Toyota says its new C-HR “looks like nothing we’ve ever created,” and based on exterior looks alone, it will be a real charmer.

The crossover, which made its North American debut mid-November at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, “ushers in a new era of Toyota design,” said Bill Fay, Group Vice President and General Manager of Toyota.

That’s a good thing, as the CH-R ticks a lot of boxes: fantastic side creases on the doors; wiry, modern-looking two-tone wheels; super-aggressive head- and taillight lenses; and a neat-o kicked-up side window line that ends in a somewhat-hidden door handle for an almost coupe-like image—after all “C-HR” stands for “Coupe High-Rider.” This may be the best-looking crossover in the subcompact-crossover class.

Inside, the image isn’t quite as pronounced, with a lot of straight edges, right angles, and some less-than-substantial seats. It’s too bad, as the exterior is such a knockout, and even just a little more flair in the form of brighter colours, faux-aluminum trim, and so forth would do a lot for the interior. At least the deeply-recessed gauges and 7-inch display screen are cool and sporty-looking.

Speaking of sporty: much of the talk during the media presentation was about appealing to a younger crowd – remember, the C-HR Concept wore a Scion badge, before that brand went kaput – which, according to Toyota, means agile handling is a top priority.

In that light, the C-HR gets newly-tuned MacPherson struts up front, Sachs dampers, and a larger stabilizer bar. The rear end gets Sachs, too, with a double-wishbone set-up. To put in perspective how serious Toyota is, the C-HR was actually developed at the famous Nurburgring race track.

Power, meanwhile, is rated at 144 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, which puts it in the thick of the competition that includes the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V.

Thing is, both of those vehicle feature an all-wheel-drive option, while the C-HR is relegated to front-wheel-drive for the time being. The Nissan also gets a turbo engine at base, which would have been nice to see from the C-HR. The no-AWD thing is surprising, especially for the Canadian market where so many feel that an AWD platform is not a bonus but a requirement of any compact or subcompact crossover.

At least a preload differential can distribute torque between the front wheels, which should take some of the sting away. A CVT automatic with a manual and sport mode, meanwhile, is your only transmission choice.