Toyota Yaris Cross review: Marathon runner

2 weeks ago 10
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(Pocket-lint) - The market for crossover SUVs is soaring, with the higher ride and easy step-out height both appealing prospects. Even the traditionally smallest of vehicles are getting in on the action - as can be witnessed here, in the Toyota Yaris Cross.

There's no shortage of competition in this market and on its fringes, but the Yaris Cross's secret weapon is a hybrid engine setup, making for marathon-like efficiency, plus a suite of technology as standard on all its trim levels.

But the addition of that battery and technology actually makes the Toyota a little pricier than many of its competitors, which has us - and probably you - asking the question "is the Yaris Cross worth the money?".

Design & Trim

  • Trim levels: Icon, Design, Excel, Dynamic, Premiere
  • 16-inch alloy wheels, 17- and 18-inch options
  • From 397-litre boot capacity (up to 1097l)
  • £22,515 UK starting price

Despite being physically longer and taller than a typical Yaris, the Cross is still built on the very same TNGA platform. It's just that it looks a bit like a 'baby RAV4', more off-road in its visual aesthetic, with hench body panels making it look like a Yaris that's been pumping iron at the gym.

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There are four core trim levels: Icon as the entry-level (£22,515), with 16-inch alloys; Design (£24,140), Excel (£26,745) and Dynamic (£26,465) each stepping up with various additions, each on 18-inch alloys; and a time-limited fifth option, Premiere (£28,185), which is effectively a 'First Edition' Yaris Cross that'll sell for the first 12 months only and comes with all the bells and whistles extras.

You'll pay more the higher up the range you go, as highlighted above, with the more premium models adding certain visual flourishes in addition to tech, interior and other benefits. Those roof rails and the shark-fin up top, for example, don't feature on the Icon (which makes it altogether less iconic, eh?).

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Toyota Yaris Cross review photo 5

Visually, we think the design has enough swagger about it to entice potential Nissan Juke buyers, or if you've been eyeing-up a Fiat 500X Cross then maybe Toyota has an alluring alternative instead. Less directly comparable, but on that fringe of this market, is an all-electric option such as the Mazda MX-30 - it's cheaper than the Yaris Cross's Excel trim, but its limited battery range may not suit all.

Interior & Tech

  • 8-inch Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system / 9-inch HD Toyota Smart Connect
  • 4.2-inch / 7-inch multi-info driver's display
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
  • Adaptive Cruise Control as standard
  • Pre-collision system as standard
  • Reversing camera as standard
  • Optional: City/Tech/Advanced Safety Pack

Pop open the door and the Yaris Cross immediately shows-off its wealth inside though. While the Icon gets the smaller multimedia system and driver's display setup, on review here are the larger 9-inch always-connected 'floating' central dash display, and 7-inch multi-info drivers display beyond the steering wheel.

Sure, many vehicles offer these kinds of screens or more - but not usually as standard in any of the trim levels. With our Premiere model on review, we think there's a high level of technology to appeal to the everyday driver.

From the wireless Apple CarPlay or wireless Android Auto, ease of connection - well, for most, our ZTE phone gave us some quirks at first - you'll be well covered with all your most-used apps front and centre. But, actually, even Toyota's own in-car satellite navigation system is vastly improved over older editions, making turn by turn journeys extra easy.

The touchscreen is responsive enough, whether using the in-house system or your choice of Apple or Android, while additional important information shows on the not-interactive driver's display. Here's where you'll be able to keep an eye on driving mode, efficiency, speed, and so forth.

Some of the technology you won't immediately notice either: there's a reversing camera that's as standard, which is really handy for assisting with proximity to objects and giving a better view from the rear. There's even adaptive cruise control as standard, with quick-access controls on the steering wheel, which is really uncommon on any entry-level car. So that's where you investment is going: into those everyday comforts.

Up front there's ample space, too, with a nice material finish and leather steering wheel. From Excel and beyond there are heated seats (low or high only) which will add an extra hug to your back in those winter months. It's a comfortable place to sit, with a decent ride height, all while never feeling gargantuan in scale - this is no Toyota Highlander.

