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Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid 2021 review: 2WD


Toyota pretty much invented the compact SUV as we know it.

Sure, it owes a massive debt to other car-based crossovers like the Simca Rancho (look it up, it’s so cool), as well as Suzuki’s pioneering 1988 Vitara, but the first RAV4 set the template for monocoque-bodied high-riding and urban-biased wagons.

The world has fallen in line – as well as in love – with the SUV ever since.

So, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that it took until the end of 2020 before Japan’s biggest carmaker decided to properly compete against the likes of the popular Mazda CX-3 with the Yaris Cross.

But here’s the deal. Toyota is about to reinvent what it means to be a light/small SUV. How? Read on…

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

It's impossible to buy a new hybrid SUV for under $30,000 without a Toyota badge attached.

Priced from $28,990 before on-road costs, the Yaris Cross GX 2WD Hybrid as tested here costs just $2000 more than the petrol-only version. The GXL and Urban flagship add another $3000 apiece, as does all-wheel drive on each grade. The latter brings a second electric motor fitted to the rear axle to provide pure-electric AWD assistance.

The cheapest non-Yaris hybrid alternative is the $35,490 Subaru XV 2.0 Hybrid L AWD, followed by the larger Toyota RAV4 GX 2WD Hybrid from $37,070, and then $40,000-plus for the popular Subaru Forester and other RAV4 hybrid variants. Likewise, the cheapest diesel – SsangYong’s Tivoli ELX – starts from $1K more than the cheapest Yaris Cross Hybrid.

There isn’t much choice for high-economy minded crossover consumers right now.

It's impossible to buy a new hybrid SUV for under $30,000 without a Toyota badge attached. It's impossible to buy a new hybrid SUV for under $30,000 without a Toyota badge attached.

Interestingly, since the related Yaris supermini hybrid does not yet come in a base (Ascent Sport) grade, the Yaris Cross Hybrid actually costs $30 less on the mid-spec Yaris SX Hybrid, further underlining the hybrid baby SUV’s startling value for money.

The GX is also very reasonably equipped.

On the safety front you’ll find eight airbags including front centre airbags to help stop the front passenger and driver colliding into one another in a lateral impact. There's also Toyota’s ‘Pre-collision safety system’ with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian (day/night) and cyclist (day) detection, daytime intersection assistance, emergency steering assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, speed-sign recognition, auto high beam, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, active cornering assist, cross-wind assist, four-wheel disc brakes, reverse camera, SOS emergency call, stolen vehicle tracker and ISOFIX child restraint anchors.

The cheapest Yaris Cross also ushers in a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The cheapest Yaris Cross also ushers in a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

For a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, parking support braking, blind-spot monitor, panoramic surround-view monitor and front and rear parking sensors you’ll need the GXL for another $3000 – and that also adds satellite navigation. 

The cheapest Yaris Cross also ushers in a 7.0-inch touchscreen, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, six-speaker audio, voice-recognition technology, digital instrument cluster, trip computer, climate control, keyless entry/start, power windows, electric park brake, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment, 40/20/40-split folding rear seat backs, auto-folding exterior mirrors, a dual-level cargo floor, 16-inch alloys and a temporary spare. Note there are only single-USB and 12-volt power sockets.

Adding premium paint costs $500 and two-tone paint is $450.

Toyota is obviously very serious about the hybrid-powered Yaris Cross making an impact. There’s a lot of kit in the GX for the money, even as a base model.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Yaris Cross is a strange yet oddly compelling looking vehicle, with a tall, narrow gate, tinted headlights that look slightly zombie-like and a sad mouth-shaped grille.

It also embraces the squared-off wheel arches wearing thick black cladding and chunkier-bumper styling clichés of most soft-roader wagons, connecting it with the company’s other crossovers like the RAV4 and upcoming Corolla Cross. The 1990s Subaru Outback has a lot to answer for.

The Yaris Cross is a strange yet oddly compelling looking vehicle. The Yaris Cross is a strange yet oddly compelling looking vehicle.

Sharing the same GA-B Toyota New Global Architecture with the Yaris, the Yaris Cross’ platform is a 10mm longer and 35mm (front) and 45mm (rear) wider, but its body is significantly larger again – some 240mm longer, 70mm wider and 85mm taller than the supermini hatch. Length, width and height dimensions are 4180mm, 1765mm and 1590mm respectively. There’s also 20mm greater ground clearance, at 170mm and a 10mm longer wheelbase to liberate rear-seat and luggage space.

Such dimensional gains translate into a much roomier and airier cabin than the humble Yaris relationship suggests.

How practical is the space inside?

Get ready for a surprise.

For a city-sized SUV, this is an easy vehicle to get in and out of, assisted by large doors, a tall roof and broad seat bases. Slide in and buckle up.

