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A credible entry into the compact SUV world, buoyed by good driving dynamics and efficiency

There are few greater automotive bandwagons on which to jump than launching a compact crossover. Toyota might be late to the game with this, the Yaris Cross, riding on the coat-tails of the Toyota Yaris nameplate, but it will be hugely important: it’s predicted to be the car maker’s second-biggest seller after the Yaris.

The Nissan Juke rival uses the same TGNA-B platform and 1.5-litre petrol hybrid powertrain as the Yaris but adds raised suspension, a heavy dollop of Toyota RAV4 styling (particularly in the front grille and wheel arches) and the option of all-wheel drive, rare in this segment.

The model creates a five-strong line-up of hybrid SUVs for Toyota, which will be further elevated next year with the arrival of the new Toyota Aygo, reinvented as a tiny, funky-looking SUV.

The top-of-the-range Dynamic spec, tested here, is one of four trims and costs £26,465. It’s also the only trim offering all-wheel drive, for an additional £2360. The most popular Yaris Cross, making up 50% of sales, is expected to be mid-range Design, starting from £24,140. There’s also the Premiere Edition, a short-lived all-singing and all-dancing launch model, priced at £28,185.

On the road, the Cross is pleasingly reverent to its Yaris roots, delivering respectable body control for a compact SUV and direct steering. That makes it surprisingly fun on faster roads but also well suited to urban scenarios, where this car is most likely to make its living. It can’t live with the Ford Puma dynamically, but it has an edge over the Nissan Juke.

The latest iteration of Toyota’s hybrid powertrain is more capable than ever yet remains unexciting. The three-cylinder engine whines not long after moving off, but once you get going, the system feels more accomplished, pulling the Cross along with little struggle. The 0-62mph time of 11.2sec reflects sufficient pace for the average journey and is in line with those of its Juke and Renault Captur rivals.

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The CVT ’box is much improved, too, but heavy use of the throttle generates a gruff, struggling engine note reminiscent of CVTs past. On the upside, the engine shuts off quickly when coasting and it’s fair to say that hefty acceleration won’t be part of the plan for most Cross buyers.

All of this makes for good efficiency. The electric motors in this hybrid will deliver only a few miles of electric-only propulsion, but add in the coasting and it can be in electric mode more often than not in urban situations. The Dynamic trim offers efficiency of 56mpg and CO2 emissions of 117g/km. In the entry-level model, that improves to 64mpg and 100g/km.

The ride is compliant but borderline firm on the Dynamic’s 18in wheels, plus our test route didn’t include speed bumps. Most UK buyers will opt for 16in or 17in wheels, Toyota reckons.

Inside, the Cross is smart and functional and has good-quality materials, while the infotainment system is considerably improved on those of recent Toyotas, with an intuitive set-up controlled through a bright, 9.0in touchscreen. Even better, there are still physical knobs for the climate control and buttons for major controls. 

The boot size is respectable at 360 litres - although smaller than the Puma's and Juke's - but the compromise is limited rear passenger space, which makes the Cross most suitable for young families or couples who want a compact, high-riding car.

The Dynamic trim receives those aforementioned 18in alloys, a black bi-tone roof, 9.0in touchscreen with Apple and Android integration, and heated driver and passenger seats. Even the entry-level Icon trim gets a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control, demonstrating good specifications throughout the line-up.

All in all, then, the Yaris Cross doesn’t win for practicality and driving dynamics against some rivals but bold looks, strong efficiency, a good-quality interior and moderately fun drive make it a welcome addition, giving buyers even more choice in this thriving yet largely humdrum segment.

 

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