In the back, however, there's not a bundle of room. You'll find more in a Skoda Kamiq, for example, and while the Toyota does deliver enough knee space for your kiddos, taller people or adults won't want to spend heaps of time back there.

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Toyota Yaris Cross interior photo 11

Further back the boot can expand from its 397-litre standard to a considerable 1097-litres if you drop the rear seats. Plenty of room for carting kit around as you need.

Drive & Economy

  • Front wheel drive / AWD-i all-wheel drive option (Dynamic & Premiere only)
  • 1.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic engine, 112PS, 0.5kWh li-ion battery
  • Drive modes: Standard, Economy, Power, EV
  • Economy: 54.3-64.1mpg (claimed)
  • 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
  • Max speed: 105mph

What may impress more than anything, however, is just how economical the Yaris Cross can be. We lobbed it around country A- and B-roads for two hours and, without even trying our best to save the planet, the car was returning 57.8mpg. That's in the middle of Toyota's claimed efficiency. Go a little easier, activate Economy mode, and we were tickling 60mpg no problems.

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Toyota Yaris Cross tech photo 1

So the Yaris Cross is something of a marathon runner, then. Sure, you wouldn't call it a sprint runner, but while you may have this vision of "oh it's a Yaris" in your head, it's actually a fairly spritely little number. The reason for this being that hybrid engine setup: the li-ion battery, which automatically fills up through regenerative braking whenever possible, can add pep to acceleration to really help get the car off the mark.

The battery capacity is certainly tiny - we work it out to be just over 0.5kWh by our calculations (an all-electric car would be 150 times that) - but there's enough output here for a low-speed electric-only mode, too, enabling greater efficiency and all-electric scooting around carparks, in traffic jams, and so forth.

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Toyota Yaris Cross review photo 3

Furthermore, the Yaris Cross is a really smooth ride. No, it doesn't especially love corners, but then it's not designed for trying to do donuts or drifting. What it does love, however, are speed bumps: is absolutely eats them up and you'll barely feel significant bumps and road undulations, which makes for an even more comfortable driving experience.

All this from a two-wheel drive car, as the all-wheel (AWD-i) is an option only in the Dynamic and Premiere models (although not on this one at the time of testing) and one that, really, we don't think will be of much value to many buyers. It'll simply add weight. So unless you live down a steep driveway where there's always ice, save yourself the need for that extra pack.

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Toyota Yaris Cross review photo 2

All in all, though, the Yaris Cross is a comfortable, smooth ride that cares not what kind of road surface you throw its way. As its looks pervade: this Yaris has been on a workout (just not to Yaris GR levels, but that road-worthy rally car is a whole other ballgame).

Verdict

If you're looking for a small-scale SUV crossover and top-drawer efficiency is high up your list of wants, the Yaris Cross is a real marathon runner. That's thanks to the hybrid setup which, with the addition of a small battery, adds a fistful of pep to its off-the-line sprints too.

More than that, however, even from its entry-level trim the Yaris Cross is kitted out with tech that, while it makes it a little pricier than some of the competition, ensures that whatever level you buy you're getting a lot of comfort and value.

The market is bustling with options, of course, so whether the so-so rear legroom or that initial purchase price will put you off is another matter. But we think the Yaris Cross is well worth it for what you get - a comfortable, assured ride, and a suite of tech that's spot-on for the everyday driver.

Also consider

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Alternative photo 2

Skoda Kamiq

Although there's no mild hybrid goodness here, the Skoda is a bit bigger, while also a bit cheaper on starting price too. That additional leg room in the back might really help to sell it.

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Alternative photo 1

Mazda MX-30

This all-electric city runabout is a very different proposition because, well, it's electric vehicle (EV) and will only push you through to 125 miles per charge. But, given that small battery, the price is therefore rather competitive - which might give you something to think about if an EV SUV could be an option for your limited-range needs.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 31 August 2021.

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