If you’ve ever owned a small or medium sized Toyota in the last decade, you’ll already have a good handle on how the Yaris Cross will drive. It’s competent and very predictable in the way it moves, though it’s also a generational improvement on the cars that have come before it. It’s not a car that you’ll feel the need to carve through curves in, but we found that it can hold a high speed cornering line quite stably without giving up to understeer.
Plenty has been written about the reliability of Toyota’s hybrid systems so little more needs to be said, but despite the 0 to 100km/h sprint taking 11.4 seconds, in practice the car feels a fair bit quicker off the line as the instant torque from the electric motor gives it a healthy shove.
The entire system is self-contained and the battery recharges whenever the car is coasting or braking, and should power output drop too low it can recharge through power from the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine as well.
As is expected of a Toyota hybrid it’s very quiet at cruising speeds, though the internal-combustion engine does have a bit of a gruff note when it’s revved hard. The continuously variable transmission drives the front wheels and there are no options to individually select any preset gear ratios like in some other cars, but there’s a ‘B’ mode on the gear selector that you can use for enhanced engine braking. It’s quite effective and does feel like downshifting to a lower gear to slow down.
The pile of active safety equipment stacked into the car deserves mention, and most involve the car sensing that something is not right and alerting the driver via warning tones and in extreme cases helping you yank the steering or apply emergency brakes before you run into something.
Radar cruise control is starting to make its way into many mainstream cars, and we guess that it won’t be long before more luxury automakers will feel obligated to add it on as standard equipment rather than an overpriced option. Rather than blindly cruising at the speed set, radar cruise control tracks the car in front and maintains a driver preset safety distance, automatically slowing down and speeding up as needed. Driver anxiety is alleviated in the Yaris Cross by the instrument panel’s display that shows the radar actively tracking the car ahead, and the same is repeated on the heads-up display.
The safety distance also appears to be speed sensitive. You can set for short, medium or long gaps, but as traffic sped up on a fast-moving expressway we found that the Yaris Cross automatically increased the safety gap within the parameters set. That is, medium following distance at 50km/h is actually shorter than the same at 90km/h.