What is it?
If you want to sell cars in the UK in 2021, you need small cars and crossovers. Toyota knows this well as its Yaris supermini sits comfortably in the 10 best-selling cars list so far this year. However, it’s planning to further capitalise on its success with a new Yaris-based crossover, imaginatively called Yaris Cross.
It’s a recipe that has found Ford huge success – it released the Puma, a crossover based on the best-selling Fiesta, with the pair taking up two of the five best-sellers so far this year. Toyota is hoping for similar success from its effort, which brings smart styling and a hybrid powertrain to the mix.
This is an all-new model that has been built with European customers in mind. It’s built on the firm’s latest vehicle platform called TNGA, which gives it access to its hybrid engine, practical cabin options, safety equipment and fun to drive characteristics.
The powertrain has been updated to be more efficient, it has an impressive equipment specification, excellent connectivity, a new look and the firm’s latest all-wheel-drive technology.
What’s under the bonnet?
The engine is a 1.5-litre petrol unit combined with an electric motor to produce 114bhp and 120Nm of torque. It’s been updated for the Yaris Cross, with the battery capable of regenerating twice the energy under braking and supplying 50 per cent more power during acceleration than before.
The result is a promised 62mpg, which is decent on its own. However, incredibly, on our three-hour route of city driving and country lanes, we achieved 74mpg. When you consider this isn’t even a plug-in hybrid, that’s hugely impressive.
What’s it like to drive?
Behind the wheel, the Yaris Cross is a curious blend of driving characteristics. You sit high, which makes visibility great, with the steering nicely weighted, which makes slow moving traffic and country roads equally relaxing to drive.
It’s comfortable too, with the soft suspension not translating to too much lean when cornering. However, despite this, at low speeds it rather crashes into potholes, which can become frustrating on particularly poor roads. The brakes are also difficult to modulate smoothly, occasionally grabbing as you slow to a stop.
Minor irritations for the most part, but it’s worth noting because rivals such as the Ford Puma are slightly more satisfying to drive.
How does it look?
Toyota says the Yaris Cross takes styling cues from the regular Yaris and the firm’s RAV4 SUV, and if you look closely you can spot the subtle nods. The combination brings its own unique, stylish appearance that looks great on the road.
It’s tall like an SUV but narrow like a supermini, with chunky wheel arches giving it a more robust appearance alongside the sleek headlights and sharp creases in the front fenders and bonnet. At the rear it looks like a chunky off-roader, but also gets modern, narrow tail lights.
What’s it like inside?
The most impressive aspect of the Yaris Cross’s cabin is how spacious it feels. The car feels very narrow when threading through gaps in traffic, but it feels impressively roomy from the driver’s seat, while rear passengers have an acceptable amount of legroom.
There are some useful cubby holes for storing phones, drinks and other assorted items, while the nine-inch touchscreen in our test car was clear, crisp and easy to use. The overall ambience is one of solid build quality over premium appeal, but if you’re using your Yaris Cross for family life, that’s likely just what you’re after.
What’s the spec like?
Compared with others at this price point, the Yaris Cross comes very well-equipped, particularly when it comes to safety assistance. For example, it has night-time pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam and more included as standard.
Prices start at £22,515 for the Icon trim, but it’s Design, which is one step up, that is expected to be the most popular, making up half of all sales. Starting at £24,140, this and the entry-model get an eight-inch infotainment screen, with the Design adding 17-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlights, LED rear lights and a digital instrument binnacle.
Trims above this get a nine-inch infotainment screen, with the Premiere Edition sitting at the top of the range and expected to be on sale for about a year. Starting at £28,185, it gets 18-inch alloy wheels, black leather seats, a JBL premium sound system, and more.
Toyota says it’s targeting about 18,000 sales next year in the Yaris Cross’s first full year on sale. However, having been behind the wheel, that might be understating the possibilities. Given what a hit the Ford Puma has been, there’s no reason why this Japanese contender can’t push it for sales.
It looks great, has decent practicality, is comfortable to drive and has excellent equipment. And if our testing is anything to go by, running costs should be incredibly low. Safe to say Toyota has a winner on its hands here.