The Yaris Cross employs a slightly different, a bit more squared-off dash than the item found in the regular Yaris supermini. Minor switchgear changes, an oh-so-slightly shallower shelf above the glovebox and different (but still smartly styled) seat trim also separate the siblings. Otherwise, it’s the same, solid, stylish, storage-obsessive and squeak-free fascia we’ve come to enjoy using in TNGA cars.

The crossover is also better-equipped than its supermini namesake, with the GX including mid-spec kit like keyless entry/egress, up-spec digital instruments (that look great) and leather-stitched wheel and electric handbrake… yet it costs less than the cheapest Yaris hybrid, remember.

For a city-sized SUV, this is an easy vehicle to get in and out of. For a city-sized SUV, this is an easy vehicle to get in and out of.

A note about the digital speedo, though. It’s positioned down and right of the binnacle, so isn’t really in the driver’s sightlines. The fact the numbers are so huge means people are unlikely to miss them, but the standard analogue dials offered on the base hatch is easier to read.

While we’re pointing to suggested fixes, driver’s seat lumbar and front passenger-seat height adjustment wouldn’t go astray. There’s no wireless phone charger – a strange omission in an all-new series. And the driver’s rear vision is hindered by fixed tombstone-style headrests (which makes the standard 7.0-inch camera screen and Mickey Mouse ears exterior mirrors a boon).

Still, you’d be forgiven for thinking Toyota prefers that buyers go crossover. Even this entry-level GX Hybrid has more than everything a modern motorist needs.

So, the Cross is like the Yaris, only roomier. Low seating adjustability allows the driver more space to stretch out, on flat but supportive seats, with an excellent driving position and deeper glass areas bringing better all-round vision as well as an airier interior ambience than the hatch.

A sufficiently sized glove box, deep door bins, two cupholders (three if you count the one behind the rear centre console meant to serve one of the three rear passengers), and a single USB-A and 12-volt outlet complete the features list up front.

With that taller ceiling, rear access is also easy while headroom is fine. With that taller ceiling, rear access is also easy while headroom is fine.

Along with subtle grey textures offset by glossy black detailing, all contribute to making occupants right at home in a quality-built product.

With that taller ceiling, rear access is also easy while headroom is fine; the seats feature nicely shaped and angled backrests for adults as well as well-padded cushions providing ample thigh support for this particular tester; the unique middle portion of the 40/20/40 rear backrest contains the cupholders so conspicuously AWOL in the Yaris hatch; the door pockets can also hold big bottles; there’s space beneath the front seats to tuck your feet under; a reading lamp is provided, along with a single map pocket and auto up/down windows that drop all the way out of sight; and there are two coat hooks. How civilised.

But the luggage cover is the annoying flimsy wet suit material as found in the rival HR-V when the supermini has a solid cardboard item; the rear seats offer no sliding or reclining option as in some similarly spacious crossovers; and there aren’t overhead grab handles or face-level air vents back there – though the fronts do push out quite a breeze felt out back. But again, the feeling is pleasant and inviting.

Finally, boot space is pretty huge for a small crossover. A dual-level 60/40-split deck covers a lower floor-area, meaning luggage capacity varies from 314 to 390 litres with the rear seat backs in place. That’s somewhat more than the 270L that the regular hatch provides. A space-saver spare lives underneath that.

  • The luggage cover is the annoying flimsy wet suit material as found in the rival HR-V. The luggage cover is the annoying flimsy wet suit material as found in the rival HR-V.
  • Boot space is pretty huge for a small crossover. Boot space is pretty huge for a small crossover.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Just as with the Yaris hatch, the Yaris Cross GX 2WD Hybrid employs the same naturally-aspirated 1490cc 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, running the Atkinson cycle and producing 67kW at 5500rpm and 120Nm at 3800-4800rpm.

With a 59kW/141Nm AC synchronous/permanent magnet electric motor, and drawing from a 178-volt/4.3Ah lithium-ion battery, the hybrid system helps bump that power output up to a combined 85kW.

The Yaris Cross GX 2WD Hybrid employs a naturally-aspirated 1490cc 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. The Yaris Cross GX 2WD Hybrid employs a naturally-aspirated 1490cc 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine.

How much fuel does it consume?

The Yaris Cross GX 2WD Hybrid tips the scales at 1190kg, or some 60kg more compared to 1130kg hatchback. This and inferior aerodynamics due to the height and width differences results in a half-litre worse official combined average fuel consumption figure, of a still-impressive 3.8L/100km. This translates to a carbon-dioxide emissions rating of just 86 grams per kilometre.

Driven hard at times, both around town and out on the open road – including over some gravel parts – we averaged an exceptional 4.4L/100km at the pump. Standard 91 RON unleaded and 94 RON E10 ethanol-mix petrol is acceptable.

Fitted with a 36-litre tank, nearly 950km between refills is possible.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Toyota has yet to have the Yaris Cross ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash-test results published.

