MONTREAL, Quebec—Toyota’s new C-HR (for “Compact High Rider”) is the long-awaited smaller alternative to the best-selling RAV-4. It’s not so capable, not so large, and not so expensive.

The RAV-4 is considered a compact SUV, while the C-HR is a sub-compact crossover, available only with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission.

The C-HR is aimed directly at younger drivers – cool urban hipsters, preferably – and woos them with funky styling and an affordable price that starts at $24,690 and offers only one trim level.

It goes head to head in the marketplace with Honda’s HR-V and Mazda’s CX-3, but whether those young drivers will eschew Uber to actually buy one has yet to be seen.

You’ll either love it or hate the styling. The C-HR is all creases and edges and chiseled corners, originally designed as a Scion. There’s not a lot of difference between this production model and the concept first seen at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show.

It stands out in a crowd and looks good if you like this sort of thing, but if you don’t, just move on right now.

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There’s an official Toyota description for the styling: “Sexy diamond.” The car is supposed to look like a diamond, cut in half and laid on its side. In fact, Toyota Canada gets really enthusiastic about this and goes on to describe the style as “kick-ass,” which apparently had to be approved at the highest levels.

The standard daytime running lights are LED, which is a sign of the ever-improving times but still unusual in this price range—the competition uses halogen, for now. The rear lights are particularly striking, sticking out wide and high like Dumbo’s ears, partly on the hatch-like door and partly on the main body. They’re very visible, of course, but also very polarizing.

The rear doors are nicely integrated into the overall shape, with high door handles like on the rear door of the Hyundai Veloster. At one point in its concept stage, Toyota was trying to call the C-HR a coupe despite the four doors, but thankfully that silliness is long past.

There are several colours available, including blue, green, and red, all with a white roof. They’re attractive and distinctive and they cost extra: $540 for the blue and green, and $795 for the red. They’re one of the very few optional extras.

The diamond theme continues inside with little diamond motifs etched into the roof liner – no sunroof is available – and into the door panels. The cabin is very nicely finished, and although there’s no power available for any of the seats, there’s no lack of comfort.

Front-seat passengers can stretch out easily and even back-seat passengers are well accommodated. That high roof means there’s plenty of head room for everyone. The C-HR is officially a five-seater, with a third seat belt available in the middle of the rear row, but a third adult back there will cramp everybody up pretty quickly.

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It’s also not so easy to get into the back seat because the rear doors don’t open as wide as they could, but those young urban hipsters are fairly self-involved; they probably don’t care that much about hangers-on in the back seat.

Luggage space is quite limited. Behind the rear seats, there’s 538 litres of cargo room, which is better than the 454 litres of the Mazda CX-3 but well short of the 688 litres of the Honda HR-V. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split and provide just over 1,000 litres of cargo space. That’s about half of what’s available in the RAV-4, which is 25 cm longer and 5 cm wider.

There’s a 7-inch central display screen mounted high on the dashboard, but it does little more than show the music titles and album covers that are playing on the sound system.

It does not show the image from the rear-view camera (it’s displayed on the windshield mirror) and it does not show a map – there’s no Navigation available, and not even the ability to hook up your phone’s display through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This must be a cost-saving measure, but it’s also a deal-breaker for many these days.

There’s connectivity for music streaming though AHA and some other apps, but that lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a glaring fault. It means that if you want to use your smartphone’s apps while driving, you must connect it through Bluetooth or a USB cable and then stick it to the windshield with a suction holder, or into a cup holder or similar.

This is unforgiveable for a 2018 model, and especially one aimed at people who never let go of their phones.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of fancy technology in the C-HR, including some features not found before at this price. Active cruise control and active lane departure assist are both standard in the base model—these are the sonar- and camera-based features that keep your speed steady with the vehicle in front, and which steer you back into the lane if you stray to one side. Very handy if you’re being distracted by clinging illegally to your phone.

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The base car also comes with pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection, which means it will flash lights and beep bells at you if you’re about to hit something, and pre-load the brakes to stop hard if you touch the pedal. It even dips the headlamps automatically if you leave them on high beam when another car approaches.

Pay the extra $1,600 for the Premium Package and you’ll get blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, which is a good thing on the rear-visibility-limited C-HR.

The only engine available is a 2.0-litre inline four that makes 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. It’s enough for the job, but not much more. The peak torque happens about halfway through the powerband, which helps, but this is not a sporty car.

The only transmission available is a CVT that’s stepped into seven different ratios. You can jog the shift lever to the left and snick up and down between the ratios as if you’re in an automatic—most owners will probably never realize that they’re not.

Throttle sensitivity is increased when you do this, but again, you’ll probably not really notice. Paddle shifters would be nice, but are not available.

Surprisingly, there’s no all-wheel drive available for the C-HR, as there is for the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. Toyota says there just isn’t the demand for it, as was proven with the low take-rate for AWD on the old Matrix. This is not an SUV, after all, but a crossover, and it’s intended primarily for city use. In such circumstances, AWD is often just an unnecessary complication and expense.

There’s nothing wrong with the feel of the drive, but it seems Toyota elected to invest in comfort and high-tech, rather than better driving performance. That’s probably smart—urban hipsters don’t often find themselves on the satisfying country roads that appeal to auto reviewers.

Fuel economy is fairly average, at a claimed 8.2 L/100 km combined. I saw an actual average of 9.2 throughout my day in the car, but this was in poor weather and not driving for economy. Toyota claims 8.7 in the city and 7.5 on the highway. This seems high for a front-wheel-drive subcompact.

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The C-HR is not overpriced, but its generous level of standard equipment and high-tech means it’s on the high end of the competition. You can find an AWD Nissan Juke for about the same price, after all, or a well-equipped Kia Soul EX for about $21,500.

It’s easier to cross-shop because there’s really only the one trim to consider. The Premium Package, at $26,290, adds 18-inch wheels (replacing the 17-inchers); blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; power folding mirrors; push-button start; and puddle lamps, and it will probably be a popular choice.

Toyota knows it has to stay down in the price ballpark of the competition, but it can also charge a bit of a premium for its good name, which includes reliability and resale value. As such, the C-HR is still very good value for money.

If you like the looks of the C-HR and want the equivalent of a spacious small hatchback, then this is a fine little vehicle.

It has some unique features for the price – the little diamonds motif, the active cruise control, the standard dual-zone heated front seats – but it’s also lacking some important stuff.

There’s no Apple CarPlay, Navigation, sunroof, or AWD. Whether you think these are important or not will soon become clear when the C-HR comes on sale in May.

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Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.