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Cute Toyota Yaris Cross Has Big Appeal for a Tiny SUV

The subcompact Yaris sedan and hatch could use a taller sibling like the Cross.

Kelly LinWriter

Today's piece of forbidden fruit comes in an enticing gold package from Toyota. The covers have been lifted off the Toyota Yaris Cross, and unfortunately, the tiny SUV—slathered here in gold paint—is not coming to the U.S. market. Here the Yaris lineup consists of two Mazda-based, Mexican-built subcompacts, the Yaris iA and hatchback, and the closest thing Toyota sells to the Yaris Cross, size-wise, is the C-HR crossover.

Similar to that C-HR, the Yaris Cross is in no way boring. Toyota nailed the cute-ute's look, and the new B-segment SUV boasts a chunky stance, squared-off wheel arches, plenty of body cladding, a constrasting-color black-painted roof, and a relatively toned-down grille treatment relative to some modern Toyotas. It rides on the same platform as the global Yaris subcompact (which is different from the Mazda-based models sold here), but it boasts larger dimensions all around, measuring 9.4 inches longer, 3.5 inches taller, and 0.8 inch wider than the foreign-market Yaris hatch. Toyota says these dimensions translate to more interior space. Ground clearance has increased about 1.2 inches.

Under its hood, the Yaris Cross gets a 1.5-liter three-cylinder gas engine. A hybrid version makes 116 horsepower, which should be just enough to get the small crossover going and little more. All-wheel drive is available for buyers who want a little more traction for poor weather conditions or a more outdoorsy image.

The small crossover launches in Japan this fall and in Europe mid-2021. Versions for Japan will be built locally, and European models will be produced in France. Toyota confirmed to MotorTrend that the Yaris Cross is not destined for the U.S., and we're not totally surprised. It may be too small to entice Americans, plus Toyota would have to figure out how to source them profitably from afar—or tool up to build the low-cost, low-margin vehicles in North America. Given how the regular Yarises sold here are built at Mazda's plant in Salamanca, Mexico, using the Mazda 2 as a base, a retool to build this Toyota-derived model seems unlikely.

Too bad, because the Yaris sold here—Mazda or not—is a pleasant little vehicle that's far from a cheap econobox. It offers decent performance, an inviting and upscale interior, strong fuel economy, and an attractive price tag under $20,000. A tiny SUV offering the same in a good-looking package would be money.