It’s taken Toyota a while to join the compact SUV party, giving its rivals a free kick in a segment that continues to grow apace.
But that free kick is all but over, the Toyota Yaris Cross making an immediate impact. In a segment dominated by the Mazda CX-3 (the high-riding Mazda 2 derivative enjoyed a 48.5 per share of the segment in 2020), Toyota’s newest addition to its SUV family is slowly eroding away its compatriot’s dominance.
So far in 2021, the Mazda CX-3’s near 50 per cent market share is down to 35 per cent. Where’s the missing 15 per cent gone? Straight to Toyota, the Yaris Cross enjoying a 15.4 per cent share of the segment so far in 2021.
Physically, the Toyota Yaris Cross shares a nameplate with its city-car garage mate, but that’s about it. Under the bonnet, the engine and transmission choices are common across the two, but the Yaris Cross has been completely reskinned with completely new body panels.
The range consists of three models (designated GX, GXL and Urban) with a choice of drivetrains – either petrol front-wheel drive, hybrid front-wheel drive or hybrid all-wheel drive.
Pricing starts at $26,990 plus on-road costs (around $30,000 drive-away) for the front-wheel-drive entry-level GX. It’s the car we have on test here, making this the most affordable Yaris Cross in the range.
The range-topper is the Yaris Cross Urban all-wheel-drive hybrid at $37,990 plus on-roads or around $42,000 drive-away.
For now, though, let’s focus on the base model and its circa $30K drive-away pricing, which is on the upper side of the range comparing like for like.
|2021 Toyota Yaris Cross GX|
|Engine||1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||88kW at 6600rpm, 145Nm at 4800–5200rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||6.1L/100km|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue, Nissan Juke|
|Price as tested (plus on-road costs)||$26,990|
Buyers in the segment could opt for the entry-level Hyundai Venue, which at around $24,200 drive-away is considerably more affordable than the Yaris Cross. Similarly, the Mazda CX-3, which has long dominated the segment, asks for $24,990 drive-away in its most affordable guise, the Neo Sport.
The new Nissan Juke, meanwhile, is a close match for the Yaris Cross starting at $30,490 drive-away, while the Europeans weigh into the segment with the $29,990 drive-away Volkswagen T-Cross and the $31,490 drive-away Ford Puma.
Interesting positioning from Toyota, then, squaring up to the upper end of the segment in terms of pricing.
As the entry-level model, the 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross GX comes equipped with 16-inch alloys, halogen headlights, keyless entry and push-button start, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, DAB+ radio, and Bluetooth connectivity.
There’s single-zone climate control, with second-row passengers missing out on separate vents, although that’s less of an issue in small cars of this type.
Safety technology is limited to lane-trace assist, which aids in keeping the Yaris Cross centred in its lane with continuous inputs. It can be a bit intrusive and overly eager to shift you back to the centre of the lane, even if you drift closer to one white line by little more than inches.
There’s autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection day and night, and cyclist detection during daylight hours only. There’s also high- and low-speed adaptive cruise control – something of a rarity in base-model cars. Kudos. Eight airbags, including two seat-mounted front centre bags, cover both rows of occupants.
The Yaris Cross in GX trim does miss out on blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, with those systems reserved for the higher-grade GXL and Urban models. The Yaris Cross remains at this stage untested by ANCAP.
Inside, the Yaris Cross is as you’d expect from an entry-level model. The seats are trimmed in cloth and the plastics are firm. The steering wheel – with paddle-shifters – is trimmed in leather and frames two digital dials – a tachometer and speedo – while nestled in between is a 4.2-inch digital driver display offering a host of driving information including fuel consumption.
Storage options include a central bin, a pair of cupholders, while the storage cubby ahead of the gear lever is on the small side. Generous door pockets atone somewhat.
Ergonomically, everything is laid out intuitively, and the touchscreen features a host of shortcut buttons that make it easy to use on the fly. There’s only a single USB point, however.
The second row isn’t the last word in space, but it’s perfectly acceptable for most day-to-day uses. A flip-down armrest hides two cupholders, while those needing to transport small kids are covered with ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats and top-tether anchors on all three seatbacks.
The second row folds in 40:20:40 split fashion to free up cargo space. With the second row being used by people, there’s 390L available – a decent amount for the class. Toyota doesn’t quote a cargo space figure with the second row stowed away. A space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.
Under the bonnet, Toyota’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol does the heavy lifting making 88kW and 145Nm. Unusually, in this day and age, it’s naturally aspirated, Toyota long eschewing turbocharging its mainstream range of cars. Drive is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission with 10 steps or ‘gears’.
It’s a decent, if a little uninspiring, combination. Certainly around town there’s a decent amount of zip, the Yaris Cross moving away from standstill quite briskly, while the CVT does a good job of imitating a traditional transmission.
There’s a characterful thrum from the three-cylinder engine, typical of this configuration, although that character is marred somewhat by CVT drone when under higher load. Highway running especially highlighted the CVT’s aural qualities, even if the Yaris Cross was eager enough to get up to speed quickly. Inclines, too, regularly induced the dreaded drone, the little crossover sounding strained even if it didn’t feel it.
The ride is sound, the Yaris Cross dealing with bumps and lumps easily, and settling quickly after larger obstacles. There’s some road noise, especially at speed, but it’s bearable.
Its handling and cornering are fine, especially in an urban environment, and the city-focussed SUV remains planted on the road. The steering is nice and light, too, a boon for parking the diminutive Yaris Cross, although the rear-view camera could be a bit sharper in its resolution.
Fuel consumption proved an interesting bag. A couple of days of purely urban driving saw an indicated 12.5L/100km. That encompassed a lot of stop/start traffic, however, and plenty of slow crawling through the morass of Sydney’s peak-hour.
That number tumbled dramatically, to 5.9L/100km, after a long weekend drive involving plenty of highways and traffic-free rural roads. Once back in the city, the Yaris Cross settled into 6.1L/100km, where it remained for the rest of our week spent behind the wheel. That's not too bad compared with Toyota’s claim of 5.4L/100km.
Toyota covers the Yaris Cross with its standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while services are required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Scheduled services are capped at $205 per visit to the workshop for the first five years or 75,000km.
If Toyota wants to carve a slice of the increasingly lucrative compact SUV segment, then it has made a decent start with the Yaris Cross. Certainly, early sales numbers indicate buyers haven’t been put off by its relatively high pricing.
It has the rugged looks buyers are gravitating towards, and coupled with Toyota’s solid reputation and affordable servicing costs, the Yaris Cross makes a case for itself in a segment that continues to grow in popularity. Toyota may have been late to the compact SUV party, but it’s certainly made an immediate impact with the Yaris Cross. The free kick its rivals enjoyed is over.