Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid Excite Review
Its Like A Baby G, Honey!

Words and Photos by Clifford Chow
8 Apr 2021
 

Interior design is just as quirky, especially where the full digital instrument panel features unconventional twin “Baby-G” aping displays.

SUV fever is real! The Czechs have SUVs, the Koreans have SUVs, the Japanese have SUVs… Everybody has SUVs! Sorry I’m just channeling a little Oprah Winfrey here.

So Toyota brings us the Yaris Cross, their little-est (official) SUV here, and we have to say that it is a box of quirky quirks. Toyota has produced 2 drivetrain choices, a full-on ICE, and a hybrid. However in Singapore, we only get the latter, and we think that this is for the better. But we will get to that later on.

Anyhoo I get the feeling that when the Yaris Cross was still at the developmental stage, designers at Toyota had made a wishlist of design elements that they wanted on their new small SUV. However in making that list, Santa wasn’t around to check it twice. The result is a somewhat attractive car, sprinkled with oddball styling quirks.

While I can get that Toyota is trying to feed a little bit of their new Harrier design DNA into the Yaris Cross, its smaller proportions does contribute to a few design misses. Those squared-out black plastic wheel arches for-instance, paired with more gap between them and the tyres for instance, makes the wheels look a tad too tiny. That aside, Toyota’s littlest cheerful SUV is friendly and inoffensive, with a high-riding nature that tells of its tough urban jungle conquering capabilities, where kerb mounting can be done with some ease and to good measure...

Inside

Interior design is just as quirky, especially where the full digital instrument panel features unconventional twin “Baby-G” aping displays. There is also a 10.1” head-up display in our test vehicle, which is the higher-spec Excite variant.

There is that organic looking door card with deep-set handles that you might need time to get over, but I promise that the ergonomics are pretty spot-on there. One of the things that I cannot get past though, is the amount of drab black hard plastic surfaces that surrounds you.

Looks like some smg in Counterstrike...

The Yaris Cross also lacks a centre storage box, though there is a squircle shaped compartment at the base of the centre console, which strongly hints that it is more of a mount for an aftermarket storage/armrest. If you have opened another window to find one, good for you. The steering wheel’s two button housings could also have been better built, as they seem rather fragile.

While simpler when compared to its conti peers, the infotainment unit, fronted by an 8” screen is user friendly, and offers users Android and Apple connectivity, allowing you to integrate music, calls and mirror messages.

Passengers in the rear will find seating quarters rather tight, and there is quite limited knee wriggle room. Cargo space at 390 litres is quite generous, just 10 litres short of the one in the newly-launched Skoda Kamiq. With its 40:20:40 folding rear seats, and split boot board, there is a good deal of flexibility here. The cargo cover though, is like a flimsy socking, stretched by a frame, not unsimilar to the one found in the Lexus UX.

The Drive

Where the Yaris Cross shines is in its fuel-sipping abilities, claiming a lab-tested 26.3km/l. We managed 22.6km/l, not too far off from their official figures (Anything above 20km/l to me for a car this size is already very-very good). Powering the Yaris Cross is Toyota’s new M15A ‘Dynamic Force’ engine, a 1.5 litre three-cylinder, from which a highly-strung mental variant of this sits in the very expensive and highly-acclaimed GR Yaris RS.

The Yaris Cross here is a petrol-electric hybrid, which is rather ideal for our urban environment. In start-stop situations, the electric drive does the bulk of the work, providing instantaneous acceleration, with the engine feeding power where necessary. Push the Yaris Cross harder, and the 3-cyl will rear its rougher side, and engine noise intrudes plenty into the cabin.

Noise aside, ride quality even with its shorter wheelbase is pretty good, where the small SUV soaks a good deal of bumps mostly without complaint. However the simple torsion beam setup at the rear, if it catches say… a pothole under just one wheel, that is when you will feel the rear unsettling itself a little. 

For newer drivers, the tiny dimensions of the Yaris Cross wll be a boon to them, since you sit quite upright, you can better see where that front end is going. And with that short wheelbase, making a U-turn is almost akin to turning 180, while sitting on your right bum cheek. Putting it through its paces, the small Toyota does tend to struggle around the bends, and you will learn quickly that it doesn’t like to be driven hard, as evidenced by its 11.4 second century sprint timing, it will not win any prizes for its accelerating abilities. Over here ease of driving and comfort takes precedence over handling.

Both the Active and this brass gold metallic Excite Yaris Cross variants are equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense suite, which includes keeping-you-safe features like Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) and Lane Departure Alert (LDA), and even Intersection Turning Assist and Emergency Steering Assist; and you also get 8 airbags if things do go pear shaped.

Our Thoughts

With SUVs increasingly becoming the go-to vehicle for the masses, buyers are spoilt for choice, even in this smaller category. 

The Volkswagen T-Cross is among the more expensive of the lot, while the new Skoda Kamiq offers heaps of grunt, and interior space but has to be purchased with the significantly more expensive Category B COE. On a “more affordable” scale, there is the Hyundai Venue which is powered by a Smartstream 1.6 NA, coupled with the smoothness of a CVT, and its first cousin, the KIA Stonic, with a 1.0 3 cyl turbo… And yes, Mazda has just returned with a reworked CX-3 with a more sensible, and smaller 1.5 litre Skyactiv.

Options... you have plenty of options! 

In Summary

We Like

Superb fuel economy. No-fuss drivability. Quirky instrument binnacle. Well thought-out boot.

We Don't

Flimsy cargo cover. Seemingly fragile button panels on the steering wheel. Rough engine. Hard black plastics cheapens the interior. Some design misses.

Verdict

The Yaris Cross is a mixed bag of good, bad and simply quirky. If you are one who clocks the miles, and fuel economy is king, perhaps this small Toyota could be the car for you. It looks sweet like a Baby G, and this one we drove is coloured like honey.

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