Toyota calls its new C-HR a “coupe-inspired crossover” with an “avant-garde physique” and “punchy” performance. I call this little wagon useful but a little pricy and certainly a design departure for Toyota.

I can tell you this, too: every time I climbed aboard, the top of my head skimmed the smallish door opening. Part of the blame goes to the car’s profile, which is a tad low (for an SUV). What we have is a possible noggin hazard for the careless.

The C-HR’s rivals don’t quite present the same sort of challenge. Honda’s HR-V, Mazda’s CX-3, the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X have more functional door openings. Even the lower-slung Mini Countryman is less a headache threat.

Then there’s pricing. For now, Toyota Canada sells only a front-drive (FWD) version of the C-HR and it starts at $24,690. The starter version of the HR-V, front drive, lists for $21,150, while an AWD HR-V goes for $24,750 — $60 more than the C-HR.

Toyota’s entry in this race is, indeed, a tall station wagon and it’s not inexpensive. This is not a log-hopping, mud-crawling, backwoods beast. You’ll need proper winter tires when the weather turns, especially if you’re rolling to the cottage.

In town, well, think of the C-HR as the estate version of the Toyota Prius hybrid. These two share a platform – the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA).

The 2018 Corolla will move to this flexible platform and more of this sort of model sharing is coming for the TNGA. Flexible? It’s capable of adopting all-wheel drive and you can expect a future version of the C-HR to do just that.

The styling here points to Toyota’s fervent desire to juice a conservative image built on great quality and safe styling in cars. You can see lots of folds and creases here, not to mention the planted stance and big wheel flares housing 17-inch alloy wheels.

You can see the car’s face from a mile and it has a bit of snarl to it. The rear doors have integrated handles positioned up high, which not everyone will like. At the very rear, there is a hatch with a lip spoiler. It’s a bold overall design, unlikely to be universally loved.

Inside, four adults will be comfortable, five can snuggle together if you plant a third in the middle of the rear seat. The cargo area will not hold a set of golf clubs, unless you pull out your driver and three-wood and tuck them elsewhere. The rears fold flat or split 60/40. You will not complain about headroom once you’re inside, even if you’re quite tall.

The cabin materials are equal to the price tag and the front buckets are good enough, though short under the thigh and a bit softer than the sporty design would suggest. In back, you won’t find a lot of room to slide feet under the front seats.

I liked whirling around town in this wagon. The C-HR is tight and nimble, relatively quiet and quite comfortable on the highway.  The 2.0-litre four cylinder has competitive power (144 horsepower/139 pound-feet of torque) and it’s mated to an unexciting but perfectly functional CVT (continuously variable transmission). Fuel economy: 8.7 city/7.5 highway using regular gas.

Not golf club friendly.

Toyota has loaded up the C-HR with lots of features, including a seven-inch screen, the usual connectivity stuff and even voice recognition technology. The base car has all the odds and ends most will want, but if you need more, a Premium Package (Starting MSRP: $26,290) moves you up to 18-inch alloy rims, better tires, a Smart Key System and even puddle lamps that project the C-HR logo on the ground. And it’s very safe, passively and actively.

Toyota is taking a few chances with the C-HR. The design is far beyond a stand-pat effort. Not everyone will applaud. The pricing is a bit rich, too, though every offering is loaded. No stripper models here. And at launch, there’s not an all-wheel-drive version, which is in stark contrast to rivals like the H-RV.

If this isn’t quite what you’re looking for in a subcompact crossover, stay tuned. Toyota will most certainly roll out more versions of the C-HR. The competition won’t stand pat, either.

2018 Toyota C-HR

Price as tested: $28,178.47.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (144 horsepower/139 pound-feet of torque).

Transmission: CVT.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/7.5 highway using regular fuel.

Comparables: Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and Mini Countryman, Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi RVR.

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