This 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross review has been a long time coming.
Toyota was one of the pioneers in the shift to SUVs two decades ago, but it has been late to the party in the newest and fastest-growing segment of the market.
The city SUV class is the only vehicle category so far this year to increase sales – every other vehicle type has gone backwards.
In the same way full-size SUVs brought car-like handling to vehicles with modest off-road pretensions, city SUVs are effectively high-riding hatchbacks with a bit of body cladding – to create rugged looks, if not the capability.
More than any car before them, city SUVs are designed for the urban jungle. The tall driving position helps drivers better read traffic congestion ahead, while extra ground clearance is helpful when negotiating speed bumps and roundabouts or climbing kerbs to squeeze into a tight parking spot – rather than heading off the beaten track.
It’s also important to not underestimate the value buyers place on a car’s appearance. Right now, rugged looks are in vogue because the thinking among buyers is: ‘I don’t have a hatchback, I have a weekend getaway car’. Cue lots of ads with windsurfers and beachgoers.
Whatever the reason behind this modern phenomenon, car companies don’t mind. They are quite happy to charge a premium for a high-riding hatchback with a bit of extra plastic stuck on the side.
The Toyota Yaris Cross shares its name with the Yaris hatch, but aside from the engines and some interior components such as the instrument cluster, the Yaris Cross is in fact a completely new design.
It has a longer, wider and taller body than the regular Yaris hatch (indeed, no panels are common between the two), has a roomier interior, a bigger boot – and a slightly larger footprint.
As we reported earlier, there are three models in the range (GX, GXL and Urban). Each model is available with a choice of petrol front-wheel drive, hybrid front-wheel drive or hybrid all-wheel drive.
Prices range from $26,990 to $37,990 plus on-road costs (about $29,990 to $41,000 drive-away), which is at the higher end of the scale and overlaps the base-model Toyota RAV4, a much larger SUV.
All Toyota Yaris Cross models come with at least some advanced safety tech, including twin centre seat-mounted airbags, as per the regular hatch.
However, the Toyota Yaris Cross vehicle is yet to be assessed by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). A five-star rating is likely, but yet to be confirmed. Because of the fundamental differences between the size and body structure of the Yaris hatch and Yaris Cross, ANCAP has elected to undertake a full round of crash tests. The results may not be known until early 2021.
The base-model Toyota Yaris Cross comes with 16-inch alloys, halogen headlights, keyless entry with push-button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an embedded SIM card that will automatically send the car’s exact location to a Toyota hotline in the event of a crash. If the crash is serious, Toyota will notify authorities of the car's exact location.
The Toyota Yaris Cross GXL retains 16-inch alloys but gains tinted rear windows, embedded navigation, and bi-LED headlights – and further safety features including blind-spot monitor and a panoramic view rear-view camera.
The top-of-the-range Urban models gain larger 18-inch alloys, heated front seats with electric adjustment for the driver, head-up display, and a power tailgate with kick sensor.
As with the rest of Toyota’s model range, the Yaris Cross is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty for private buyers. The petrol engine and driveline have a seven-year warranty, while the hybrid battery pack has 10-year coverage.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Routine maintenance is capped at $205 per scheduled visit up to five years or 75,000km.
|Yaris Cross Petrol 2WD||Yaris Cross Hybrid 2WD||Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD|
|Price (excluding on-road costs)||$26,990 to $32,990||$28,990 to $34,990||$31,990 to $37,990|
|Engine configuration||1.5-litre three-cylinder||1.5-litre three-cylinder plus one electric motor||1.5-litre three-cylinder plus two electric motors|
|Power and torque||88kW @ 6600rpm/145Nm @ 4800rpm||85kW @ 5500rpm/141Nm @ 3800rpm||85kW @ 5500rpm/141Nm @ 3800rpm|
|Transmission||CVT auto with 10 preset ratios||CVT auto with 10 preset ratios||CVT auto with 10 preset ratios|
|Drive||Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Kerb weight||1140kg to 1185kg||1190kg to 1235kg||1265kg to 1305kg|
|Fuel rating label consumption||5.4L/100km||3.8L/100km||4.0L/100km|
|Fuel consumption on test||6.9L/100km||N/A||5.3L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane regular unleaded||91-octane regular unleaded||91-octane regular unleaded|
|Spare tyre||Space saver||Space saver||Inflator kit|
|Length / width / height (mm)||4180 / 1765 / 1590||4180 / 1765 / 1590||4180 / 1765 / 1590|
|Towing capacity (kg)||1250kg||400kg||400kg|
|Front brakes||283mm vented discs||283mm vented discs||283mm vented discs|
|Rear brakes||265mm solid discs||265mm solid discs||281mm solid discs|
|0 to 100km/h (as tested)||11.0 seconds||N/A||13.0 seconds|
|100km/h to 0 (as tested)||41m(Bridgestone 205/65R16)||N/A||39.8m(Dunlop 215/50R18)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not yet rated||Not yet rated||Not yet rated|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km||5 years / unlimited km||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke.||Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke.||Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke.|
On the road
We tested a base-model Toyota Yaris Cross GX petrol front-wheel drive and a top-of-the-range Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid Urban all-wheel drive – the bookends of the new line-up.
