The Toyota Yaris Bulks Up Into A (Pint-Sized) Crossover For Europe, But Will It Come To The U.S.?

Another small, funky-looking crossover couldn't hurt in bringing in new, young buyers

The 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross looks familiar, doesn’t it?
[Photos: Toyota]

This 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross looks like a baby RAV4.

Floating in the same current as the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Ford EcoSport, the 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross is a tiny crossover with rugged looks. It was originally supposed to debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show before that event was cancelled, and it’s destined for European markets, at least for now. When I say “tiny”, it packs an overall length of 164.5 inches. That’s nearly six inches shorter than the Honda HR-V, and a full 8.3 inches shorter than it’s larger sibling, the C-HR.

A tiny engine usually accompanies a tiny European car, and the Yaris Cross is no exception. The sole powertrain here will be a 1.5-liter version of Toyota’s new Dynamic Force (M15-A) engine. This engine is based on a new family of more efficient gas engines that have made their way into the new Toyota Corolla as well as the RAV4. The name already gave it away, but the Yaris Cross is based on the next-generation Yaris (the global version, not the Mazda2-based hatch we get in the U.S.), which is itself based on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform.

A hybrid system will be available which will also make all-wheel drive (AWD) available. The Yaris Cross uses a rear-mounted electric motor, similar to the current RAV4 Hybrid. When the electric motor is not in use, it’s still a front-wheel drive-based crossover. Unlike other conventional all-wheel drive crossovers, the hybrid Yaris Cross does not need a rear driveshaft, transfer case or rear differential. 

A six-speed manual is available with the front-drive, non-hybrid model. Opt for anything other than that, and you’ll get a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead.

Will the this tiny crossover come here? 

Technically, Toyota already has a player in this field in the C-HR. However, it is not available with all-wheel drive or as a hybrid. On those points, Toyota’s smallest current U.S.-market crossover competes with the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Venue, but not with the likes of Honda, Jeep or Ford in this segment, among others. It’s not a big seller for Toyota either. 

Toyota will manufacture the Yaris Cross at a plant in France, and it could go a few different directions in terms of making the C-HR more competitive. Toyota is working on a joint-venture project with Mazda, which could yield a replacement to compete against other subcompact crossovers. Like Hyundai, Toyota may go yet another segment smaller and use this Yaris Cross to bring in younger and more frugal buyers with a sub-$20,000 offering. Or this could be a straight across replacement for the C-HR, where buyers could get into a smaller, less expensive crossover or go a bit larger and get a RAV4.

As it stands, Toyota needs to build a real competitor that can battle newcomers from Hyundai, Kia and Buick, as well as everyone else in the market. The 2021 Toyota Yaris Cross, if it comes here, could be the company’s answer. We’ll have to wait and see.

Speaking of small crossovers…