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Toyota Yaris Cross - Engines, performance and drive

It’s a case of hybrid efficiency over driving fun with the Toyota Yaris Cross

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

3.2 out of 5

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Agile handling
  • Good finance deals available
  • Tight rear cabin space
  • Feels cheap in places
  • Poor ride at higher speed
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With a focus on efficiency rather than outright performance, the Yaris Cross doesn’t offer too much in the way of sprinting ability. Acceleration times are average at best, and the combination of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, a small electric motor, and a CVT automatic transmission won’t excite keen drivers in the same way a manual Ford Puma would. If you push on a bit, the little three-cylinder in the Yaris Cross provides a typical three-cylinder thrum, which some might think sounds a little more interesting than a droning four-cylinder.

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Toyota has identified that Yaris Cross buyers will most probably live in more built-up, urban areas, so it’s important that the compact SUV is comfortable and easy to pilot around town. Has it succeeded? For the most part, yes. The Yaris Cross can run on smooth electric power up to 30mph – provided you’re very gentle with the accelerator. When the petrol engine has to kick in, the switchover is barely noticeable as it kicks in to assist in increasing the pace. It’s a good set-up for driving in stop-start traffic for those after an automatic, feeling much less jerky than an auto Citroen C3 Aircross, Peugeot 2008, and Vauxhall Mokka. During our long-term testing of a Yaris Cross, we found the hybrid system did a great job of utilising battery power as much as possible in stop/start traffic.

Despite the increased ride height of the Yaris Cross model over the regular Yaris supermini, it remains pretty nimble through the corners. There’s not much lean, while its relatively low 1,265kg kerb weight helps with overall efficiency and performance. Ultimately, it isn’t as nimble as the aforementioned Puma, but it doesn’t disgrace itself either.

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The ride comfort in the Yaris Cross is a different matter. It all starts off reasonably well at slower speeds, but head out onto faster roads, and you’ll notice how the small SUV struggles to maintain its composure. Rougher sections of tarmac make the Yaris Cross a rather uncomfortable drive compared with the plush ride of the Hyundai Kona, while there’s a fair degree of cabin noise to put up with on longer motorway jaunts. Those after something a bit more long-legged should look towards the much more refined Volkswagen T-Roc.

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The GR Sport trim promises sharper steering than other versions and features tweaked suspension to make the Yaris Cross a bit more fun. However, we found the stiffer set-up gives it a fidgety ride at low speeds like a Nissan Juke, and feels a little more harsh over rougher surfaces at speed. The GR Sport does keep body lean in check better than the standard version, but the trade-off isn’t good enough to warrant the further reduction in ride quality.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

With just 114bhp on tap, the Yaris Cross isn’t going to set any drag race or land speed records, but it’s brisk enough around town, and front-wheel drive models will manage the traditional 0-62mph sprint in 11.2 seconds, or exactly the same time as a hybrid Hyundai Kona. Those wanting something quicker will need to go back to pure petrol power and try the more sprightly Puma, which zips from 0-62mph in just under 9 seconds in its most potent 153bhp form.

All-wheel drive models, or AWD-i as Toyota calls it in the Yaris Cross, get an extra electric motor to drive the rear wheels but no more power. We expect the extra weight of the other electric motor is why it takes 11.8 seconds for the AWD-i Yaris Cross to hit 62mph. However, the top speed for both versions stands at 105mph.

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News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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