The Toyota Yaris Cross does actually look a little bit cross about the world, like an out-of-sorts six-year-old. Note the narrowed head, ignite and the grimace on the grille.
Toyota, with a few notable exceptions, used to make generically bland-looking cars. Now they make generically wild-looking cars, and stuff like the new RAV4, which actually looks like a scrapyard dog baring its teeth, and the totally unreasonably styled C-HR, which has more creases than the late Sidney James. It’s compact and vaguely like an insect, and you may as well go for a lairy colour like my test car’s metallic “Brass Gold”.
I got the thumbs-up from a lady in another Yaris Cross in the Asda car park. Hers was black, and she was applauding my brave choice of paint job, which was a kind of compliment. It’s the kind of shade you’d expect to find on a tropical tree frog its skin yielding a deadly venom to ward off predators. Not that I go around licking frogs. Or cars.
Toyota Yaris Cross Premiere Edition
Price: £28,185 (as tested, range starts at £23,290)
Engine capacity: Hybrid 1.5l, 3-cyl, + electric motor CVT auto manual
Power output (HP): 114
Top speed (mph): 106
0-60mph (seconds): 11.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 54.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 117.2
It’s friendlier inside, I have to say, especially in the launch-special “Premiere” edition. You clamber in and you’re immediately cosseted and made to feel very welcome indeed. It’s a cosy, friendly sort of cabin in which the controls are properly placed and where comfort comes first. Naturally, you get soft leather heated seats and easy-to-use steering wheel controls, plus manual dials for the air conditioning and fairly intuitive touchscreen, with built-in sat nav on the posher options. Most importantly, a suite of driver-assisted braking aids, a rear camera and parking sensors will protect the bold looks of your Yaris Cross – and protect you and your insurer from ruinous bodywork bills.
It’s like a Yaris hatch, of course, but you get an exceptionally high driving position for this class of car, and it’s got a usefully bigger boot, with a versatile adjustable boot area and split fold rear seats. There’s a lot of rubber lining on the back, including the backs of the rear seats, so putting heavy and scratchy loads in the back doesn’t cause much damage. Obviously the load height is taller than on a hatch, but for occasional load carrying it’s quite acceptable.
The engineers have made a fine job of making the Yaris handle as well as it does, and it’s competitive with others in its class like the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq and Hyundai Kona (to name a few of very many). The issue, as with so many of its kind, is the hybrid petrol/electric setup and, more to the point, the constantly variable transmission (CVT). For three decades and more, since the very first Prius, Toyota improved and honed their hybrid models’ power units and transmissions. They all, including the Yaris Cross, deliver superlative – but they still whine like, well, a disgruntled six-year-old.
That, plus some extraneous road rumble at speed spoils what should be a very refined package indeed. It’s pricey, too, for what it is, with the top of the tree models (some with four-wheel drive) pushing thirty grand. The Ford Puma, with its extra deep “megabox” boot and the nicely designed Skoda Kamiq are fine alternatives, and for a little more you could buy the future with the all-electric Kia e-Niro. On balance, I’d probably be a bit boring and opt for the still excellent Nissan Qashqai, which is cheaper, more spacious inside and doesn’t sound like it’s looking for a fight with its own transmission system.