FIESTA, Corolla, Golf, Qashqai, 5-series. They are just five of several names I could have chosen to illustrate a point I want to make about instant model recognition.

ou don’t need to know the maker of the car; they are institutions in themselves. A Fiesta is a Fiesta. It also happens to be a Ford.

That instant recognition is a tribute to the trust people put in such cars and have done for many years.

Indeed, I have come across instances where people confused model name and maker.


And that’s why Toyota has held on to the widely recognised Yaris nomenclature to partly adorn their new compact SUV/crossover. It’s called the Yaris Cross. The word Yaris is a reassurance and a way of making the new crossover an immediate part of the family.

The Cross shares a fair amount with the supermini. It is built on the same platform, has the same 1.5-litre 116hp petrol hybrid powertrain and even the same wheelbase.
Yet it is quite, quite different.

For starters, it doesn’t look nearly as much like a Yaris as you’d expect. It is bulkier, taller, longer and shaped more like what a mid-market crossover should be. It is also much roomier despite having the same wheelbase.

Fair dues to the engineers. They have created room to great effect – you sit nicely raised within the larger frame.

Ground clearance is 30mm higher; is 90mm taller and 20mm wider than the hatch.

And they have pulled off a master stroke with the boot, which is a large multi-level affair and extends to an impressive 397 litres. Research for this car segment shows boot space to be a deal maker/breaker. The Ford Puma has a particularly deep, large one.

I think the new infotainment display with 9-inch touchscreen (on top-spec models) was worthy of note. It is not on all models.

For once, for me, the navigation system worked well. That was especially the case on one of the most dreary, wet mornings I have had the misfortune to drive in during peak traffic from south Dublin to just off Dorset Street, in the city centre.

Boy-oh-boy was I glad to find a parking spot near my destination. The Yaris Cross tucked nicely for me into a slot I would not normally venture to fill. On such moments do bonds forge between driver and vehicle.

Less so, in this case, on the open road. Though while it didn’t set the world alight, it gave a good enough account of itself – who needs performance from a family crossover? To be fair, there was reasonably taut feedback but it is not as sporty as the Puma, for example. There was a more solid feel to the drive.

For the adventurous among you, the electric all-wheel drive system has a 5kW motor driving the rear wheels (normal is via the front two).

Speaking of the Puma. It and the Juke, Captur, Arona, T-Cross are names that are not, perhaps, as well known as the Fiesta just yet, but the Puma (Ford), Nissan (Juke), Renault (Captur), SEAT (Arona) and Volkswagen (T-Cross) are big rivals for your money if you’re in the market for one of those compact crossovers. At least one-in-eight of you are, according to statistics. There are myriad models and more coming all the time.

Market research into these small SUVs is clear: You want smart design, higher driving position, plenty of infotainment and connectivity.

The Yaris Cross, like so many newer competitors, ticks most of those boxes.

One area Toyota has put a lot of emphasis on is its Safety Sense system. It has a list of warnings, alerts, aids and supports as long as January’s wait for the pay cheque.

For example, its forward collision warning system can detect vehicles between zero and 180kmh, pedestrians at night-time (10kmh-80kmh), cyclists during daytime (10kmh-80kmh). I’m a fan too of intelligent adaptive cruise control which recognises new speed limits and suggests altering speed to include them.

There are lots of other driver assists but – heresy – one of them drives me mad. It’s called lane tracing assist (LTA). It keeps you centred in the lane at all times. Only thing is, if you stray a little at all, it kicks up a hell of a fuss. Worthy but annoying.

The new car is powered by the 3cyl 1.5l petrol engine hybrid set-up and consumption is a claimed 4.5litres/100km to 5.1litres/100km depending on model. The 3cyl wasn’t working much on my cross-city forays but it was on motorway drives.

Would I buy it? Probably, but it is a bit pricey. A few euro more gets you an entry-level Corolla, but that misses the point. Someone buying a Yaris Cross wants different things than  a saloon driver. So if you are one of many seeking a compact crossover, here is another name to put on your list.


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