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Toyota Yaris primed to take on the bullies

Latest entry to the burgeoning SUV sector will do very well but lacks a bit of character 


Toyota Yaris Cross has height and attitude and could be a huge seller

Toyota Yaris Cross has height and attitude and could be a huge seller

Renault Megane E-Tech Electric is up for European Car of the Year

Renault Megane E-Tech Electric is up for European Car of the Year


Toyota Yaris Cross has height and attitude and could be a huge seller

During my first years at boarding school I was quite small and had a bad lisp and stutter. Consequently, I was bullied quite a lot and one day even hung from a third-floor window by my ankles.

That changed when I was around 16 and my perpetrators were surprised to find somebody returning from the summer holidays who could match them for height and attitude, as well as compete for a place in the top rugby teams — although it did take a little while for everything to come in sync.

Perhaps as a result, I have always had a soft spot for those of a smaller and cuter disposition: Small, attractive blondes for one, brilliant scrum-halves like Peter Stringer and Faf de Klerk for another and, of course, the little 7.1kg parcel that is our Jack Russell Ziggy.

My wife isn’t so happy, she would much prefer to have a couple of extra inches of height and that is especially so when out driving. She’s fed up with being intimidated by big SUVs when she is on her morning trip to the Phoenix Park. That’s why she loved the Suzuki Jimny, which I wrote about last week, and why I thought she would really appreciate the new Toyota Yaris Cross that followed it for testing.

With the Yaris Cross, Toyota have taken their very successful small car (the current European Car of the Year) and put it on steroids all round to make it a real contender in the burgeoning small crossover/SUV sector. In fact, with its impressive stance it shares little at first sight in common with the Yaris, which despite its initial cuteness has won amazing plaudits as also being developed into a great hot hatch with its high-performance GR version.

You can taste that for €53,800, nearly €35k more than the Yaris starting price of €20,140. The price of the all-hybrid Yaris Cross reflects its bigger size and attributes and starts at €27,260 for the Luna edition, which is just €345 off the Corolla Hatchback and €1,000 under the massively impressive Corolla Saloon. Interestingly, the Cross undercuts the striking C-HR hatchback by €4,000 and is likely to take sales from it.

After a week I asked my wife if the Yaris Cross was the sort of car which would give her the height and confidence she wanted. Although still a bit tearful after saying goodbye to the Jimny, the Cross seemed to tick all the boxes. It had presence — not just height and impressive ground clearing, but good looks, comfortable front seats and seemed very easy to operate.

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I was taken by all the safety features on board — the company claims it is the “safest compact car” — which included a lot of pre-collision assistance, speed assistance, lane keeping help, automatic high beam, intersection collision mitigation, emergency steering assist, centre airbag and rear-view camera as standard features across the range.

The press car was the Sol edition at €32,800 (before metallic paint and delivery), which gains rather nice touches including 18-inch machined alloys (against 16-inch), parking sensors, retractable door mirrors, bigger screens and infotainment systems, heated front seats and a number of styling elements that do make a difference. Between Sol and Luna there is the Luna Sport at €29,500 and above all is the Adventure model, which gets a rather more rugged look as well as a heads-up display. It is available in FWD for €34,140 and with AWD at €37,215. All models of the Yaris Cross except the AWD have a spare wheel. The latter’s boot capacity is also smaller, being 320 litres against the good split level 397 litres of all the 2WD models.

The powertrain is the well-tried 1.5-litre petrol hybrid model, working with a lithium battery producing 116hp and giving between 101g/km emission (Luna) and 115g/km (AWD Adventure).

Toyota reckon that in urban areas you will travel around 80pc of the time in EV mode so overall fuel consumption should be pretty good at a quite realistic 5l/100km for the Sol model. The good body rigidity and low centre of gravity, despite the high ground clearance, gives impressive driving dynamics, although I remember the Ford Puma was superior, and the CVT automatic gearbox is getting far better even if still a bit noisy. The 0-100km is an average 11.2 seconds.

While my wife was very impressed with the car, I thought it was a bit lacking in character, but that hasn’t stopped Toyota selling enormous quantities of very well-built and reliable but rather vanilla cars. The Yaris Cross, with some styling clues from the Rav4, could be an enormous seller for the company. It has generous equipment levels, a very functional cabin and that high safety level.

The downside of the car’s impressive front looks and space plus the good boot, is limited rear passenger space. I would struggle to get behind someone my own size, but if my wife was driving it would be better, if not perfect.

A lot of people will be very happy with the Toyota Yaris Cross, and with PCP plans starting at €200 per month, the rather pricey headline figures become quite affordable. I think I could come under pressure at home. Could I ever resist a cute blonde? Interestingly, two days after I left the car back I was phoned by Toyota to say my wife had dropped her credit card under the front passenger seat. That seems an awfully big hint.


EVs lead the way in bid to bag European prize

The seven-car shortlist for the European Car of the Year was announced on Tuesday and includes six full EVs, with the Peugeot 308 the only outsider. The Korean twin set of Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 are rightly included, as is the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric which, on the same day, won Top Gear’s ‘Family Hatch of the Year’ award.

Two other places are taken by the Cupra Born and the Skoda Enyaq iV, very well developed versions of the Volkswagen group MEB platform which has already produced the VW ID.3 and ID.4.

The last place for the award, which will be announced on February 28, goes to the Ford Mustang Mach-E. The car brings an iconic name and history to the EV Large Crossover category and is seen as a rival to the bigger Teslas. It has already won top awards on the other side of the big pond. 

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