Toyota goes for a

stunner with C-HR

Toyota C-HR, front action
Toyota C-HR, side action
Toyota C-HR, front action 2
Toyota C-HR, rear action 2
Toyota C-HR, rear action
Toyota C-HR, rear seats
Toyota C-HR, dash detail
Toyota C-HR, dashboard
Toyota C-HR, boot

REALLY big car companies, like Toyota go through two distinct phases, one where the accountants rule the roost and the cars are dull, if reliable and well built.

Then, several years down the line, someone near the top of the firm (in this case I suspect you could go no higher) decides that dull won't do any more and future Toyotas need to be bravely bold; even a little challenging.

Seen the latest Prius petrol/electric hybrid from the back? That is one challenging car in the looks department, appearing oddly stretched and with front and rear seemingly from different drawing boards.

Well, the latest Toyota has a lot of the Prius in it - but sufficiently hidden (engines, suspension for instance) that you would never know the new C-HR (for Coupe High-Rider, would you believe) came from the same company.

Styling is a personal thing, but to these eyes the C-HR looks a stunner, bold enough to have driven straight from a motor show stand as a "we'll never build it car" that is now actually popping off the production line in Turkey.

It is a car made very much for today's buyers, which means it's a crossover, gently mixing 4x4 looks and built a bit higher than a hatch and infused with a bit of machismo, thanks to lines that look as though they were carved from a block of clay by someone with advanced sword skills. The handles for the rear doors are hidden up near the roofline, lending a coupe-lite look.

One thing is certain; shrinking violets need not apply. Things settle down a bit inside, where the dash is dominated by an iPad-sized screen and it's obvious a great deal of attention has been paid to the choice of materials and finishes. It works too, especially with brown highlights on doors and dashtop.

The C-HR range starts at £20,995 for an Icon grade C-HR with 1.2 litre petrol engine, manual gearbox and front wheel drive. That package gives you dual zone automatic air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, a touchscreen and auto wipers and self-dipping rear view mirror.

Official figures give this model an overall 47.9mpg, top speed of 118mph and the dash to 62mph in 10.9 seconds. Not many people will buy it, heading instead for a hybrid version and the promise of extended fuel economy from its mix of 1.8 litre petrol engine and helping battery stowed neatly under the rear seats.

A hybrid in Icon trim costs £23,595, comes only with auto gears and will be a favourite of company car drivers, thanks to an official 74.3mpg and tailpipe emissions of just 86g/km (compared to the 135g/km of the all-petrol version, which will involve some modest road tax, where the hybrid is delightfully free of Exchequer-boosting payments).

There is also an automatic model of the 1.2 petrol C-HR, from £22,195 and even an all-wheel drive version of the 1.2 with auto gears, from £26,495, although even with an optional SUV pack (front guard, side bars and mild under body protection) this is going to be a car for snowy school runs, not for heading off across the moors.

Biggest seller by far is expected to be the hybrid, perhaps taking three-quarters of orders. Toyota thinks it could sell 16,000 in total of its newcomer in a year in the UK, with the three grades split about equally. Private buyers will take a comfortable majority of C-HR sales, paying from £229 a month for the privilege, with a £5,400 deposit.

Tried on a variety of Spanish roads the hybrid version got along well, especially once you stopped pressing hard on the accelerator, which sends the revs rising while the car catches up. It's a feature of Toyota's CVT transmissions that can make the car sound a bit busy.

Journey's end showed 46mpg, a long way from the official figure but not unimpressive for a petrol powered car with useful electric assist. There are no plans for a diesel.

Taking to a manual gearbox non-hybrid 1.2 litre version worsened the fuel consumption to 40mpg, but you might think it a price worth paging for a car that felt lighter on its feet, more responsive and without the potential drone from the hybrid's transmission.

Every C-HR has brakes that apply themselves if a collision is sensed, automatic dipping headlamps, traffic sign recognition (a camera sees the speed limit and pops in on the dash) and lane departure warning if you cross a road line without signalling. It can be switched off, if you prefer to make your own signalling decisions.

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