Apart from being Malaysia’s independence day, yesterday also marked the launch of the new Toyota Yaris Cross in its home market of Japan. As its name suggests, the Cross is the, uh, crossover version of the Yaris (the European- and Japanese-market one, that is), and Toyota aims to combine the agility, safety features and fuel economy of the supermini with the style of an SUV.

The Yaris Cross is being offered there with two powertrain options. The petrol-only version is a 1.5 litre Dynamic Force naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine, producing 120 PS at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque from 4,800 to 5,200 rpm. Mated to it is a Direct Shift CVT and a choice of two- or all-wheel drive, with a combined fuel economy figure of up to 20.2 km per litre (18.5 km per litre with AWD).

Hybrid models get an Atkinson-cycle version of the engine, making 91 PS at 5,500 rpm and 120 Nm from 3,800 to 4,800 rpm. This mill is combined with an 80 PS/141 Nm electric motor to deliver a total output of 116 PS; the E-Four version adds a 5.3 PS/52 Nm rear motor to provide AWD. Claimed fuel economy figures are up to 30.8 km per litre with 2WD and 28.7 km per litre for the E-Four, both on the WLTP cycle.

As previously reported, the Yaris Cross shares nothing with its namesake hatchback sibling on the outside. There’s more than a hint of the RAV4 in its look, from the chunky fender bulges to the blocky rear end which, Toyota says, suggests practicality. The front end features trapezoidal headlights, a large grille and a broad centre intake, while the upswept shoulder line is claimed to give a hint of roominess.

Buyers can choose from eight colours, including the new Brass Gold Metallic and a more contrasty Silver Metallic. Seven of those hues will be available in a two-tone finish with a black roof and door mirrors; there’s also a striking combination of Black Mica with a Brass Gold Metallic roof and mirrors. Wheel options range from 16 to 18 inches in diameter.

The similarities with the Yaris are more apparent on the inside, where the Cross sports the same dashboard and door cards. There’s a wraparound cabin design, a freestanding touchscreen head unit and distinctive door pulls that curl around the handles. Perceived quality is improved through the use of soft-touch slush moulding on the dash, along with a felt lining in the doors. There’s also a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat that will even pivot outwards for better entry and egress.

Toyota says that the Yaris Cross uses an “Eyes-on-the-Road” concept with the adoption of a high-mounted touchscreen and optional head-up display and seven-inch digital instrument cluster, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road ahead. At the back, there are 390 litres of boot space with the two-level, 60:40-split floor in its lowest position, along with a 40:20:40-split rear seat and a hands-free powered tailgate.

Barring the base model, the Yaris comes with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance systems, including autonomous emergency braking with nighttime pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection. Other features include adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist, adaptive high beam, traffic sign recognition, low-speed acceleration control and emergency steering assist. Parking assist is also available.

Under the skin, the Yaris Cross rides on the GA-B version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), just like the standard Yaris – meaning that it has MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. This platform gives the Cross high level of rigidity and a low centre of gravity with less weight, enabling it to deliver increased agility and an improved ride, Toyota says.

The Yaris Cross will be sold in Japan in four petrol variants and three hybrid models. Prices range from 1,798,000 yen (RM70,600) for the base X “B Package” front-wheel-drive petrol to 2,815,000 yen (RM110,500) for the Hybrid Z with E-Four all-wheel drive.