Toyota has joined the thriving light-SUV segment with its 2021 Yaris Cross. It arrived late, but did so fashionably, as in the range-topping Urban trim, this Toyota is unique and has plenty of character.
The Japanese manufacturer has taken the origins of the highly sought-after Yaris and made it a high-riding, compact SUV, but has Toyota has done enough to make its mark in this already saturated segment?
Let’s begin with that all-important price tag.
We tested the range-topping Urban, which has a starting price of $32,990 plus on-road costs. Our model included the two-tone paint option in black and gold that adds $450 to the invoice.
It undercuts the popular Mazda CX-3 with the front-wheel-drive petrol variant setting you back $36,450 for the top spec. The Yaris Cross loses the battle up against the Volkswagen T-Cross, though, which tops out at $30,990, while the Hyundai Venue Elite is even more affordable at $26,490.
As this spec sits at the higher end of the market, and even crosses over with its older sibling in the RAV4, its value for money is certainly in question. If price is a deal-breaker, then there are more cost-effective offerings in the range to consider, with the GX starting from $26,990 and the GXL from $29,990 (all prices exclude on-roads).
Looking at the sales from December 2020, though, price may not be an issue. In only its second month on the market, it managed to move 517 units, attributing to 16.2 per cent of the segment share.
While we have deducted some points for value, Toyota must be applauded in other areas. It has stuck to its commitment of no longer delivering boring cars, and this Yaris Cross is no exception.
The exterior is muscular featuring solid lines, a prominent nose and broad wheel arches, plus the Urban scores 18-inch alloy wheels. The two-tone black and gold option is quite the head-turner. So much so that it was cause for conversation between bystanders in the urban streets of Melbourne.
|2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Urban (Petrol 2WD)|
|Power and torque||88kW at 6600rpm, 145Nm at 4800rpm|
|Transmission||CVT auto with 10 preset ratios|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined||5.4L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not yet rated|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-3, Volkswagen T-Cross, Ford Puma, Hyundai Venue|
|Price (excluding on-road costs)||$32,990|
This compact SUV measures 4180mm in length, 1765mm in width and 1590mm in height (with a 2560mm wheelbase). In context, it’s bigger than the baby Yaris from bumper to bumper and shorter than the Corolla hatch.
For an SUV of this size, the boot space is rather impressive. There is 390L of cargo space with additional storage above the spare wheel. A tick for room, but a big cross for the pure fact that it misses out on a full-size spare wheel.
The power tailgate with kick sensor is a standout inclusion. During testing we did find it temperamental, but once working correctly it’s a convenient and impressive standard feature.
The word impressive shouldn’t necessarily be associated with the interior. Odd, retro, even questionable spring to mind. There aren’t any options for this range-topper, so if brown isn’t to your liking, then this model may not be for you. The colour palette isn't the only flaw, as internally this car is busy with inelegant textures.
Perhaps I am an outlier? Let us know your thoughts on the interior.
Other than the unusual colour choice, there are some bonuses for the driver. This model is equipped with head-up display and they also get an electric adjustable seat. Other wins up front include heated seats, two cupholders, two USB ports and two additional cupholders in the door bins.
There are some shortfalls in the cabin, in that there’s not a great deal of storage, but that’s to be expected in these smaller SUVs. In the back there’s plenty of head and leg room for the passengers, but they lose out on vents and USB ports.
When it comes to safety, this car is jam-packed with features, and they all come standard including eight SRS airbags. The Yaris Cross is equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sense technology, which includes lane-trace assist, pre-collision safety with pedestrian and daylight cyclist detection, road sign assist, intersection turn assist, lane-departure alert and steering assist, and finally active cruise control.
Technically, the Yaris Cross is unrated by ANCAP, but by comparison the Yaris scored five stars in 2020.
Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels. As it's equipped with a CVT automatic, engine noise is noticeable. It's worth a mention that it's fitted with 10 preset ratios, which are there just to be there. We aren't shifting gears, so this addition seems rather unnecessary.
While a continuously variable transmission is known to have many advantages, such as providing fuel efficiency, it can, however, be powerless and even lazy when demanding higher speeds. We noticed this during testing, especially in urban stop-start traffic where the engine's response time was lacklustre.
When power and straight-line speed aren't being evaluated, it's an effortless everyday drive. Visibility is exceptional and steering is light and precise. Along with inner-urban driving, we spent plenty of time at 80–100km/h on freeways where, at higher speeds, this car felt more at ease.
Our final test in the Yaris Cross was at the bowser. Toyota claims 5.4L/100km and we returned an average reading of 6.9L/100km. As we've previously reported, the fuel economy is good. It's not outstanding.
The Toyota Yaris Cross is backed by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, and is capped at $205 for each of the first five services.
While we found some shortcomings with the 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Urban, it does what it needs to do to put up a good fight against the competition. The positioning of the Yaris Cross is genius, as it has ensured that buyers don't need to compromise. What Toyota has given consumers is a good, lively hatchback variant with substantial ground clearance – it looks like an SUV with that real urban feel.