It is perhaps fitting that Britain’s most successful female athlete, Dame Laura Kenny, recently took delivery of the brand-new Yaris Cross hybrid electric SUV, which was given the theme ‘Always on the Move’ by its development team. The car was designed to suit its drivers’ unique and active lifestyles and to be easy to drive, but also ‘Fast and Smart’ – just like Kenny.
Kenny previously drove the legendary Toyota Hilux pick-up, so it was a big change to move on to the nippy Yaris Cross, which was provided as part of her role as a Toyota athlete ambassador. The car has generous, flexible passenger and load space that’s perfect for transporting sporting equipment, yet with a compact footprint for easy parking and manoeuvring in urban spaces. It has all-wheel drive capability for country driving and returns great fuel economy of 62.7mpg.
Toyota caught up with Kenny to get her first impressions of the Yaris Cross:
- What attracted you to the Yaris Cross?
We wanted the Yaris Cross because we were keen to switch to a hybrid. The journeys that we do are quite short – going over to the velodrome and back, or taking our son Albie to school – so we were keen to have a car that is more environmentally friendly. My husband Jason and I are bike riders, so why wouldn’t we want that? And the car is big enough so that when we don’t have Albie or the dogs with us, the bike can actually fit in the back, so it’s a really convenient size.
- What were your first impressions of the car?
I really like the car! It gets good mpg figures, and it does feel to me a lot more electric than I thought it was going to. It’s really zippy away from traffic lights and roundabouts…it reacts really well. It’s also good because we live on a country road and it’s not massive, so I never feel squeezed off the road, yet it’s big enough to fit our family in and to carry bits and bobs in for Albie, and like I say I can fit the bike in with the wheel on, with the seats laid flat. So my first impressions are very good, I’m really enjoying it.
- What do your family think of the new car?
I actually share the car with my mum and dad, and they absolutely love it. For us, it’s about saving the planet and the trip between my parent’s house and our house is about 20 minutes, so a hybrid vehicle that doesn’t drink large amounts of petrol is really important. My parents have a little dog, and my mum loves all the mod cons, like the heated seats – the car has everything.
- How are you using the car and what do you carry in it?
We use the car on a daily basis. I go in and out from the track, I take Albie to school, Jason takes it to Derby a couple of times a week; it’s just a very convenient car and a nice size. It’s really good outside the school because the parking’s so limited, so it’s nice I can whip in, fetch Albie and nip off again.
- Have you made any long trips in the car yet? Are you using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in the car?
The longest journey we’ve made so far is to Derby and back, so about an hour and a half, and the Yaris Cross is a really comfortable, nice place to be. It’s brilliant that you can connect your phone to Apple CarPlay, and then you’ve got the maps on there as well, which is just so convenient, and your messages just pop up. Ultimately, I just like having a car that’s comfortable – it’s got cruise control, it’s got everything I could want.
- Can you get all your cycling gear in the back? Have you transported any other large objects in the boot that meant you had to fold down the rear seats?
When I don’t have Albie or the dogs in the back, everything fits in, so I can leave the back wheel of my bike on; I just take the front wheel off and I lay the two back seats down and it fits in. To be honest I haven’t actually tried taking both wheels off, because I haven’t needed to, but it might be that it fits in the boot standing up too, because I’ve only got a small bike. In any case, there’s plenty of space for the bike to fit in with one wheel off.
And really, all I ever take is one bike and a bag, so it’s more than big enough for what we use it for. It’s the same with Albie – he has a really small bike which fits in the boot, so it’s nice that if we take him to the park we can take the football, put some goals in and his little bike, and then the dogs just sit on the back seat with him, so it’s plenty big enough for us as a family.
- What key features of the car do you particularly like?
All the different driving modes are such great features, and it’s so easy to use and to switch between whichever one you need. Obviously, we live in the country, so you never know what conditions you’re going to come across if the weather’s been bad, so it’s a real confidence boost to know you can get in the car and adjust to whatever’s in front of you on the day.
The reversing camera for parking is also a very helpful feature, especially on the school run.
- Have you used any of the specific driving modes such as ‘Trail’ or ‘Snow’ yet?
We haven’t encountered snow yet, but I know it’s there for when I will inevitably need it!
- Are you using the My Toyota App yet and if so, how are you using it?
Having the car’s range on the app is so good because you can just look at your phone and know how the car’s doing and plan ahead. The ‘Find My Car’ feature is amazing. I also think having the Service and Maintenance function on the app makes it so useful – there’s no more faffing about with pieces of paper and losing notes of when your last service was – it’s all just there on your phone.
- What music do you listen to in the car and why?
I’m a Capital FM girl, and always have been. I particularly like the morning show with Sian Welby. I have my phone plugged in, but I just use the Capital app and I don’t really listen to any other music.
- Finally, how did you and Jason feel about receiving your damehood/knighthood at the same time?
We were obviously really honoured to receive the news on the same day, that we would receive a damehood and a knighthood in the New Year Honours list. It’s just such a nice feeling to be recognised for what is a job for us, and to be recognised for all the hard work that you’ve put in over so many years, because once you go to one Olympics, you’re expected to go to another, and it’s just not that easy. And especially for me this time around, not only did I have Albie and have to come back from that, I then had to come back from a broken arm and a broken shoulder, so it was just a nice way to cap off what had been a really hard year.