Toyota Yaris Cross review

Toyota Yaris Cross review

We test the chunky crossover version of Toyota’s fuel-efficient Yaris…

Since childhood, we have been told that practice makes perfect. 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.”

All manufacturing and technical companies 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.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

Car companies are no different. For example, Porsche’s cars are dynamic to drive with supreme build quality, while Skodas are spacious and deliver great value for money.

Toyota is known for many things – and hybrid technology is right up there. The Japanese giant was the first to launch a mainstream model that combined petrol and electric drive with the Prius in 2000 (UK debut). What’s more, it’s been able to use that knowledge and expertise gained over the years to constantly improve the system and apply it to a broader range of models.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

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

Now, to compete in the currently popular small SUV sector, Toyota has launched the Yaris Cross, which has the same chassis and powertrain, but rides higher and has an off-roader look.

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.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

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.

My test car came in Design trim with a ticket price of £24,140 and added LED lighting, 20:40:20 folding seats and 17-inch alloys, though the slightly bigger 9.0-inch infotainment screen (usually 8.0-inch) was an extra £500.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

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. If anything it’s more baby RAV4 than big Yaris.

The interior is basically the same as the new Yaris hatchback, which means that it’s clear, functional, modern and features the latest technology.

Rear space is pretty good for two with average knee room, but would be a push for three adults. The boot is roomy at 397 litres (expanding to 1,097 litres with the rear seats flipped down). A raised and flat false floor is available on higher trim levels.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

So how does all this cutting-edge 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 works well, as long as you don’t floor the accelerator, at which point the revs shoot up.

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.

Toyota Yaris Cross review

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 and the steering is sharp, though some may find the ride is on the firm side.

Overall, it would be wrong to call it a dynamic drive, but then it’s not designed for that. Buy the awesome GR Yaris if you want serious fun.

So, job done for the boldy styled, spacious new Yaris Cross, which works as a good value, fuel-efficient commuter or small family car.

Test Facts

  • Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 VVT-i Design
  • Body: Five door SUV
  • Engine: 1.0 litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol / electric hybrid
  • Power: 115 bhp
  • Torque: 120 Nm
  • Top Speed: 105 mph
  • Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 11.2 secs
  • WLTP combined mpg: 54.3 to 64.1 mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 102 g/km
  • Range priced from £22,515

Toyota UK

Nissan Qashqai review

Nissan Qashqai review

When the original Nissan Qashqai was launched back in 2007, it pioneered the crossover concept with its blend of hatchback compactness and SUV practicality.

The all-new third-generation model is the best yet. Again built in Britain, it’s set to emulate the sales success of its predecessors. 

And it’s just as well that it is hugely improved because a lot has happened in 14 years and it’s now up against strong competition from the likes of the Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq.

Nissan Qashqai review

Essentially, the new Qashqai is a step up in just about every area compared to the outgoing model which was launched in 2013 and was beginning to show its age by the end of its production run.

Still instantly recognisable as a Qashqai, the new car looks distinctive and modern – and enjoys much greater kerb appeal.

Priced from £23,985, it’s initially only available with the revised 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine from the Mk2. However, it now features 12v mild-hybrid technology and is available with 138bhp and 156bhp outputs.

Nissan Qashqai review

There is no diesel engine option, but buyers can choose between manual and automatic transmissions, plus all-wheel-drive.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Nissan plans to bring an e-Power version to market in 2022, offering a set-up different to any other currently on sale.

Unlike self-charging hybrids, it will feature a 1.5-litre engine/electric motor/battery combo. The petrol unit is used solely to generate electricity and the wheels are driven by the electric motor.

Nissan Qashqai review

In other words, it’s a way of bringing the advantages of an EV (ie instant torque, smooth power delivery and near-silent operation) to those who don’t want to make the jump to a fully electric car just yet. Additionally, there’s no range anxiety, better fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions.

For now we have to make do with the existing mild hybrid petrol engine, which is fine because it’s a refined unit. I only tested the more powerful version (156bhp) with a manual gearbox and it managed just fine, even if you won’t be troubling any hot hatches.

Nissan claims it can sprint from standstill to 60mph in 9.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 128mph, while fuel economy is 43.6mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 146g/km.

Nissan Qashqai review

Personally I’d opt for the slick Xtronic automatic gearbox, which seems better suited to the generally relaxed driving style of the car than the six-speed manual transmission.

It’s possible to exceed the claimed fuel economy figure in everyday driving and exceed it on longer, steady runs, but considering there’s hybrid technology on board (recovering energy under deceleration and providing a small torque boost when accelerating), it’s not streets ahead of its rivals, while its emissions are average.

