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.