This is the brand new Toyota Yaris Cross, a small SUV that will give the Japanese brand a proper rival for the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Skoda Kamiq when it arrives in the UK in 2021.
It will be built at Toyota’s French production facility in Valenciennes, and in big quantities too: around 150,000 a year according to Toyota’s own estimations, which would give the brand a sizeable market share in the European B-SUV market, if it were to sell every one.
The Yaris Cross is the firm’s second model in Europe to be based on the smallest version of Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. This is a common set of chassis parts that underpin everything from the Yaris and Corolla to the RAV4 and American saloons. Importantly, it means that the Yaris Cross will bring hybrid powertrain technology to the small SUV market from its launch, because TNGA is engineered for electrification right from the off.
Revealed today via an online presentation, the Yaris Cross is clearly designed to complement the existing small SUV in Toyota’s line-up, the C-HR. That style-focused model sits somewhere between what’s known as the B-segment – superminis – and the C-segment for family cars. As such, Toyota hasn’t needed to force the Yaris Cross into being a ‘small family car’ like Skoda has done with the Kamiq, and as Renault has tried to achieve with the latest Captur.
While the newcomer’s name suggests that it is a member of the Yaris family, it sits apart from its Ford Fiesta-rivalling sibling with a look of its own, inspired by some of the larger SUVs in Toyota’s line-up, particularly the RAV4.
“Clearly, we want the car to be immediately perceived as a SUV, so we emphasised a higher ground clearance, a strong horizontal axis giving a great balance and poise, big squared wheel arches and of course big wheels,” explains Lance Scott, design manager at Toyota’s European Design Development studio.
“The face was also a very important aspect for us. We wanted to keep the strong DNA of Toyota’s SUV line-up but at the same time give Yaris Cross an identity of its own.”
The grille and headlights are different to the ones of Toyota’s supermini, while the surfacing down the sides is given a rugged twist with large, tough looking wheel arches and a new C-pillar. Around the back it gets a new rear fascia, too, while the hatch lid is power operated on some models. Toyota has not confirmed a boot size just yet, but it will almost certainly be a more practical car than the Yaris, while features such as an adjustable boot floor, underfloor storage and Toyota’s Belt Flex system for securing items are all available.
The Yaris Cross measures only 6mm shorter than a Ford Puma but its wheelbase is a more significant 28mm shorter. Compared to the Nissan Juke, it’s 45mm longer overall with a 30mm longer wheelbase. The Cross shares its wheelbase with the Yaris supermini, but it’s 240mm longer overall and 90mm taller. With 30mm of extra ground clearance, we would expect there to be a good amount of extra headroom inside.
While the design is a departure from the Yaris hatchback, the powertrain used by the Yaris Cross is the exact same. It’s a hybrid system making use of a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine generating some drive power but also charging the battery feeding the car’s electric motor. In the Yaris, this motor is fed by a new lithium-ion battery, which is lighter than the old nickel hydride units used in the previous generation Yaris Hybrid. Drive is sent to the wheels via a CVT transmission, and total system power stands at 114bhp.
Toyota claims strong fuel economy and low emissions for the new powertrain, but so far has only revealed provisional CO2 figures. Under WLTP, expect a figure below 120g/km for front-wheel-drive versions of the Yaris Cross, with the all-wheel-drive versions equipped with Toyota’s AWD-i system below 135g/km. Four-wheel-drive versions come with no practicality penalty, and it gains more sophisticated double-wishbone suspension at the rear, too, compared with the front-wheel-drive car’s torsion beam setup.
No other engine details have been confirmed, but the new Yaris will eventually be available with conventional petrol drivetrains with manual gearboxes, and we’d expect the Yaris Cross to follow suit. In certain European markets a non-hybrid, 1.5-litre petrol engine will arrive, but we don’t yet know if the UK is one of those markets.
While the exterior design is a departure from what the new Yaris has established, the Yaris Cross shares its interior panel for panel with the supermini, right down to the door moulds. A new steering wheel, new instrumentation, and a large central touchscreen are the focal points, while beneath the switchgear there’s a big storage space. Though the car is 200mm shorter than the C-HR, Toyota claims that there’s more space in the smaller Yaris Cross, mainly thanks to packaging gains over its larger, more rakish sibling.
Full specifications and technical details will be available closer to the car’s market launch in Europe, in early 2021.
Rivals: what the new Yaris Cross has to beat
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The second generation of Renault’s small SUV has borrowed heavily from the latest Clio, and that’s a good thing. The Captur’s cabin is now right up there with the best in class, and the boot is practical enough to rival many family hatchbacks, let alone smaller SUV rivals.
The Renault’s star turn could well be plug-in electrification. The E-Tech version is a proper PHEV, with a big enough battery to manage journeys of up to 30 miles on electricity alone.
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Hybrid badging on Ford’s excellent small SUV shows how muddied the waters are now becoming in this area. Unlike the Yaris and Captur, Ford’s offering is a mild hybrid – in effect, with a belt-driven starter-generator that harnesses braking energy and then uses it to help acceleration and save fuel.
Still, the Puma manages some solid economy figures – with up to 50mpg feasible in the real world – and it’s probably the best-driving of all the small SUVs.
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Latest version of Peugeot’s small SUV has possibly the widest choice of powertrains of all – with customers being offered petrol power, diesel
power and even the option of a fully electric edition.
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