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First drive: Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 Hybrid. Image by Toyota.

First drive: Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 Hybrid
Can Toyota’s Yaris Cross hybrid take on the established stars of the family crossover market?


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Toyota Yaris Cross

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Toyota's last go at a compact crossover, the Urban Cruiser, was a bit of a dud. Will this new one, the Yaris Cross, fare any better against the talented likes of the Ford Puma and Peugeot 2008?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 hybrid Dynamic
Pricing: £26,465 as tested; starts at £22,515
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder hybrid petrol + 59kW electric motor
Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: Compact crossover
CO2 emissions: 112-117g/km (VED Band 111-130: £180 in year one)
Combined economy: 54.6-56.5mpg
Top speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
Power: 116hp system total
Torque: 120Nm (engine) + 140Nm (electric motor)
Boot space: 397 litres

What's this?

The Yaris Cross is Toyota getting serious about the compact crossover segment. Its previous effort in the small SUV world was the Urban Cruiser, which quite apart from having a snigger-some name, was also not a very good car. At all.

Clearly, with the compact crossover class becoming a more talented one almost by the day - cars such as the Ford Puma, Peugeot 2008, Vauxhall Mokka, and Renault Captur are not to be tackled lightly - Toyota had to stretch itself a little if it was going to make sure the Yaris Cross was to pass muster.

In terms of style, it has certainly managed that. There's more than a hint of the current Rav4 about the Yaris Cross, especially at the rear. Given the runaway success of the Rav, that's probably no bad thing. Up front, it has a cleaner, simpler 'face' than the Rav which you could probably describe as cute, if you were into such things.

Underneath, it shares much, mechanically, with the current Yaris hybrid hatch, not least the basics of its TNGA-B platform and the 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain. However, don't go thinking that the Yaris name means that this is a small car. In fact, with a length of just over 4.1-metres, it's actually slightly bigger than the original 1995 Rav4, the car that essentially created the compact 4x4 segment.

That means that the Yaris Cross is also a little more roomy than you might think, especially when compared to the hatchback Yaris, which is a little tight on the inside by the standards of its class. Space in the front of the Yaris Cross is excellent (and it has very good seats, too), and if space in the back seats is not quite so generous, then that's compensated for by the boot. With 397-litres available, it's actually fractionally larger than the boots of either the more expensive Toyota C-HR, or even that of the Corolla hatchback. Plus, the Yaris is very practical, with higher-spec models getting an adjustable boot floor that's also split lengthways, so that you can have two different floor heights in use.

Up front, while the style is clearly influenced by the Yaris hatch, the Yaris Cross looks and feels like a much more substantial thing. Basic models get an eight-inch touchscreen as standard, but top-spec models can be had with a new nine-inch screen that at long, long last drags Toyota's infotainment setup into competition with that provided by its rivals. Indeed, with its new, clear, simple graphics and easily-understood menu layout, it's something of a revelation.

How does it drive?

In terms of how it drives, the Yaris Cross once again lifts from the larger Rav4. Obviously, being a much smaller vehicle it doesn't just copy the bigger one, but there are similar sensations at play. Like the Rav4, if you pick the dynamic repertoire of the Yaris Cross apart, bit by bit, there's nothing that really stands out. The steering feel is artificial, and slightly light. The ride quality is firm, occasionally a bit stiff. The body control is fine, but nothing more than that.

Yet, in spite of that, you find yourself actually quite enjoying the drive. The Yaris Cross just feels solidly planted on the road, and if the steering is a feel-free zone, then at least the chunky nose responds briskly and faithfully to inputs. It's not a driver's car, in the conventional sense, but equally I don't think you'd get tired of driving it. It is curiously satisfying.

In engine terms, Toyota has ironed out many of the quirks and kinks of its older hybrid systems. This 1.5 three-cylinder still revs noisily when you accelerate hard, but it quietens down a lot once you're up to cruising speeds, and there's enough torque on offer that you don't need to keep your foot down hard for too long. Clearly, with an 11.6 seconds 0-62mph time and 116hp on offer, it's no ball of fire, but the Yaris Cross never feels unduly sluggish nor unresponsive. You can option up the Yaris Cross with a four-wheel drive system, using an extra 5kW electric motor to power the rear wheels, but it doesn't make a huge difference unless you need to cross tricky terrain (which with only an extra 25mm ride height compared to a Yaris hatch, you're not going to be doing much). The AWD-i Yaris Cross is actually fractionally slower to 62mph, at 11.8 seconds. A sports car it ain't.

The Yaris Cross is exceptionally economical though. Now, allowing for the fact that our test drive took place on tightly speed-restricted roads in and around Brussels (where Toyota Europe has its HQ), it's still really impressive that we recorded 76mpg on our test drive, which did include some stretches of country road and dual carriageway. Toyota also claims that you can spend as much as 80 per cent of your urban journeys running in electric mode. Even though using the car's engine and petrol to generate that electric power isn't as clean as plugging an EV into the mains, it certainly gives the Yaris Cross a potentially compelling argument when it's put up against all-electric rivals such as the Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e. Not least because there's no faffing around with charging cables. Just for the record, on our mixed test route, we spent 67 per cent of our time in electric mode.


I'd be amazed if the Yaris Cross isn't a wild success for Toyota. It's good looking, surprisingly nice to drive, hugely economical, and far more practical than you'd expect. Given that it also has Toyota's legendary reputation for quality and longevity backing it up, don't be surprised to see lots of these on the road very soon.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 31 Aug 2021    - Toyota road tests
- Yaris images

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.2021 Toyota Yaris Cross. Image by Toyota.


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