Toyota became the world's largest automaker by building cars that were long on sensibility but short on sex appeal.
With the exception of the 2000GT, the FJ40 and maybe the MR2, the Japanese giant has never been known for making machines that excite the soul.
Instead, it has concentrated on practical people movers that run right, run long and never fail.
Toyota's new C-HR is a very good addition to the legacy of Corollas, Camrys, RAV4s and Prii. It's frugal and fun to drive.
The C-HR -- the name stands for Coupe High-Rider, Toyota says -- is a four-door, five-seat cute-utility vehicle, described as either a compact or subcompact SUV.
Powered by an efficient two-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, it offers 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, applied to the front wheels by Toyota's CVT automatic transmission.
Those aren't big numbers, but this is not a big car. Riding on 18-inch wheels, it's light on its feet and light on the scales, weighing in at 3,300 pounds.
The car has sporty lines, including a sharp downward swoop behind the rear doors and muscular, flared wheel wells.
It comes standard with three drive modes. I found Sport not terribly sportier than Normal, and Eco not terribly less so. So I stayed in Sport for most of the drive, making the most of the little engine by using the manual "stick shift" option.
At times, the car felt like it needed a few more hamsters on the wheel. But the C-HR proved adequate for the hills of Silver Lake and for repeated runs up and down the Hollywood Freeway.