The slower you go, the less fuel you use. The faster you go, the more inefficient a 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross GXL hybrid becomes. Seems odd, but it's true.
As you're aware, internal combustion cars use more fuel in traffic. Stop-start engine technology helps somewhat, but the constant tasking of acceleration – from slow speeds – makes them uneconomical. The exact opposite happens with a Yaris Cross hybrid, which went a bit against my initial assumptions.
I'll tell you how it happened. I jumped in our baby-blue-coloured Yaris Cross GXL hybrid at 5:00pm on a Friday. My trip home from the CarAdvice Sydney office goes like this: battle North Sydney gridlock traffic onto the motorway for 5km, battle gridlock traffic on the motorway through mixed 80 and 100km/h zones for another 30km, then manage suburban traffic for a final seven.
Usually, the run takes about 35–40 minutes to complete. Currently? Around an hour and 10 minutes. Heading home is uphill, too, just to further the point. Before setting off, the trip computer was reset and the battery checked – it was completely empty.
By the halfway mark having battled gridlock, its energy-recuperation system had scavenged enough for electric-vehicle mode to work. Here I had a choice: flick to EV-only mode or continue as I was in hybrid mode. At this point, the trip was showing around 4.0L/100km, and the car's slow-speed coasting began to occasionally use pure-electric propulsion.
As the traffic situation was quite patchy, however, the car did fire up every third or fourth take-off. Luckily, the switchover is largely unnoticeable. The latter hybrid mode seemed more logical, so I continued to stop, start, stop, and start, until I made it home. It had recorded 3.6L/100km by the time I arrived on my driveway. Colour me impressed considering I started with an empty battery.
Alongside being impressed, I was also intrigued, too. The official combined fuel-consumption figure for a two-wheel-drive Yaris Cross hybrid is 3.8L/100km, and I'd already bettered it during one of Sydney's worst commutes home. Surely, with a bit of thought, I could do better.
I decided to do the exact same drive in reverse (downhill), with no traffic, to see if it'll dip into the mid threes.
At 7:00am sharp, I put on my hypermiling hat and left home in the name of science. This time the onboard battery had decent charge, too, but I ignored pure-EV mode again, as to not change the medium.
By halfway, the figure had risen to 3.8L/100km. By the end? 3.9L/100km. I looped back and headed home, and after a 100km round trip it showed 4.1L/100km.
|2021 Toyota Yaris GXL hybrid (Petrol 2WD)|
|Price (excluding on-road costs)||$31,990|
|Engine configuration||1.5-litre three-cylinder plus one electric motor|
|Power and torque||85kW @ 5500rpm, 141Nm @ 3800rpm|
|Kerb weight||1190kg to 1235kg|
|Fuel-rating label consumption||3.8L/100km|
|Fuel consumption on test||3.9L/100km|
|Fuel type (minimum)||91-octane regular unleaded|
|Length / width / height (mm)||4180 / 1765 / 1590|
|Towing capacity (kg)||400kg|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-3, Volkswagen T-Cross, Ford Puma, Hyundai Venue|
After some deep thought, the rise in fuel made sense, despite an initial theory leading me to believe the figure should've at least remained the same. As mentioned during the initial, record-setting 3.6L/100km run, the petrol engine was still being relied upon, and in scenarios usually detrimental to efficiency.
Regardless, it's better the slower you go.
From here, I drove the car through myriad situations, including at pace in country 110km/h zones, and through more metro city traffic. In the end, even with some deliberate, anti-hypermiling events, the wee Yaris Cross returned a figure of 3.9L/100km – just 0.1L over the aforementioned official figure. Indeed, worthy of a golf clap.
The ride quality is comfortable and inoffensive. Bumps and scarred roads do cause jittering, but it feels controlled and not aloof. Up at 100km/h+ on country roads, there's some movement and roll, but again it's far from disconcerting. It strikes the pleasurable balance of firmness and suppleness, making it an ideal all-rounder.
Its steering is light, but loads up logically and doesn't feel vague. As with most Toyota products, it demonstrates the hallmark trait of being easy to drive: neither overly plush and somewhat detached, nor taut and hyperaware.
Plain and honest – the vanilla ice-cream of calibration efforts.
