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Toyota Yaris Cross 2022 review: Urban Hybrid

The Toyota Yaris Cross takes a different styling direction to the related Yaris hatch. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5

By the end of next year, Toyota will have not one but three light or small SUVs to choose from. The first to roll out in 2017 was the sleek C-HR, while the larger Corolla Cross will hit Australian shores in 2022.

About a year ago, Toyota lobbed the Yaris Cross, a light SUV based on the same GA-B 'Toyota New Global Architecture' platform as the new-generation Yaris hatchback.

The Yaris Cross is not just a Yaris with a few extra millimetres of ride height. Its design and positioning put it in the crosshairs of competitors like the Ford Puma, Kia Stonic, Nissan Juke, Volkswagen T-Cross and more.

With such impressive competition, does the Yaris Cross tick all of the boxes buyers in the segment expect? 

The Yaris Cross is not just a Yaris with a few extra millimetres of ride height. (Image: Tim Nicholson) The Yaris Cross is not just a Yaris with a few extra millimetres of ride height. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

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

The Yaris Cross is offered with a regular petrol and a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain in GX, GXL and Urban model grades.

The petrol is front-wheel drive only while the hybrid is available in front and all-wheel-drive guises. All Yaris Cross variants are fitted with an automatic transmission as standard.

Pricing kicks off at $26,990 before on-road costs for the base GX 2WD petrol and hits $37,990 for the Urban Hybrid AWD. We tested the Yaris Cross Urban Hybrid 2WD, which retails for $34,990.

This pricing puts our test car at the pricier end of the segment. If you opt for the AWD, you’re looking at around $40k driveaway, which is a lot for a light SUV.

Standard equipment includes a healthy range of safety features. (Image: Tim Nicholson) 
Standard equipment includes a healthy range of safety features. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

The Urban Hybrid 2WD is in company with higher-grade front-wheel-drive rivals like the Ford Puma ST-Line V ($35,540), Mazda CX-3 Akari ($36,190) and new Renault Captur Intens ($35,790), but well above more affordable fare like the Kia Stonic GT-Line ($29,990) and VW T-Cross 85TSI Style ($32,100).

Even in base GX guise, the Yaris Cross has a decent level of standard gear and it’s about in line with equivalent rivals.

Standard equipment includes a healthy range of safety features, keyless entry and start, leather-accented steering wheel, single-zone climate control, digital instrument cluster, 4.2-inch information display, 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, voice recognition and a six-speaker audio system.

The GXL adds extra safety gear, LED headlights and satellite navigation, while the Urban gains 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 16-inches on GXL), a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, a head-up display, an extra USB port in the dash, power tailgate with kick sensor and synthetic leather-accented seats with a tweed-like fabric.

While some of these additions in the Urban are welcome – especially the heated seats and head-up display – some aren’t essential. We think the best value in the Yaris Cross range can be found in the GX or GXL. 

Is there anything interesting about its design?

While it might share underpinnings with the Yaris hatch, Toyota has given the Yaris Cross a distinctive design.

The extra 20mm of ground clearance over the Yaris is evident and it features SUV-style cladding at the base of the whole car, which is emphasised around the wheel arches. It’s no off-roader, but at least it looks the part.

The overall silhouette gives the look of a jacked-up hatch, but it’s an attractive design, helped by the short overhangs, split front grille and swept-back headlights – LEDs in Urban guise – as well as the sharply designed rear end.

The overall silhouette gives the look of a jacked-up hatch. (Image: Tim Nicholson) 
The overall silhouette gives the look of a jacked-up hatch. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

The tail lights appear integrated with the tailgate rear windscreen and they run the width of the rear of the car. It’s a fresh and modern look and it’s definitely the Yaris Cross’s best angle.

Premium looking 18-inch alloys and the striking Mineral Blue paint on our test car help the little SUV stand out. Which is a hard task when your rivals are design-led models like the Nissan Juke.

How practical is the space inside?

The clearest evidence of the relationship between the Yaris Cross and the Yaris is the cabin. The dash design and layout is identical in both cars.

In terms of design, it’s on the busy side, with the dash fascia broken up into levels. Each features different materials – some soft touch – and colours. It’s not unpleasant by any stretch, but it could never be described as premium.

There are a number of handy storage nooks up front, including directly under the touchscreen and behind the gear shifter. The only central storage compartment is a tiny open box that will just fit a coffee cup, but has no lid. Two central cupholders will grip regular-sized coffee cups but wider drinking vessels will struggle to fit. There is, however, decent space for 1.5-litre bottles in the front doors and a 5.7-litre glovebox.