However, being related to the supermini, it is expected that the small crossover will score a corresponding five-star rating.

On the safety front you’ll find eight airbags including front centre airbags to help stop the front passenger and driver colliding into one another in a lateral impact, Toyota’s ‘Pre-collision safety system’ with AEB for pedestrian (day/night) and cyclist (day) detection, daytime intersection assistance, emergency steering assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, speed-sign recognition, auto high beam, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, active cornering assist, cross-wind assist, four-wheel disc brakes, reverse camera, SOS emergency call, stolen vehicle tracker and ISOFIX child restraint anchors.

For a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, parking support braking, blind-spot monitor, panoramic surround-view monitor and front and rear parking sensors you’ll need the GXL for another $3000.

In the Yaris supermini, the AEB functions between 10km/h and 180km/h and the lane support systems between 50km/h and 180km/h. Given it's probably the same tech as found in the Yaris Cross, expect broadly similar operating ranges.

Two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps are fitted.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Toyota offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty – with the option of extending that to seven years – as well as roadside assistance. Service intervals are at 12 months or 15,000km.

The engine and transmission are under a seven-year warranty, while the hybrid battery pack is up to 10 years as long as the owner undertakes an annual inspection “… as part of routine maintenance according to the vehicle logbook.”

Toyota offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Toyota offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

And why wouldn't you? The first four scheduled services are capped at $205 each ($10 more than the hatchback equivalent), with the work carried out detailed online. This is one of Toyota's biggest advantages over the competition.

What's it like to drive around town?

As with the hatchback, the Yaris Cross was created as a city SUV. The 20mm extra ground clearance and larger glass area make negotiating speed humps and tight parking spots a cinch. Even with a slightly larger turning circle compared to the hatchback. It really feels at home around town.

Being a hybrid, it’s also possible to potter about at low speeds on silent electric drive for brief spells, up to about 40km/h, before the thrummy three-pot atmo petrol engine seamlessly chimes in and takes over.

Given how little fuel the at-times eerily hushed Yaris Cross hybrid consumes, it’s an exceptionally ideal urban runabout, with short bursts of zero tailpipe emissions a real selling point.

But there is a small price to pay for marrying a petrol-electric powertrain to a small SUV.

The Cross’ 60kg penalty over the Yaris hatchback equivalent means it delivers 71kW per tonne versus 75kW/tonne, so it doesn’t quite have the same sparkling off-the-line performance as the supermini, though it is by no means slow or sluggish.

The 20mm extra ground clearance and larger glass area make negotiating speed humps and tight parking spots a cinch. The 20mm extra ground clearance and larger glass area make negotiating speed humps and tight parking spots a cinch.

Acceleration remains spirited – if a little more laboured – and mid-range throttle response does feel a tiny bit blunted, so overtaking situations aren't quite met with the same energy as in the hatch, but overall this remains a quick and spirited little crossover.

There does seem to be a bit more transmission-induced engine roar at speed, however, as a result of the engine having to work harder to keep things humming along. Once on the move out on the motorway or highway, though, the Toyota feels fast and responsive to throttle inputs. It’s also worth noting that its standard adaptive cruise control (with full stop/go functionality) gives it a grown-up feel, backed up by the gentle lane-keep tech that helps keep the car within the white lines.

As with the regular Yaris, the Cross suffers from a sensitive, on/off the brake pedal, making low-speed stopping a bit jerky and difficult to modulate. But like the rest of the Toyota hybrid range, the anchors themselves do a great job washing speed off very quickly.

The crossover’s handling is also a little less planted than in the regular Yaris, though – again – there’s plenty of steering precision if not heaps of feedback, for safe handling and control, while ample grip ensures safe and effortless cornering.

Road and/or tyre noise intrusion is evident over some coarser bitumen roads. Road and/or tyre noise intrusion is evident over some coarser bitumen roads.

We’re also glad at how planted the Yaris Cross feels scurrying over gravel at speed, resisting the need to wander about as some SUVs do. Note that the intrusive traction control is a tad over-eager to interfere and cut drive to the front wheels – but better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, road and/or tyre noise intrusion is evident over some coarser bitumen roads, making the Yaris Cross louder and at-times tinnier than some of the competition, but the ride is supple and absorbent enough for most people to not even think twice about it. On the GX 2WD the alloys are shod with 205/65R16 rubber.

The Yaris Cross is already the second bestselling Light SUV in Australia after the CX-3 and closing in. With above-average space, efficiency, specification and technology for the money, it’s not difficult to understand why.

That said, the GX 2WD Hybrid from $28,990 is compelling value-for-money, considering that it is the least expensive petrol-electric crossover available new today.

Lacking for nothing in terms of equipment or convenience, especially for a base grade, the cheapest Yaris Cross hybrid must be right up there as one of this year’s best bargain buys.

$31,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Score

4/5
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