Toyota Yaris Cross (2021) review: the hidden depths
âº Toyota’s B-segment SUV tested on UK roads
âº The hybrid transmission offers real savings
âº But it’s also good to drive
âOh no,â I can hear you cry, ânot another small SUV. Yes, and this is the first Toyota has sold in Europe since the Urban Cruiser. But this one is different, because Toyota is already banking on the success of CoTY’s winning Yaris supermini, and it is closely linked to it. So we’re looking at the zeitgeist of real-world small family cars – it’s a hybrid and it’s shaped like an SUV …
Sitting on the same TNGA-B (GA-B) platform as the Yaris (and its cousin GR to some extent), the Cross receives Toyota’s latest fourth-generation hybrid powertrain. The 1.5-liter hybrid system is based on the larger 2.0 and 2.5-liter powertrains used by the Corolla, C-HR, RAV4 and Camry. The new 1.5-liter three-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine is optimized for torque and has 40% higher thermal efficiency than diesel.
What that means to you is that if you’re looking for a fun-to-drive, budget-friendly small family car that offers plenty of space and a family-friendly interior, this should do the trick. The firm claims that it is a true SUV, benefiting from all the experience it has accumulated with the RAV4, with two models in the range benefiting from the intelligent all-wheel drive AWD-i. We drove a pre-production prototype on UK roads to see if Toyota succeeded in extracting these ingredients.
How is it going inside?
It may be closely related to a top-selling city car, but thanks to the high seating position and roomy cabin, it feels much more spacious than a Yaris and looks more like a car in the market area above. The instrument panel, just like its namesake, comes with useful storage areas, is fully equipped and dominated by a central raised infotainment screen above the digital climate controls with physical temperature control buttons. A head-up display, adaptive cruise control and a fully digital instrument panel are also offered.
It’s solid and well laid out and ticks all the boxes – and all it really lacks is the design flair you’d expect to find in a Peugeot 2008 or Renault Captur. It’s functional and spacious, with the right amount of cup holders and bottle holders, but it’s also dark and boring to look at. Still, dark interiors are easier to clean.
It’s 240mm longer than the Yaris hatchback, which means more room inside, despite having the same wheelbase. There’s plenty of room up front and back, with a pair of tall rear passengers who can get comfortable without too much difficulty. The 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat, power tailgate and dual-level trunk floor are all pluses – you can’t dispute its practicality.
How does it feel to drive?
This is where the Yaris Cross comes to life. The total horsepower of both gasoline and electric engines, and that’s good for a WLTP combined fuel economy figure of 65.9 mpg and CO2 figures of less than 120 g / km (135 g / km for the model four-wheel drive). Performance on paper is poor with a top speed of 105mph and the 0-62mph time is 11.2 seconds (11.8 for the four-wheel drive version).
But on the move, you quickly feel away from the lights and smooth in general driving on the road. The three-cylinder engine is greedy but never intrusive, instead, it hums quietly in the background. It’s better suited for city work, but give it the beans, and it sounds good and rarely reveals the fact that it’s driven by an E-CVT. Finally, if you venture out of town, it’s quiet and refined on the highway, although our pre-production car suffered from a bit too much wind noise around the driver’s mirror.
A dashboard indicator lets you know how long it’s been in pure EV mode, and it may be surprising how much that is. On our predominantly urban test route, in stuffy residential counties, it indicated that we were in EV mode 60-75% of the time. When we got the chance to stretch our legs, we saw it comfortably run on battery power up to highway speeds.
Handling and driving
But it’s the handling that really impresses. With this super stiff and lightweight monocoque, you get a car that has been fine tuned. Precise, well-weighted steering is a bonus, as is the minimum amount of body roll (for a high rider) and a tight turn which is a rare treat in this sector of the market. It’s not sporty, but it is certainly able to keep you entertained on B roads if you work it out.
Despite that emphasis on handling, the ride quality is also a cut above – it’s firm, yet well-cushioned, meaning you’ll feel the bumps and bumps, but they won’t crash uncomfortably. . All in all, a commendable iteration of Toyota’s flexible TNGA architecture.
There are four models to choose from, plus a full Premiere Edition version, available for just one year. All models are well-equipped, but they should be, as they don’t have an entry point and aren’t as cheap as many of its smaller SUV rivals.
All models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense and Driver Assistance Systems. It can warn the driver of an impending collision and help steer and brake, or at least mitigate the effects of a collision. It also has pedestrian and cyclist recognition, lane departure warning and traffic sign assistance.
Toyota Yaris Cross: verdict
Forget about the SUV-themed thrift stores that are an integral part of so many small family cars these days, because this is a smart and excellent all-rounder. On the rational side, the Yaris Cross ranks well: it is practical, spacious for passengers and luggage and very economical. You can be sure it will be reliable, and thanks to Toyota’s 10-year warranty, it will be easy to sell. We’ll reserve our judgment on its quality against the class-leading Ford Puma and Skoda Kamiq until we’ve spent more time with it, but at the very least it’s up there.
Where the Yaris Cross has the capacity to surprise and delight is in its fourth generation hybrid drivetrain. Its stress-free 1.5-liter triple is smooth and dynamic, and pairs perfectly with the transmission and E-CVT engine to create an effortless ride that performs well in almost any situation, without some of the traditional drawbacks. For one thing, the transmission doesn’t let the engine moo its disapproval every time you want to make a cheeky pass, and you can feel that the electric motor is really contributing to the car’s power at mid-range.
Then there’s handling, which is much better than its high suspension would suggest. The cornering is quick, the steering is smooth in its response, and the damping gives the firm suspension a welcome degree of smoothness. Considering that it was designed as a family hack, it is exceptionally excellent in this regard. And that leaves it looking like a safe, healthy choice with hidden depths that should mean lasting, long-term happiness.
The Yaris Cross is available to order now, starting at Â£ 23,515 for the entry-level Icon model, with deliveries starting later in 2021.