The air-conditioning controls are logical, but the positioning of the central air vents recessed into the dash and under the screen impacts air flow. It’s a bit of an odd design flaw, given the outer vents flow perfectly.

The internal door handles are almost hidden in the chunky armrests on the front doors. They are a little too thick and feel a bit cheap.

There’s a nice look and feel to the leather-accented three-spoke steering wheel and it houses clear controls for cruise control, lane-keeping aid, audio and phone.

There’s plenty of headroom up front. (Image: Tim Nicholson) There’s plenty of headroom up front. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

Toyota’s current multimedia setup is best described as workmanlike. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong – the menu tiles are logically laid out and it is easy to navigate. Some people will appreciate the hard control buttons running down either side of the screen, as it avoids smearing the display. But the graphics and design are dated and it lacks the modern vibe of systems from Mazda, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen.

The instrument cluster is all digital and the split circular displays have a motorbike vibe to their design. There’s something a bit retro and low-fi about it, but it’s also charming. The Urban tested here has the added benefit of a crystal-clear head-up display.

Seats up front are flat under thigh but offer decent upper body side bolstering. The pattern is unique to the Urban and the material is a mix of synthetic leather and cloth.

There’s plenty of headroom up front and that continues in the rear. Leg and kneeroom is limited behind my six-foot driving position, but there is ample toe room. The overall space in the rear is about average for the segment.

The overall space in the rear is about average for the segment. (Image: Tim Nicholson) The overall space in the rear is about average for the segment. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

Only smaller bottles will fit in the rear door storage space (Toyota says 600ml bottles), but there is a neat central fold-down armrest with cupholders, thanks to the clever 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats.

Unfortunately, it lacks any rear air vents or rear USB ports. There’s a map pocket on the rear of the front passenger seat.

Only smaller bottles will fit in the rear door storage space. (Image: Tim Nicholson) Only smaller bottles will fit in the rear door storage space. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

The rear seats are flat and feel firmer than the front seats and the aperture of the rear doors could be wider. The Yaris Cross is not the most family friendly offering, but it is not pitched at that market.

You can fold the rear seats as required via a lever on the top of the seatback, but you may need to either remove the rear headrests or move the front seats forward a little to ensure they fold down completely.

The Yaris Cross boot gets a big tick. Opening the power tailgate (standard on the Urban) reveals a 390-litre load space (the AWD is 314L), which is more than the Kia Stonic (352L) but not as big as the cavernous Nissan Juke (422L). Still, the Yaris Cross can take a bigger load than the Corolla hatch (217-333L depending on the variant). The little crossover has a space-saver spare wheel as standard.

The Yaris Cross boot gets a big tick. (Image: Tim Nicholson) The Yaris Cross boot gets a big tick. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

It also features shopping bag hooks on either side and a flimsy but easy to use cargo cover.

The best part of the Yaris Cross’s boot is the false floor. It has extra storage space hidden under a split-panel, which can be lowered or removed to reveal the extra storage. It’s added peace of mind when it comes to securely stowing items and a feature we’d love to see in more cars.

The Yaris Cross has more boot space than the Kia Stonic but not as much as the cavernous Nissan Juke. (Image: Tim Nicholson)  The Yaris Cross has more boot space than the Kia Stonic but not as much as the cavernous Nissan Juke. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The petrol-powered Yaris Cross uses a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder unit delivering 88kW/145Nm. It’s paired with a 10-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) and exclusively drives the front wheels.

The petrol-electric powertrain fitted to our Urban Hybrid 2WD features a 67kW/120Nm 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine paired with a 59kW/141Nm motor generator and second power generator for a total system power output of 85kW.

The petrol-electric powertrain features a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine. (Image: Tim Nicholson) The petrol-electric powertrain features a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

A lithium-ion battery is part of the hybrid system and it uses a CVT to drive the front, or all four wheels.

It’s the only hybrid in the light SUV segment and the combined output puts it in line with the VW T-Cross (85kW) and Nissan Juke (84kW), but below the Ford Puma (92kW), Mazda CX-3 (110kW) and Renault Captur (113kW).

How much fuel does it consume?

The Yaris Cross hybrid is the segment leader when it comes to fuel efficiency. Toyota says the 2WD Hybrid consumes just 3.8L/100km on the combined cycle, while the AWD sips 4.0L/100km.