First impressions from behind the wheel? It’s definitely roomier than the regular Yaris and the taller driving position is a big bonus. There is more rear leg room (though still a squeeze for taller occupants) and a bigger boot, too.
The petrol and hybrid front-wheel-drive versions come with a space-saver spare; hybrid all-wheel-drive models come with an inflator kit.
The quality of the fit and finish and cabin materials is excellent. The controls are well placed and intuitive to use, although, oddly, the vanity mirrors in the sun visors are covered but lack illumination.
The seats are comfortable and the door pockets are large, though the centre console is small, shallow and narrow.
The steering is light and precise at any speed, and visibility all round is good thanks to the large windows.
As we noted with the regular Toyota Yaris hatch, the halogen headlights could do with a bit more oomph (especially given the premium price); however, the bi-LEDs on the high-grade models are quite remarkable.
The engine has an impressive level of refinement given three-cylinders tend to thrum and make a bit of a racket. The 10-step CVT automatic is a gem, shifting smoothly, seamlessly and intuitively, as if it had 10 ratios rather than one big flexible rev range.
Fuel economy was so-so. We returned an average of 6.9L/100km on our test loop in the petrol Toyota Yaris Cross and 5.4L/100km in the hybrid all-wheel drive on the same loop. To be frank, I was expecting a little better from the hybrid. At least they both only require regular unleaded.
Once we started to point the Toyota Yaris Cross at some corners, initial impressions were mixed.
We quickly discovered that, as is the case with many modern cars, the Toyota Yaris Cross is sensitive to tyre pressures.
The cars were delivered with 38 to 40psi, but the tyre placard on the base-model GX on 205/65R16 rubber said 33psi up front and 32psi on the rears. The tyre placard for the Urban model grade on 215/50R18 rubber recommended 32psi up front and 29psi at the rear.
Before we set the tyres to the recommended pressure, the ride was quite firm in general and particularly brittle over bumps. Once the tyre pressures were set as per the recommendations, both examples delivered a more comfortable experience, with the suspension only getting upset by big, sharp bumps.
Both versions of the Toyota Yaris Cross (on 16- and 18-inch wheel-and-tyre packages) had a good level of cornering grip and felt secure in tight turns. However, the 'eco' tyres did tend to want to run wide when pushed, and braking performance was below average in our opinion (we're coming to that shortly).
The Toyota Yaris Cross is not meant to be a race car, of course, but we were keen to assess acceleration and braking versus the regular Toyota Yaris. Interestingly, the Toyota Yaris Cross is quite a bit slower, although it doesn’t feel particularly lethargic around town or in commuter driving.
Our recent road test of the regular Toyota Yaris petrol hatchback showed that model did 0–100km/h in 10.2 seconds, but the same engine and transmission in the bigger and heavier Toyota Yaris Cross took 11.0 seconds to complete the same task.
When we tested the Toyota Yaris Hybrid hatchback, it was a touch quicker in the 0–100km/h run than the petrol (9.5 seconds) thanks to the assistance of the perky electric motor.
However, the Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD was slower than its petrol-only sibling, with a leisurely 0–100km/h time of 13.0 seconds. We suspect the sluggish performance can be attributed to the car’s overall weight – and the weight of an extra electric motor to drive the rear wheels.
Braking performance was equally disappointing. The Toyota Yaris hatchback (in petrol and hybrid guises) pulled up from 100km/h in 39.8–40.2m. The Toyota Yaris Cross (in petrol and hybrid guises) pulled up from 100km/h in 39.8–41m on the same stretch of tarmac in the same conditions (see table at the bottom of this story). This is the same distance required to stop a two-tonne Toyota HiLux. Other small cars and SUVs pull up in 37–38m in our testing.
Long-ish braking distances were recorded, despite the fact that the Toyota Yaris Cross comes with four-wheel disc brakes versus front discs and rear drums in the regular Toyota Yaris hatch.
Overall, the Toyota Yaris Cross is a comfortable, clever, and easy car to drive. Even though Toyota has forecast the hybrid version will account for the majority of sales, I reckon the petrol variant is the better pick. The three-cylinder petrol engine is already very fuel-efficient, and the price penalty to purchase a hybrid is still on the high side.
The 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross is a solid first effort in the city SUV class; however, the premium price could be a hurdle for some buyers.