal and generational changes with each new model. For instance, loads of crossovers have hit the market in recent years while seemingly every marquee has done away with station wagons.
But every now and then we see a car specifically marketed to younger generations, and I can think of no better example than Toyota’s new midsize crossover, the CH-R.
The CH-R’s television marketing campaign included ads featuring young, hip people starring as fairy tale characters in a modern-day setting. And in all, the CH-R, driven by a young “man/woman of today,” played the hero.
Toyota also used the MTV Movie and TV Awards to launch the newest member of its lineup.
But given the fact that a sharp decline in cable TV subscriptions are also blamed on Millennials, I have to wonder if any of them saw these ads and launch.
Besides their marketing techniques, Toyota is clearly trying to appeal to industry-killing Millennials with its new crossover’s looks.
The CH-R styling is funkier than Sly and the Family Stone (a group Millennials have probably never heard of) with so many curves and corners I noticed a new one each time I drove it. Rear door handles at the top of the C-pillar and an optional two-color paint scheme add to the hip exterior. It’s the kind of styling that either evokes gags or nods of appreciation, but I respect Toyota’s designers for making something that certainly looks like nothing else on the road.
With its ultra-hip exterior, I expected to open the door and find all the buttons were lime green, the steering wheel was triangular and the chairs were egg-shaped. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the interior was somewhat bland other than door panel trim that looked like some cubism experiment and triangular indentations in the roofline — fashioned after diamonds according to Toyota. And of course, Millennials are blamed for slagging diamond sales.
Once you go beyond the styling, the CH-R has the same kind of drive as the Camry I reviewed a few weeks ago — it’s not for enthusiasts, but it’ll get Millennials to Whole Foods without any major niggles.
But one larger complaint I have is the performance. The 2.0-liter four cylinder puts out 144 horsepower and, coupled with a continuously variable transmission that keeps the revs too high for too long before deciding to make a gear change, the performance of the CH-R is lethargic at best.
The lackluster performance is made more frustrating considering the CH-R handles surprisingly well. Despite its higher-than-a-road-car center of gravity, the Toyota is composed on windy stretches of road. The steering feel is spot on for a crossover, body roll is limited and, while the brakes won’t smash your face into the windshield, they are plenty capable of bringing the CH-R to a relatively calm halt. On smooth and semi-smooth bits of tarmac it is quite comfortable.
Young people should also be comfortable with the CH-R’s price tag, with base models starting around $21,000. Opt for the Limited version, which comes standard with leather seats, push-button start and 18-inch alloy wheels, and the cost makes a slight jump to $26,000. Though the blue eclipse version with “iceberg” colored roof and side mirrors I tested is an option.
All models come with a bevy of safety features including Toyota’s Safety Sense feature, including a anti-collision system, pedestrian detection and lane departure alerts. And for the young people who are bucking the supposed trend against procreating, the CH-R has a five-star overall safety rating.
Those with kids will also appreciate the ample cargo area and rear legroom in the back. Though the kids won’t be able to see out of the miniscule rear windows until they’re a bit bigger.
So, has the CH-R succeeded in appealing to the finicky Millennial generation?
That’s tough to say considering I understand what many executives don’t — not all Millennials are the same.
There are plenty of people I know in my generation who still go to Applebee’s and want to use a plastic straw in their drink. Though I do know many people who are perfectly content with renting, I have just as many friends who own starter homes, including myself. I shop at department stores on occasion, about as much as I shop online. And maybe the preference for body wash over bars of soap has more to do with not wanting to rub a block of pubic hair against your body.
It’s much the same with the CH-R. It’s a crossover designed with young people in mind, and while some will love its affordability, relative comfort, composed ride and wild styling while others will want added performance from the engine and more tech — despite an attempt to appeal to young people, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not to be found in the CH-R.
It’s a subjective car for a subjective generation.
But I will not entertain any arguments on this — the two-color paint scheme is fantastic.