Our figure after a week of mixed urban and highway driving was 5.5L/100km, which is still pretty good.

The Yaris Cross hybrid is the segment leader when it comes to fuel efficiency. (Image: Tim Nicholson)  The Yaris Cross hybrid is the segment leader when it comes to fuel efficiency. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

CO2 emissions are 86g/km for the 2WD and 90g/km for the AWD.

Fuel use in the regular petrol Yaris Cross is still commendable at 5.4L/100km with CO2 emissions of 124g/km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

ANCAP awarded all variants of the Yaris Cross a maximum five-star rating under its 2021 standard.

Like its Yaris sibling, the Yaris Cross comes with a generous level of standard safety gear from the base variant up.

It includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist protection, daytime intersection assist and emergency steering assist, as well as adaptive cruise control, a lane-keep assist with a lane-centring function, traffic-sign recognition, eight airbags including a front centre airbag that helps protect occupants during side-impact crashes, a reversing camera and emergency call assist.

The Yaris Cross a maximum five-star rating from ANCAP. (Image: Tim Nicholson)   The Yaris Cross a maximum five-star rating from ANCAP. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

The GXL and Urban gain front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic view monitor, and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

While we applaud Toyota for fitting the Yaris Cross with a lengthy list of safety features, there are some gripes. The adaptive cruise control always exceeds the specified speed when the road descends, and it takes too long to re-set itself. This is a problem we have encountered in a number of Toyota and Lexus products.

The lane-keeping aid flips between being too sensitive and beeping incessantly and not being sensitive enough and beeping when you’re well over the line markings. It’s not consistent and needs work.

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

What's it like to drive around town?

There is a lot to like about Yaris Cross when driving in an urban setting. It truly shines when driving at low speeds in a city environment.

The hybrid powertrain kicks off in EV mode, so it’s silent and smooth on take-off. It’s responsive enough without being as punchy as others in this segment, notably the Ford Puma, VW T-Cross and the Kia Stonic GT-Line.

It’s when driving at higher speeds, say on a freeway or the urban fringe, that the little Toyota reveals its slightly uncouth light-car underpinnings.

The transition from the electric motor to the petrol engine is clunky and nowhere near as smooth as it is in Toyota’s larger hybrid models, like the RAV4 and Camry.

The hybrid powertrain kicks off in EV mode. (Image: Tim Nicholson) The hybrid powertrain kicks off in EV mode. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

The 1.5-litre unit is a noisy engine when pushed and it lacks the refinement of other powertrains in this segment. The CVT adds to the droning revvy sound of the engine, but, again, only at speed.

While it’s not as dynamically capable as the Puma, the Yaris Cross is still nimble and capable of fun on a twisty section of road. There’s some lean in corners, but it’s minimal.

The ESC kicks in on loose road shoulders as required and the brakes are strong for a little city runabout.

Of the drive modes on offer, Power seems to up the throttle responsiveness, but it also makes the powertrain even rowdier.

The steering has some heft to it at higher speeds but is light, engaging and direct around town.

The ride in the 2WD Urban Hybrid can’t match the comfort of the lower-grade petrol variants I drove previously, but it is generally well sorted and there’s little to complain about. The 18-inch alloys don’t absorb as much of the rough stuff as the 16-inch hoops on the GX and GXL, and there’s very little vibration through the steering wheel.

18-inch alloys don’t absorb as much of the rough stuff as the 16-inch hoops. (Image: Tim Nicholson) 18-inch alloys don’t absorb as much of the rough stuff as the 16-inch hoops. (Image: Tim Nicholson)

Tyre and road noise are noticeable on coarse-chip surfaces, especially at speed, but you won’t notice much noise driving on smoother urban roads.  

The Yaris Cross has a tight turning circle and is perfect for navigating narrow inner-city parking manoeuvres.

The chunky C-pillar creates a blind spot but visibility is otherwise a positive. The excellent reversing camera with panoramic view monitor helps here.

If you’re looking for a well-equipped, safe, fuel-efficient and practical light SUV that will predominantly be driven in an urban setting, then put the Yaris Cross on your shopping list.

It’s a class leader when it comes to fuel use and it is at its best as a city runabout, but it can’t match the driver engagement of the Ford Puma and VW T-Cross.

At a touch under $35k, it’s not the most affordable model in its class. But the ownership experience and Toyota reliability are big positives.

$34,990

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5
Price Guide

$34,990

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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