Nailing the efficiency figure is a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine, which produces 67kW and 120Nm between 3800–4800rpm. Lowly outputs are bolstered by a 59kW electric motor, which creates a system output of 85kW. Toyota gives no official combined power figure.
Power is multiplied by an e-Constantly Variable Transmission (eCVT), and in the case of our car is sent to the front wheels only. Despite featuring a lofty 14.0:1 compression ratio, the Yaris will enjoy 91RON fuel.
In terms of grade, our GXL hybrid sits bang in the middle of the range. Below it lies the entry-level GX, and above it the trendy Urban grade. All three variants are offered with the three same drivelines: a two-wheel-drive non-hybrid, two-wheel-drive hybrid, or four-wheel-drive hybrid.
Our car wears a list price of $31,990, some $2000 more than a $29,990 non-hybrid GXL. If you wish to add four-wheel drive, it'll cost $3000, or $34,990, to walk up to the GXL all-wheel drive. Any colour other than black costs $500, and there are seven funky choices to pick from. Our car was finished in Mineral Blue.
Like other Toyota products, the GXL is the sweet spot. While every Yaris Cross offers comprehensive safety gear with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assist, intersection turn assist, automatic high beams, road sign recognition and adaptive cruise control, the GXL introduces LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross traffic alert. All three are important tech and worth the upgrade.
Inside, its presentation is basic with hard black plastics dominating the cabin. There's been some daft placement of ungrained materials in high-traffic areas, like the front storage area beneath its infotainment system. Our test car was already showing wear here.
In terms of storage, wide door bins will fit a one-litre water bottle, and a pair of cupholders can be found behind the automatic shifter. A shallow cubby is located in the centre console, but will almost certainly be occupied by your phone, as it lies beneath the only USB port in the car.
There are no covered storage areas other than the glovebox, which is inaccessible to the driver. By default, then, you won't find a centre armrest – which means your left elbow must annoyingly float in mid-air.
Trivial matters aside, general cabin ergonomics are good. The front seats are flat but comfortable, and feature lumbar support and height adjustment. Cloth is the only seat material offered, but at least it's dark and looks to be hard-wearing.
The gauge cluster is a retro-looking dual-LCD arrangement, with two circular binnacles flanking a centre screen. Its funkiness doesn't interfere with legibility, as there remains a dedicated and large digital speed readout. Steering wheel controls are organised logically, with a bonus coming from a dedicated switch for lane-keeping assist located here, too. Air-conditioning is managed by dedicated buttons (woohoo!) and the system is single-zone.
Infotainment is handled by a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, which is small by today's standards. Its ability cuts the mustard, however, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ radio, and native navigation. The sole USB port is in an awkward spot, which makes hiding a cable impossible. If your OCD runs wild, invest in a small black cable to minimise clutter.
In the second row, space is great. I'm 183cm, and behind my own driving position I found 3cm of knee room. Given the height of the front seat, you can also stretch your feet out underneath. For the class and size of the car, the second row did surprise.
The rear seat itself is welcoming, with a decently sized squab that offers above-average thigh support. Rear passengers can access a single, square bottle holder that's located at the farthest point of the front centre console. If two in tow, either can fold down the centre seat to realise two more cupholders. There are no air vents, nor USB ports, however.
A convertible child seat and tall booster seat will fit together in the back of a Yaris Cross. A rearward-facing seat is also doable, and doesn't require the front passenger seat to be pushed too far forward to accommodate it. Two child-support seats are the limit across the back, and doing so would make the middle third seat redundant.
Cargo capacity comes in at 390L, which is decent for the segment. It's nice to see Toyota – for once – focus on cargo area functionality by introducing a dual-height boot floor and large side storage bins. Looking back at the woeful cargo area found in the Toyota Corolla, this is a marked improvement. There's also a spare wheel found underneath the revelation of a boot floor.
If you opt for the four-wheel-drive version, the storage figure falls to 314L, and you also lose the space-saving spare wheel. If it were my money, I'd stick to two-wheel drive and net both gains, plus $3000 in my pocket.
With that in mind, I'd probably also stick with the GXL, too, considering the benefit of two extra safety features and LED headlights. For those out in the country, the headlights – in conjunction with automatic dipping – will be worth the extra spend alone.