TOYOTA has taken its award-winning Yaris and beefed it up to compact SUV proportions to produce the all-new five-door Yaris Cross.
With prices starting from £22,515, there's a choice from trim levels calledIcon, Design, Excel, Dynamic and a limited-run Premiere Edition which will be on sale for about a year.
There is also the option to upgrade to intelligent all-wheel drive on the high-end models for £2,360 extra.
At the heart of the car, which is built in France specifically for European customers, is a1.5-litre, three-cylinder hybrid engine, which together with the electric motors, delivers 114bhp with 120Nm of torque.
The vehicle can complete the 0-62mph sprint in 11.2 seconds (11.8 seconds on AWD-i versions) and maxes out at 106mph. Running costs are impressive with models delivering up to 56.5mpg and from 112g/km carbon emissions on a combined run.
Compared to the standard Yaris city car, the Yaris Cross is 95mm taller, 20mm wider and 240mm longer with the same wheelbase. Customers can choose from 16, 17 or 18-inch wheels depending on trim level and all models are generously equipped with tech, along with excellent safety levels.
We tried the Yaris Cross Dynamic front-wheel drive model costing Â£26,465 - this price was bumped up a further Â£450 as there was a JBL premium sound system added to the mix.
When viewed from any angle, the Yaris Cross boasts quite aggressive SUV styling with twin front grilles, a black roof, chunky wheel arches, along with slim headlights and circular fog lamps at the bottom of the grille.
There are black wheels and door pillars, along with privacy glass and smart LED lights at the back with sequential turn indicators.
Moving inside, the Yaris Cross is very big on space with smart cloth upholstery and a clutter-free, yet feature rich cockpit.
The car sees the debut of the new Smart Connect Multimedia system with faster operation and additional functionality. There is the Touch 2 multimedia system with a nine-inch high-definition touchscreen, sat nav, DAB radio and wireless smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It has a separate panel for the climate control and seat heaters, plus a neat screen behind the steering wheel that offers all manner of information about hybrid driving performance, speed and fuel levels etc.
The driver benefits from excellent all round visibility and the acceleration from the CVT gearbox is smooth and responsive with plenty of power on tap at all times. The car cruises at 70mph on motorways and is nice and agile in town centres where a new upgraded parking system makes light work of squeezing into tight spaces - even at night.
Out on the country lanes, the Yaris Cross offers confident grip through bends and the cabin is nicely refined with very little wind or road surface noise filtering through.
The driver can switch through drive modes called Normal, Eco and Power that alter the responses of the vehicle and there is an EV-only mode which is ideal when travelling through Congestion Charge zones. Extra energy is recouped through regenerative braking and this is sharper if the car is switched from D for Drive to B mode whereby the vehicle brakes as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator.
Comfort levels are really good and there is enough room for a couple of passengers in the back provided the front seats are not pushed back too far. Add a third and it gets a little too cosy.
The boot can accommodate 397 litres of kit - a limit that increases to 1,097 litres with the 60:40 or 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. And there are a number of handy storage options scattered throughout the cabin too.
Although the Yaris Cross has yet to be tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the Yaris was awarded the maximum five stars and this latest version is packed with safety features.
It has all the second-generation Safety Sense features as standard across the entire range such as pre-collision system, lane trace assist, full-range intelligent adaptive cruise control, road sign assist and automatic high beam. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are options on the high-end models.
Toyota predicts the Design trim level will account for about 50 per cent of sales and, despite initially believing only three per cent of buyers would opt for AWD-i, initial pre-sales figures show that number to be nearer to 10-15 per cent.
All in all, Toyota has taken the compact SUV qualities from the RAV4 - which is now celebrating its 25anniversary - and added lots of Yaris city car DNA to the mix to develop the all-new Yaris Cross making it big on style, appeal and performance.