The Toyota C-HR (that’s Coupe High-Rider, by the way) has always intrigued me.

As a piece of design, it seems to have an awful lot going on.  Every panel features an overwhelming mix of creases, slashes and swage lines, almost as if Toyota couldn’t pick a favourite from a series of competing designs.

Given this comes from a company whose traditional customers tend to prefer rather more conservative outlines, this does rather beg the question: just who is thing for?

Toyota say they’re aiming at (in their words) customers with a strong sense of individuality that are driven by emotional considerations.  Whether that resonates with you is, of course, entirely subjective, but there are definitely plenty of points in the C-HR’s favour.

Firstly, and most obviously, it’s all a bit ‘different.’  With most cars’ contours today tending towards the same amorphous blob, it’s good to have something that stands out.  Certainly you’d have to work fairly hard to lose a C-HR in a car park.

That same sense of individuality makes its way into the interior, too.  Look up and you’ll find a diamond motif in the headlining that pops up elsewhere – the climate controls and steering wheel buttons, for instance – while the doors feature an appealing geometric pattern that makes a welcome change from the usual elephant hide imprint.

Quality feels high, although it’s a shame Toyota resorted to shiny black plastic for so much of the rest of the cabin; within a nanosecond of leaving the factory, it’s destined to be covered in unsightly scratches and fingerprints.

The large touch-screen dominates much of the view from the driver’s seat, but its interface can feel a little sluggish to respond to inputs.  The satnav also failed to recognise several post codes during our testing, while trying to resort to the navigation on my smartphone led only to the discovery that Apple CarPlay isn’t supported.

However, full marks for two excellent cup-holders, while the deep storage cubby beneath the armrest could be improved only by the addition of a USB charging port.

The chunky seats are both comfortable and supportive, and there’s an excellent range of adjustment.  Coupled with good forward visibility, that makes the C-HR a relaxing conveyance to pilot about the place.

Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so great for those in the back.  There’s a reasonable amount of space, but the upward turn of the window line renders the rear cabin somewhat claustrophobic.  The boot’s not huge, either, at just 377 litres, and with the rear seats folded there’s a considerable difference in floor heights.

For the driving experience Toyota say they strove for linearity and consistency, and while that may sound like a desperately middle-of-the-road set of aspirations for any car, the truth is that most people look to this segment because they want something that feels dependable and reassuring.

The C-HR hits that note perfectly.  The front end goes where you point it, the body settles quickly without any histrionics, and the suspension does its work without transmitting too much noise into the cabin.

Given this respectable set of dynamics and the bold and forward-thinking design, it’s perhaps a little surprising that neither of the two powerplants available are more exciting.

We spent a week with the hybrid, which sees a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing a modest 97 bhp combined with a 53 kW/163 Nm electric motor, giving a total output of 120 bhp.

There are certainly plenty of plusses to this arrangement – the near 60 mpg we achieved during testing, for instance, the sheer novelty of pulling away in electric silence, and emissions of just 86 g/km.

However, the powerplant’s continuously variable transmission inevitably ends up producing a driving experience that feels at times both anaemic and raucous.  Picking up speed to join fast-moving motorway traffic can take some effort, while climbing a typical Cotswold hill will see the engine pegged at the redline for some time as you watch in horror at the rapidly-diminishing predicted range.

We’ve not driven the 1.2-litre turbo, but its option of a six-speed manual gearbox may alleviate some of this.

Keep the drivetrain within its somewhat unexceptional performance envelope, however, and the Toyota C-HR delivers something we never thought we’d see: a boldly-styled crossover that’s actually good to drive.

Tester’s Notes

  • Some interesting trim materials, particularly on the doors.
  • Shame about the shiny black plastic elsewhere – scratches easily, shows fingerprints.
  • Practical centre console – deep storage cubby, useful cup holders.
  • Rear-ward visibility hampered slightly by sloping roofline.
  • Rear cabin can be claustrophobic due to climbing window line.
  • Inevitably disappointing CVT; feels more lethargic than perhaps it really is.
  • Step in boot level with rear seats folded.
  • Satnav doesn’t recognise some post codes, slow, unintuitive.
  • No Apple CarPlay.
  • Seems particularly susceptible to channelling bad smells into the cabin.
  • 59.4 mpg.
Entry-level Price£21,885Price as tested£28,900
Engine1798cc 4-cyl petrol + 53 kW motorTransmission6-speed manual
Power120bhp @ 3,600-4,000rpmTorque142Nm (engine) 163Nm (motor)
0-6211.0 secsTop speed105 mph
Economy41.5 – 60.4 mpg (WLTP)CO286 g/km
Dimensions4360 x 1795 x 1565 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1420 kg