That said, the new Qashqai handles well and feels more agile than before, perhaps thanks to the 60kg overall weight reduction. Push it and there’s a little body lean in corners, but otherwise it offers a comfortable ride with plenty of grip, while the light steering works a treat in town.

The driving position is ideal, and just as you’d expect from a high-rider, visibility is great.

Inside, Nissan has listened to feedback from owners, so the rear doors open wider and there are more soft-touch plastics inside the cabin, for instance. There’s also a fresher, more modern look to the spacious cabin.

Nissan Qashqai review

In fact, the wheelbase of the car has increased by 20mm, providing extra legroom for rear seat passengers, while the exterior length has grown by 35mm. There’s a slight increase in height (25mm) too, and width has expanded 32mm, making the new model larger overall.

What’s more, there’s also more storage around the cabin, while luggage capacity is a useful 504 litres, expanding to 1,447 with the rear seats folded down.

Nissan Qashqai review

Not only can the new Qashqai carry five adults in comfort, with space for luggage, but it sports the latest technology.

The infotainment system, featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, is faster and easier to use. A large digital driver’s instrument cluster is now also available, along with the latest version of Nissan’s ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving system.

All models are equipped with Nissan’s driver assistance and safety package, which includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.

Verdict: The competitively priced all-new Qashqai puts Nissan back in the game with its winning blend of sharp new looks, refined driving experience and practicality, plus better build quality, the latest tech and generous equipment levels.

Nissan UK

Fiat 500 Electric review

Fiat 500 Electric

It’s safe to say that the all-new, all-electric Fiat 500 is one of the cutest and charming EVs on the market.

Fighting it out with the likes of the Honda E and MINI Electric in the zero emissions city car category, it’s available as a hatchback or convertible and is competitively priced from £20,995 to £30,995 (after the £2,500 UK Government grant).

The entry-level model comes with a small 24kW battery and a “city range” of up to 115 miles, while other versions get the bigger 42kW “long range” battery pack, capable of up to 199 miles.

Fiat 500 Electric

Just as importantly, the 42kW Fiat 500 has significantly more range than its top rivals, yet is very comparable in price (from £25,995).

The 500’s grown up in more ways than one too, because not only is it packed with the latest tech, it’s also slightly bigger, while its retro cool design stays true to the first two generations of this iconic people’s car.

The electric motor paired with the 42kWh battery generates 118hp (95hp for the smaller 24kW) and acceleration is 0-62mph in nine seconds (9.5sec for the 24kW).

Fiat 500 Electric

The new 500 isn’t as dinky as it was, growing in every direction, but it’s still unmistakeably a ‘cinquecento’ with some clever modern touches inside and out.

Perhaps the biggest change is inside the cabin where it’s more spacious up front, along with a minimalist look. There a large digital display ahead of the driver, while the centre console is dominated by a 10.25-inch touchscreen.

There’s a little more space in the back, but it’s still only really adequate for small people, while the boot remains at 185 litres (expanding to 550 litres with the rear seats folded).

Fiat 500 Electric

Safety also takes a leap forward, with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping and traffic sign recognition all standard, with goodies such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control available higher up the range.

The 500’s cabin is a comfy place to be with a fairly high driving position. Personally, I’d prefer a lower option, but I guess there’s a battery pack below which scuppers that notion. My only other gripe was the lack of a place to comfortably rest my largely redundant left foot.

On the road, it’s smooth and refined, like most electric cars, and you can easily choose the level of braking regeneration (charging on the move) you prefer.

Fiat 500 Electric

Accelerating from a standing start is brisk rather than supercar fast, but still enough to win the traffic light grand prix with ease.

The Fiat 500 EV is perfect for urban driving and holds up well on faster, twisty roads too, but it hasn’t got the go-kart handling of a MINI Electric, for instance.

That extra height means it not quite as composed in more challenging corners, but it’s still a fun and easy car to drive overall.

Fiat 500 Electric

As you’d expect in a city car, the steering is light and there’s a tight turning circle, though visibility isn’t best in class. Thankfully, rear parking sensors are standard, while top trims get a rear-view camera and offer a bird’s eye view of the car manoeuvring.

You can try various drive modes, but ultimately your choice will depend on the strength of your inner Scrooge and whether squeezing out as many miles as possible is more important than driving dynamics. At the end of the day, there is a happy medium.

Fiat 500 Electric

Finally, the Fiat 500 EV can be charged from 0-80% in a very respectable 45 minutes using a 50kW fast charger, or overnight at home.

Verdict: The iconic Fiat 500 has been reimagined for the zero emissions age. Not only does it ooze kerb appeal, but it delivers a fun, comfortable and safe driving experience at an affordable price.

