New 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross review

Rory White

31 Aug 2021

1/9
Toyota has enjoyed huge success with its brilliant little Yaris. Now it's applied the SUV treatment, does the Toyota Yaris Cross prove just as good? We've been driving it on UK roads to find out.

PROS:

+ Efficient hybrid engine

+ Good to drive

+ Decent boot


CONS:

- Feels firmer than standard Yaris

- Average rear legroom

- Four-wheel-drive only on pricier models


Verdict: The Yaris Cross has rocked up and instantly proven itself to be one of the best small SUVs you can buy. It's good to drive, genuinely very frugal in the real world and comes stacked with equipment for the price. There are roomier small SUVs for adults in the back, though.


2021 Toyota Yaris Cross review: the five-minute read


Toyota has been quietly reinventing itself in the UK. Sure, its hybrid technology is hardly anything new, but that tech was once attached to cars that were dull to both look at and drive. These days, its range is anything but – including this new Toyota Yaris Cross.


The Yaris Cross is a chunkier, jacked-up version of Toyota's brilliant Yaris small car, intending to take on other five-seat small SUVs like the VW T-Cross, Skoda Kamiq and Peugeot 2008.


Larger than its sibling in pretty much every direction, the Yaris Cross gets its own unique look inside and out. Outside that means a RAV-4-like upright front end with a bluff nose and raked-back, wrap-around headlights.


Down its sides, you'll find boxy wheel arches and notice its raised ride height more easily, while at the back, there's a slim rear screen above a cool light bar taillight design.



Inside the Yaris Cross there are similarities with the standard Yaris, but you sit slightly higher, the centre console is more prominent and Toyota has given the sills, door cards, armrests and front pillars new finishes. Even so, a Peugeot 2008 is on a par for quality but much more interestingly designed inside.


Depending on your trim, you'll get either an 8-inch or 9-inch central screen and either analogue or digital dials. It's a fairly easy system to get your head around quickly, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard on all models if you prefer the way your smartphone works.


The Yaris Cross might be bigger than the standard Yaris, but that doesn't translate to much more passenger space – at least in the back. Those in the front will be comfortable and the driver gets a good driving position, but adults in the back will struggle for knee room where they won't so much in a T-Cross.


The larger dimensions are realised with the Yaris Cross' boot space, which is more than 100 litres larger than the one on a standard Yaris. It has a wide opening and square shape and some models get a clever split-adjusting floor too.



There's just one engine option for the Yaris Cross: a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol hybrid. It produces 116hp, can run at up to 80mph in EV mode and via a CVT automatic gearbox feels faster in and out of town than its 11.2-second 0-62mph time suggests.


Unlike any of the Yaris Cross' closest competitors, you also get the option of all-wheel-drive. Our experience of the front-wheel-drive model saw a combined 70mpg without trying, but the all-wheel-drive model is officially rated as being even more efficient.


The Yaris Cross is easy to drive in town thanks to its modest dimensions, standard parking sensors and camera, but also steers nicely and corners more tidily than most small SUVs.


The trade-off is that it feels slightly firmer than the standard Yaris to keep its taller body in check, although it's never truly uncomfortable. There's some tyre noise on the motorway, too, but the fact Toyota includes adaptive cruise and lane-keep as standard at this level is commendable.


So, if, as thousands are, you're in the market for a small SUV rather than a small car, the Yaris Cross has to be on your list. There are better options for carrying adults in the back but given so few buyers do, the Yaris Cross presents a strong case for itself in pretty much every other way.


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Extended read…


2021 Toyota Yaris Cross interior and infotainment


If you've seen the inside of the latest Toyota Yaris, you'll notice some similarities here in the Yaris Cross.


Of course, you sit slightly higher, the centre console is more prominent and Toyota has given the sills, door cards, armrests and front pillars new finishes.


Depending on your trim, you'll get either an 8-inch or 9-inch central screen and either analogue or digital dials. It's a fairly easy system to get your head around quickly, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard on all models if you prefer the way your smartphone works.


We're yet to see the smaller and more analogue dials of the entry-level Yaris Cross, but we have tried the 7-inch digital set that comes as standard from second-rung Design is bright and easy to read, if not particularly configurable like those in a VW or Skoda. A 10-inch head-up display comes on range-topping Yaris Cross models only.


And for those who love their music, Toyota's superb upgraded eight-speaker JBL sound system is worthing adding if you have the budget.


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2021 Toyota Yaris Cross practicality and boot space


The Yaris Cross might be bigger than the standard Yaris, but that doesn't translate to much more passenger space – at least in the back.


Those in the front will be comfortable and the driver gets a good driving position, but adults in the back will struggle for knee room where they won't so much in a VW T-Cross.


There are Isofix points on the rear outside seats and the rear doors open nice and wide, but like with its rivals, you'll be pushing the front seats forward quite a way to get a rear-facing child seat in behind.


The larger dimensions are realised with the Yaris Cross' boot space, which is some 100 litres larger than the one on a standard Yaris and a similar size to the one in a T-Cross, Kamiq and 2008.


It has a wide opening and square shape and some two-wheel-drive models get a clever split-adjusting floor that can be set to different levels in order to carry taller items on one side. Entry-level models get 60:40 split-fold rear seats, but every other model gets a handy 40:20:40 split.


2021 Toyota Yaris Cross engine


There's just one engine option for the Yaris Cross: a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol hybrid. It produces 116ps, can run at up to 80mph in EV mode and via a CVT automatic gearbox feels faster in and out of town than its 11.2-second 0-62mph time suggests and isn't too noisy when pushed despite the way its CVT holds on to revs.


Unlike any of the Yaris Cross' closest competitors, you also get the option of all-wheel-drive. The 4WD model uses its front wheels most of the time, but if it gets into tricky situations, an electric motor on the rear axle can chime in to help out.


Our drive of the front-wheel-drive model saw a combined 75mpg without trying, and the all-wheel-drive model is officially rated as being even more efficient. We'll report back when we've tried one.


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2021 Toyota Yaris Cross driving


Toyota's hybrid system is one of the best on the market. It'll default to electric readily at low speeds but will actually hold onto EV mode all the way to 80mph if you're careful.


Essentially this means town driving is a breeze. There's punchy acceleration off the line but also quiet progress, plus the Yaris Cross has light steering and modest dimensions for darting through urban areas. Standard rear parking sensors and rear camera help here too.


We are yet to drive the all-wheel-drive version, but outside of town, the front-drive model's steering weights up and feels precise, plus there's barely any lean in tight bends, so there's genuine fun to be had threading the little SUV along a decent back road.


The trade-off is a slightly firmer-feeling suspension tune than in the smaller Yaris, although it never becomes truly uncomfortable.


On the motorway, there's a bit of road noise to put up with, but otherwise, the Yaris Cross is stable in its lane and the fact that Toyota includes a raft of safety kit including adaptive cruise control and lane-keep tech as standard is commendable.



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Rory White

31 Aug 2021