THE edgily styled Toyota C-HR - it stands for Coupe-High Rider - has blazed an impressive trail since its launch in January, its sharp, head-turning style adding a distinctive new choice in the crucial market sector.
Those looks, combined with family practicality and immense driveability, has made it an award-winning and compelling contender in the crossover sector. It's sold more than 7,450 units in the first six months and though nearly three-quarters of those have been hybrid models, the punchy 1.2-litre petrol engine version shouldn't be overlooked.
The 1.2 turbo comes with a six-speed manual or an optional CVT automatic. Both are front-wheel drive as standard, while four-wheel drive can be added to petrol auto versions. Though it's not particularly fast, CO2 emissions are 134g/km and official fuel consumption of 47.1mpg. The best I achieved was just under 39mpg with an average of 33.6mpg.
The 1.2 is the first Toyota model to adopt a new Intelligent Manual Transmission. Designed to work like a well-judged heel-and-toe action, it automatically increases engine revs when downshifting, ensuring a light and easy gear shift. The system also works when shifting up, reducing clutch shock to provide a more comfortable drive for both driver and passengers. A smooth pull-away is ensured and only the clumsiest will stall it.
Under the skin, the C-HR uses the Toyota New Global Architecture, which also underpins the latest Prius and helps deliver fine handling and a comfortable ride. Toyota also developed the C-HR with European and UK drivers in mind which means its suspension has been tuned to cope with the unique demands of most of the twisting and bumpy roads found here.
Surprisingly, thanks to its low centre of gravity, there's also very, very little body roll from such a high sided car. There's also plenty of grip and on the move, it's quiet and refined unless under hard acceleration. It's a simple pleasure to drive.
With head-turning looks and an enjoyable drive, Toyota has also worked hard to deliver a distinctive interior. Airy and spacious, there are plenty of high-quality materials and a large amount of kit, while the layout is driver-focused and features plenty of bright colours. A nice place to be.
The C-HR comes in three flavours - Icon, Excel and Dynamic. Standard kit includes dual-zone automatic air conditioning, 17-inch alloys, front fog lamps, auto lights and wipers, Bluetooth, DAB radio, adaptive cruise control and Toyota's Touch 2 touchscreen controlled multimedia system. It features an eight-inch touchscreen mounted high up on the dash in your eyeline and slightly angled towards the driver making it easy to see and use on the move.
Excel models add heated front seats, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, auto main beam, part-leather seat upholstery, parking sensors and Intelligent Park Assist, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloys. Satnav and access to on-line services is added to the multimedia system.
Dynamic models also get unique 18-inch alloys and a sportier look including metallic paint with contrasting black roof and LED headlights and fog lights and a bespoke purple upholstery fabric.
Crucially for a family car, all versions also come with Toyota's Safety Sense set-up, which includes the aforementioned adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and automatic high beam assistance. It also includes autonomous emergency braking.