Fiat UK

Kia EV6 review

Kia EV6 review

We test the all-new Kia EV6 – an electric car that’s more than just eye candy

Kia has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to electrification – from the EV version of the quirky Soul in 2015 to the game-changing e-Niro of 2018, plus hybrids along the way.

Now the South Korean car company is on the money again with its EV6 – Kia first’s electric-only vehicle with a 300-mile plus range.

At launch the futuristic fastback is available as either a 321bhp four-wheel-drive (dual motor) or a more affordable 226bhp rear-drive (single motor). The usable battery capacity is 77.4kWh, regardless of which configuration you choose.

Kia EV6 review

The single motor has the greatest range (328 miles compared to 314 miles). The top speeds for both are 114mph, while the 0–60mph time for the four-wheel-drive version is 2.1 seconds faster at 5.2 seconds.

Charging from 10-80% takes as little as 18 minutes via 350kW ultra rapid charger (it’s future-proofed with 800-volt charging infrastructure). A more common 50kW charger will take one hour 13 minutes, or if you can plug-in at home (7kW) it will take seven hours 20 minutes.

Priced from £40,840 to £51,840, its rivals include everything from the Ford Mustang Mach-E to the Jaguar I-Pace, Polestar 2, Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID.4 and its cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Kia EV6 review

A smidgen smaller than an I-Pace, the boldly styled EV6 also shares the stubby nose, short overhangs, pop-out door handles and big wheels of the Jag.

Inside, it’s spacious and slick, with plenty of room for five adults. Our only gripes are that we’d like the driver’s seat to lower a little more and rear visibility could be better.

Elsewhere, there’s a generous 490 litres of space in the deep, but shallow boot, expanding to 1,300 litres with the rear seats folded.

Kia EV6 review

The EV6 also features extra storage at the front – a front boot, front trunk, or ‘frunk’ – providing an additional 52 litres of storage space for RWD models and 20 litres for AWDs – more than enough space for charging cables.

Inside the cabin it has a classy feel and it’s well put together, but there are more hard plastic surfaces than we would like.

On the plus side, it is trimmed in a range of sustainable materials, such as “vegan leather” seats, and sections of the dashboard and centre console are clad in recycled plastics, equivalent to 107 plastic 500ml water bottles per car.

Kia EV6 review

There’s a large, curved touchscreen on top of the dashboard, alongside a digital driver’s display. Both are 12.3-inches and feature Kia’s usual clear graphics. Generally, it looks state-of-the-art and delivers a good mix of dials, buttons and touchscreens.

Standard equipment with the entry-level EV6 includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, LED lights, heated front seats and steering wheel, sat-nav based smart cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Goodies further up the range includes wireless smartphone charging, privacy glass, blind-spot collision warning, a panoramic sunroof, remote smart park assist, a powered tailgate, a 14-speaker Meridian audio system and a head-up display.

Kia EV6 review

On the road the EV6 is comfortable, refined and turns heads for all the right reasons. There really is nothing like it on the market at present.

We tested both the single and dual motor versions and frankly there’s not much between them. If money is no object and the loss of 14 miles of range makes no difference, then go for the all-wheel drive version which is a tad faster and offers extra traction.

A button on the steering wheel allows you to choose between Sport, Eco and Normal drive modes. Normal is just fine and Sport is fun for overtaking, while Eco is strictly for Scrooges and motorway runs.

Kia EV6 review

The steering wheel paddles let you choose between six levels of regenerative braking, the last of which switches to “one-pedal” driving, which harvests maximum energy when you lift off the accelerator, bringing the car to a stop without touching the brakes.

The EV6 does a decent job of hiding its two-tonne weight, feeling agile and staying flat in faster corners. However, when really pushed the crossover origins it shares with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are more obvious. No doubt the upcoming GT version will unleash the EV6’s full dynamic potential.

Kia EV6 review

That said, the steering is light enough in town, yet adds weight at speed, while the brakes are more progressive than many an EV.

No car is perfect and the EV6 is no exception, but it’s still an impressive all-round package with a range far exceeding many premium rivals.

Verdict: The all-new, all-electric EV6 is another great value game-changer from Kia – a winning blend of style, performance, practicality, technology and long-range capability.

Kia Motors UK

Volvo C40 Recharge review

Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo is doing its bit to save the planet, and it has an ambitious plan for a zero emissions future.

By 2025, 50% of its global sales will consist of fully electric cars. By 2030, it aims to sell only EVs before turning “climate neutral” 10 years later.

The Swedish car maker’s latest model, the C40 Recharge, is a case in point. It’s electric-only (there will be no petrol or hybrid variants) and it’s manufactured using a variety of sustainable materials.

Volvo C40 Recharge

For instance, the carpets are made from 71 recycled plastic PET bottles, and thanks to renewable wool fibres, it’s the first Volvo to feature leather-free upholstery.

You could even say the car itself has something of a recycled feel to it because it shares its EV powertrain and much of its body with the XC40 – Volvo’s big-selling SUV.

Unlike its sibling, it’s sleeker with a lower roof line and steeply-raked rear window, while the front end introduces a new face for electric Volvos. Here, the signature Thor’s Hammer headlights are augmented with pixel technology designed to avoid dazzling other road users.

Volvo C40 Recharge

It’s also fitted with the latest version of Volvo’s infotainment system, jointly developed with Google and based on the Android operating system.

So now there’s access to Google Play apps and services like Google Assistant and Google Maps. It’s also capable of over-the-air updates, which means the car is constantly kept up to speed with the latest software.

The voice commands (prompted by “Hey Google”) usefully cut down on the swiping, pinching and scrolling otherwise needed to control the features within 9.0-inch central touchscreen.

Volvo C40 Recharge

C is for Crossover and Volvo claims the C40 Recharge provides buyers with the high seating position that its owners prefer. The reality is that there’s very little difference between the siblings apart from the design.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way because the pure electric XC40 Recharge is a fantastic package, offering the combination of style, practicality, performance and a decent range of up to 259 miles.

The C40’s lower roof line looks smarter and makes it more aerodynamic, resulting in a higher range of 273 miles.

It also differs from other models in the Volvo range because it can only be bought online and it’s also available with a ‘Care by Volvo’ package (monthly subscription from £729) which offers a warranty, servicing and roadside assistance, as well as insurance and home charging options where available.

Volvo C40 Recharge

At launch there’s just one version of the C40 Recharge available with an eye-watering ticket price of £57,400, though in time we can expect other more affordable specs.

Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 has twin electric motors – one on the front and one on the rear axle – and is powered by a 78kWh battery that can be fast-charged from 10 to 80% in about 40 minutes (via a 150kW rapid charger).

Inside the factory

We were given a quick tour of Volvo’s impressive state-of-the-art plant at Ghent in Belgium, where the C40 is assembled on the same production line as the XC40 and V60 estate.

Volvo C40 Recharge production line in Ghent, Belgium

Volvo is increasing EV capacity at the facility to 135,000 cars per year, and already expects more than half of the plant’s production volume in 2022 to consist of fully electric cars.

On the road, the C40 offers the same combination of blistering performance and polished road manners as the XC40 Recharge.

Developing a combined 402hp, it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, which is almost supercar fast. Plant your right foot on an A road and before you know it, you’re travelling at the legal limit.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The ride is smooth and refined, the light steering is sharp and it handles well for a relatively heavy crossover.

There’s surprisingly good body control in faster, more challenging corners and plenty of traction thanks to all-wheel drive.

The brakes are progressive, which is relatively rare in EVs, and the regenerative braking system (which recovers kinetic energy otherwise lost during braking to recharge the battery) works well, especially in one-pedal mode where a simple lift off the accelerator is usually enough to slow the car down without using the brakes.

Volvo C40 Recharge

Ultimately, the C40 is a smoothie, at its best cruising. And as most EV drivers will tell you, the challenge of squeezing as much range as possible out of the battery is irresistible, so apart from the odd burst of instant-torque acceleration, it’s more about economical driving.

I have a few criticisms. I would have liked some drive modes (no Sport or Normal – just one-pedal or not). And even though the C40 Recharge ticks lots of eco-friendly boxes, the lack of leather and Scandi chic wood veneers made the interior less special to me.

The lower roofline also results in a slight headroom penalty for rear passengers six-foot or over, while the rear window itself is more post box than panoramic, so the view behind is on the challenging side.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The C40 has less boot space than the XC40 Recharge, but there’s still a useful 413 litres of luggage capacity (down from 452 litres), or a total of 1,205 litres if you flip the 60/40 split rear bench (1,328 litres). That said, rear passenger legroom is generous.

Up front there’s a 31-litre compartment under the bonnet – ideal for storing charging cables. There are also plenty of storage spaces scattered inside the cabin for phones, water bottles and other clutter.

Needless to say, like all Volvos, the C40 is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance tech as standard, including lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a 360-degree parking camera which makes it easier to get in and out of tight spaces.

However, at this price the C40 is up against tough EV competition – everything from the Hyundai Kona Electric, Skoda Enyaq and Kia e-Niro up to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2, Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron and Mercedes EQA.

Verdict: The stylish new Volvo C40 Recharge is a class act, blending performance, practicality and refinement with a good EV range and extensive safety features. At launch, the sole top-of-the-range model is on the expensive side, but in time the C40 will become more attainable as other variants are offered.

Volvo Cars UK