Hybrid technology gets even better

Doctor on the Road: Toyota Yaris Cross

70mpg! That’s what our tester Dr Tony Rimmer got out of the new Yaris Cross – a good value, fuel-efficient commuter vehicle or small family car.

We have learned that nothing is achieved or improved without hard work and repetition. As the great golfer Gary Player once said: ‘The harder I practice, the luckier I get.’

Manufacturing companies often focus on one aspect of their general operations so that they become expert and gain a certain reputation that attracts clients who have confidence in their products and services. 

Motor manufacturers are no different. For example, Porsche is trusted that its cars are all sporty to drive and Skoda is trusted that their cars represent good value.

Hybrid technology

If there is one thing that Toyota is well known and respected for is their knowledge of Hybrid technology. It was the first to launch a mainstream model that combined petrol and electric drive in a model that has become a huge success over several generations since its UK launch in 2000: the Prius. 

Toyota has been able to use the advancing knowledge and expertise gained over the years to constantly improve the technology and apply it to a broader range of models.

The highly successful Yaris supermini has become a hybrid-only car since its last major update in 2020 and combines a 1.5litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a small battery and electric motor. 

Now, to compete in the currently popular small SUV sector, Toyota has released the new Yaris Cross, which has the same chassis and powertrain but a more elevated upright body with a bit of an off-roader look to it.

The electric motor produces up to 79bhp and the maximum output for petrol and electric combined is 116bhp. The gearbox is an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) and drive is through the front wheels. 

There will be a four-wheel drive option in due course, but you will pay an extra £2,360 for the benefit. The range offers five levels of trim and equipment: Icon, Design, Excel, Dynamic and Premiere edition. 

However, even the base Icon has keyless entry, Apple CarPlay, 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear camera, climate control and adaptive cruise control. 

The Design edition, as my test car was specified, adds LED lighting and 20:40:20 folding seats and 17-inch alloys and represents the best value at £24,140. The slightly bigger nine-inch infotainment screen – usually 8” – on my car is a £500 extra.

Looks smart

The Yaris Cross looks smart and the bodywork boasts the usual rugged black-plastic wheel-arch extensions and raised ride height shared with other small SUVs. 

Its interior is basically the same as in the latest Yaris hatchback; that means clear, functional, modern with up-to-date technology. Rear space is pretty good for two with average knee room, but would be a push for three. 

The boot is roomy at 395litres but the floor dips down from the entry lip. A raised and flat false floor is available on higher trim levels.

So how does all this latest hybrid technology work on the road? Is it smooth in operation and does it provide decent fuel economy? 

Well, the clever electronics ensure that the Yaris runs on pure electric power up to 30mph until the battery runs out or you need extra acceleration. It then transfers to hybrid drive and the change is seamless. Engine noise is suppressed and the CVT transmission suits it well.  

A dashboard display tells you how much electric driving you are doing and the state of the battery. I found that this encourages a gentler driving style which can only benefit economy. 

In fact, despite an officially quoted fuel consumption of 55-60mpg, I managed to get an indicated 70mpg on a particular varied run without too much trouble – impressive stuff.  

The handling is pretty good, the steering is sharp, but the ride is a bit firm. This is not a dynamic drive, but it is not designed for that. Buy its fabulous sporty GR Yaris sibling if you want fun and dynamic driving in bucketloads.

So, the new Yaris Cross fills its designed remit successfully. It works as a good value, fuel-efficient commuter car or small family car. 

Similar hybrid-drive small SUV competitors include the Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona, Ford Puma and Renault Captur. If you are in the market for a small SUV, you are now spoiled for choice which can only be a good thing.

Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey