Toyota Yaris Cross: Say hi-de-ho to the hybrid

Riley Riley

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 9

What is it?

A Yaris with a lift kit.

The Yaris Cross sits 20mm higher than Yaris hatch and is available with all-wheel drive.

It also sits on the same platform and shares the same drivetrains as the hatch, with virtually the same controls and instrumentation.

But there are some crucial differences.

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 8

What’s it cost?

Prices start from $26,990 for the 1.5 GX with a petrol engine, rising to $28,990 for the same model with a hybrid powertrain, or $31,990 for the hybrid with all-wheel drive.

GXL is next, priced from $29,990 with a petrol engine, $31,990 for a hybrid, or $34,990 for a hybrid with all-wheel drive.

Top of the line is Urban, priced from $32,990 with a petrol engine, $34,990 for a hybrid, or $37,990 for a hybrid with all-wheel drive as tested.

All of these figures exclude on road costs, with premium paint another $500 or two-tone paintwork $450 more.

Single-zone climate control is standard, along with push-button start and LED lights front and back.

For GX and GXL versions, the seats are upholstered in fabric, with varying shades of grey for the seats, door trims and dash.

Urban variants feature a tweed-like fabric and dark brown artificial leather accents for the seat upholstery, power adjustable driver seat and front seat heating.

Urban grades also get a power tailgate with a kick sensor for hands-free opening when carrying shopping or other items.

A 7.0-inch tablet-style touchscreen features AM/FM/DAB+ radio, full Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and enhanced voice activation — with six-speaker audio.

GXL and Urban grades add satellite navigation, while all models feature USB and 12V DC power outlets.

Safety extends to eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear view camera with guidelines, as well as a Pre-Collision Safety (PCS) system with day/night pedestrian and day cyclist detection and Emergency Steering Assist, Lane Trace Assist and Lane Departure Alert with steering assist, daytime Intersection Turn Assist, Auto High Beam, Road Sign Assist and adaptive cruise control.

Cross also features an automatic emergency call system and first-in-class centre front airbags designed to reduce potential injuries caused by contact between front seat occupants.

GXL and Urban also come with front and rear parking sensors, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, panoramic view monitor and Parking Support Brake.

Urban grades also offer Head-Up Display.

Yaris Cross is covered by a five-year warranty and capped price servicing for the first five services at $205 each.

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 6

What’s it go like?

Measuring 4180mm in length with a width of 1765mm and height of 1590mm, the Cross is 240mm longer, 70mm wider and 85mm taller than the hatch.

It also weighs another 175kg in top spec form which is obviously going to put a dent in performance, compared with the hatch.

The look is busy and eye-catching, with plenty of planes, angles and embellishments, in keeping with the style of C-HR and RAV4.

But closer inspection reveals rear legroom is tight and the cargo area rather shallow.

Instead of the hatch’s space saver spare, it conceals a kit to re-inflate a flat tyre.

Cross does however acquire rear disc brakes and an electronic hand brake, with regenerative braking for the hybrid.

But, whichever shade of the eight colours that you select, like me you might be less than thrilled to learn there’s just the one trim available.

And it looks like it has been lifted from a 1980’s parts inventory, with a combination of berber-look cloth and dark brown synthetic leather for the seats, with more even brown on the dash and doors.

Yucky poo!

Along with average ride quality, the 1980s trim suggests this one is straight off the boat, a full import with little or no local testing.

Based on past experience, they would have told us about the many thousands of kilometres spent tuning the car for our roads otherwise.

Under the bonnet is a choice of two new three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol or hybrid powertrains, both shared with the hatch.

The standard 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine generates 88kW of power 145Nm of torque and drives the front wheels through a Direct Shift CVT.

The hybrid system in two-wheel drive versions combines a 1.5-litre three-cylinder, Atkinson Cycle petrol engine that produces 67kW/120Nm, with a pair of motor generators that in total produce a maximum combined output of 85kW.

All-wheel drive hybrid models acquire a more sophisticated, two-link rear setup and a third electric motor generator that drives the rear wheels when required in slippery or off-road conditions.

Torque is split automatically between front and rear wheels based on road conditions, from 100 per cent drive through the front wheels — to a 40 per cent front, 60 per cent rear split.

Petrol two-wheel drive models get gear change paddles with 10 steps or gears in manual mode.

The hybrid misses out on this, but Trail Mode is said to enhance off-road traction in the all-wheel drive, with the system automatically braking a slipping wheel to ensure drive is directed to the wheels with the most traction.

The all-wheel drive setup generates the same 85kW as the two-wheel drive, but with a marginal increase in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions due to the extra weight of the vehicle.

The petrol model is rated at a claimed 5.4L/100km, two-wheel drive hybrid at 3.8L/100km and all-wheel drive at 4.0L/100km.

All run on standard unleaded, with a 42-litre tank for petrol models and 36 litres for the hybrid.

Yes, but what’s it go like?

Toyota has proved its hybrid powertrain time and time again, and perhaps if hybrid had been adopted earlier across the industry, the climate might be in better shape.

Typically, a hybrid uses half the fuel and produces half the engine emissions of a standard engine.

Even with the proliferation of electric vehicles, hybrid could still well be the long term solution for larger SUVs and the like.

So, how’s it go?

Underwhelming. It sounds and feels terrible, like hybrids used to 20 years ago.

Together, the thrummy three-pot engine and dreadful CVT-style continuously variable transmission are a marriage made in hell.

Point it at a hill and the revs start to climb, building to a crescendo along with the din as the transmission seeks the optimal mix of power and economy.

And when it gets to this point, that’s just where it stays, sounding like its getting set to blow its top — I kid you not.

There’s no manual mode either, either via paddles or the transmission lever, which offers only a B setting to provide engine braking on downhill runs.

There’s no traditional speedo or tacho, at least in the hybrid.

A small driver info panel separates two round instrument dials, the right devoted to a digital speedo, the left to information about power versus economy.

The touchscreen, although it looks large and impressive is actually quite small, with much of the space devoted to the physical buttons that surround the screen.

The small rear view camera when it appears is of poor quality.

The 18-inch wheels on our test vehicle were shod with 215/50 series Dunlop Enasave EC300 tyres.

Ride quality is average at best, with the suspension transmitting plenty of noise, vibration and harshness from minor imperfections in the road.

All in all, this isn’t motoring, not in the sense we’ve come to understand it — it’s just a means of getting from A to B.

The tradeoff of course is low fuel consumption.

We we getting 3.7L/100k after 350km — and you’ve gotta like that.

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 15

What we like?

  • Looks cool
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Big bright easy to read instruments

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 4

What we don’t like?

  • CVT
  • Feel and sound of CVT
  • Lacks performance
  • Average ride quality
  • Limited rear legroom
  • Single zone climate air
  • Yucky brown trim
  • Poor rear view camera
  • Tyre re-inflation kit
  • Full range of safety features not standard

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 7

The bottom line?

No thanks.

Plenty of better options.

Toyota expects Yaris Cross to make a “big” impact on the light SUV market in “years to come.”

Maybe, just not this year?

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid AWD 3

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Toyota Yaris Cross AWD Hybrid, priced from $37,990
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 6.5/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7/10