In 1994, Toyota pioneered the small sports utility vehicle market with the RAV4, which nearly 30 years later with the now ‘grown-up’ version, is the best-selling SUV in the world.

Now, with its new ‘baby’ Yaris Cross the Japanese automotive giant is aiming to continue its success in the compact class. Coming in nine variants, with petrol or petrol / electric hybrid powertrains, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, three grades – GX, GXL and Urban – are on offer.

Toyota Australia Vice-President Sales and Marketing Sean Hanley says the Yaris Cross is set to appeal to metro-living, country exploring, active urban dwellers. With a versatile and premium interior, AWD availability (some models) for when the tarmac runs out, dynamic driving characteristics and comfortable raised ride height, it is the ideal small SUV.

The test vehicle turned out to be the ‘below stairs’ entry-level GX front-wheel drive, selling for $26,990, plus on road costs, as opposed to the ‘footman’ GXL FWD hybrid, $31,990, or range topping ‘Lord of the Manor’ Urban all-wheel drive hybrid, $37,990.

Yaris Cross is covered by a five-year warranty, seven years for engine and driveline, and up to 10-year warranty on the hybrid battery, with a capped price for the first five services at $205 each.

Based on the Yaris Cross hatch, side-on, the Yaris Cross stands its ground, with robust SUV lines, dominated by a line linking geometric wheel-arches bridging 16-inch alloy wheels.

A bold face features a split grille with a lower diffuser, flanked by deep-set LED daytime running lights and slimline headlight clusters, while at the rear a squared-off rear hatch suggests a practicality fit for purpose.

Likewise, at the rear, the broad horizontal lines connecting the integrated taillights and squared-off rear hatch suggest a robust and practical attitude.

While the platform of the Yaris Cross is only slightly longer and wider than that of the Yaris hatch, it features a substantially longer, wider and taller body to provide more interior space and versatility.

For example, the rear cargo area in two-wheel drive models has a 60:40 split false floor, which when removed makes room for up to 390 litres of cargo. With the base in position there’s a capacity of 314 litres.

Inside the cabin the larger body translates into a light, airy space with a premium ambience for five occupants and plenty of luggage with all controls designed to optimise ergonomics. The quality of materials and finish are top notch.

A digital instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch Multi Information Display, while 7-inch touchscreen display sits above the centre console offering convenient controls and information for the latest generation multimedia system.

The system features AM / FM / DAB+ radio, full Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, voice activation and audio through six speakers.

There’s single-zone climate control air-conditioning, but factory fitted satellite navigation requires a move up to the GXL grade.

The two-wheel drive Yaris Cross is available with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that generates a maximum power of 88 kW and peak torque of 145 Nm, driving the front wheels through a Direct Shift constantly variable transmission.

The Direct Shift CVT features a mechanical first gear for strong off the line performance and a 10-speed manual sequential shift function that can be operated by either the shift lever, or paddles on the steering wheel.

The latest generation Toyota Safety Sense includes pre-collision safety with day / night pedestrian and day cyclist detection, plus emergency steering assist, lane trace assist and lane departure alert with steering assist, daytime intersection turn assist, automatic high beam, road sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.

A rear-view camera incorporates guide lines, and eight airbags including first-in-class front centre airbags helping to reduce potential injuries caused by contact between the front passenger and driver are also standard.

The Yaris Cross is the first of the company’s models offered with Toyota Connected Services, using a data communication module to automatically generate an emergency call to a round-the-clock call centre and relay the location of the vehicle in the event of a collision that requires intervention, or if an airbag deploys.

The driver is also able to request emergency assistance via an SOS button on the overhead console and if the vehicle is reported stolen, Toyota Connected Services can help authorities track the vehicle’s location via the Stolen Vehicle Tracking service.

While the new Yaris Cross is built on the same GA-B Toyota New Global Architecture platform as the Yaris hatch, it sits on a 10 mm longer wheelbase and 35mm – 45mm wider track to provide a broad, stable platform for all driving conditions and surfaces.

Ground clearance has also been increased by 20 mm to 170 mm. All 2WD models share a front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension providing stability, ride comfort and average luggage capacity.

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and a small diameter steering wheel serve up responsive vehicle control, while assured braking is provided by ventilated front and solid rear discs, with the incorporation of electronic aids including vehicle stability control, active cornering assist, secondary collision braking and cross-wind assist.

The 2WD Yaris Cross GX, with its 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, does little to excite with its performance.

Delivering maximum power of 88 kW at 6600 rpm and peak torque of 145 Nm between 4800 and 5200 revs the CVT is quiet enough until these peaks are approached but then works with an uncharacteristic raucous note, an unwelcome visitor to the passenger cabin.

No complaints with the fuel economy, however, with a company claim of 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle translating to test car totals of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 4.6 litres on the motorway.

While sharing styling cues with the compact Yaris hatch, Toyota’s first entry into the light SUV market presents an image of robustness and a touch of the high-riding attitude of bigger soft-roaders.


Yaris Cross GX FWD petrol $26,990
Yaris Cross GX FWD hybrid $28,990
Yaris Cross GX AWD hybrid $31,990
Yaris Cross GXL FWD petrol $29,990
Yaris Cross GXL FWD hybrid $31,990
Yaris Cross GXL AWD hybrid $34,990
Yaris Cross Urban FWD petrol $32,990
Yaris Cross Urban FWD hybrid $34,990
Yaris Cross Urban AWD hybrid $37,990
Premium paint $500
Two-tone paint $450
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Toyota dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5L 3-cylinder petrol, CVT, FWD SUV)

Capacity: 1.490 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 88 kW @ 6600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 145 Nm @ 4800-5200 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.4 L/100km
CO2 emissions 124 g / km

DRIVELINE: Direct shift CVT with 10-speed sequential shift, front-wheel drive

Length: 4180 mm
Wheelbase: 2560 mm
Width: 1765 mm
Height: 1590 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1140 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 42 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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