ONCE upon a time, Toyota rocked.
It sent us toys like the Supra, Celica GT-Four, MR2 and the original RAV4. It spoiled us.
But then everything went a bit . . . bleurgh . . . and they gave us the Prius, Verso, Auris and Avensis.
All dependable but dull and vanilla. Toyota went from fun to functional.
What about the GT86, did someone shout at the back? Yes, that’s very good, very nice, but that’s built by Subaru, it’s not a core car.
Even Toyota’s big chief Akio Toyoda admitted: “We need to start making interesting cars again.”
And now, finally, it is.
This is the £21,000 C-HR. Bold, edgy and daring.
Key facts: TOYOTA C-HR
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol turbo
0-62mph: 10.9 secs
Top speed: 118mph
Road tax: £130
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
Not everyone will like it. But Toyota doesn’t mind because it is sweet spot crossover and lots of others will. You won’t lose it in a car park, put it that way.
The C-HR (coupe high-rider – yep, honestly) is the same size as a Nissan Qashqai but with more creases. It hits the road in January in front wheel drive or 4WD, 1.2-litre petrol or 74mpg hybrid. And I hear a racier version will follow later. Hurrah.
Now let’s have a mooch around inside.
Toyota has given the cabin much love to back up those striking looks. There are diamond shapes everywhere – in the door trims, buttons, even the roof lining – and standard kit includes 7in screen, stop-and-go cruise control, lane keeping and auto emergency braking.
Gangly teens can sit comfortably in the back – but there’s no side view from those swooping rear windows. But who cares, right? They’ll be face-down on their iPhones anyway.
The C-HR signals something of a new start for Toyota. It’s the first car, apart from the Prius, to be built on a new platform that offers more design freedom and better driving dynamics (lower centre of gravity and light, rigid parts). Previously, “the bones were in the wrong place”. There’s a more radical British-built Auris coming in 2018.
As for my pick, I’d go for the 1.2-litre in front wheel drive. The six-speed manual is slick and there’s very little body roll when you punt it around twisty roads.
The hybrid system, nicked from the Prius, is quiet and worthy and will save more polar bears but it’s another £2,600 and not as much fun.
VERDICT: Nice Toy.