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2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid First Drive: Common Sense

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid | Photo: Toyota
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Benoit Charette
While not exceptional as such, the hybrid system's performance is far superior to that of the regular Corolla Cross
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Profile
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Profile | Photo: Toyota

•    Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.

•    An SUV that combines excellent fuel economy and all-wheel drive? Uh, yeah!

•    The hybrid model also delivers superior performances to those of the regular Corolla Cross.

Los Angeles, CA - In a world increasingly populated by SUVs, it's nice to know motorists can get the advantages of that format without having to drive an elephant.  

Take, for example, this new variant of a recent model that has been a hit since its introduction. Toyota is expanding the Corolla Cross family with a hybrid version for 2023. This wagon, as I prefer to call it (you can call it an SUV if you want), offers the same features as a compact SUV, including all-wheel drive, in a much nicer package. 

Built on the same platform as the Corolla, the Corolla Cross Hybrid is built at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing's new Huntsville, Alabama plant. This brand-new facility will have the capacity to produce up to 150,000 Corolla Crosses per year. So, no shortages in sight, praise be.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Front
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Front | Photo: Toyota

New hybrid system
Toyota is debuting its fifth-generation hybrid system coupled with an electronic all-wheel drive system - a first for the Corolla family. The Corolla Cross delivers 196 hp (up from 169 in the gasoline model) while offering a combined fuel consumption rating estimated by the manufacturer at 5.6L/100 km. 

In Canada, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid will be available in two new versions: SE and XSE. Standard equipment on the SE model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, 8-inch touchscreen, LED headlights and taillights, Smart Key remote control, heated front seats, privacy glass, roof rails and paddle shifters, as well as a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. 

The Cross Hybrid XSE adds 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, taillights and fog lights, SofTex-trimmed seats and a power-adjustable driver's seat. 

All versions of the 2023 Corolla Cross come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, which includes a suite of driving aids.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Three-quarters rear
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Three-quarters rear | Photo: Toyota

The drive: Best of both worlds?
We were pleasantly surprised by the driving experience the Corolla Cross Hybrid reserved for us. While not sporty, it's more engaging to drive than the regular version. We're still not in love with the CVT, but the extra power does help enhance the ride. 

The steering is responsive, and the vehicle’s tight turning radius makes it quite suitable for city living. Now all Toyota has to do is add some life and excitement to the driving experience. I understand that this isn't the kind of vehicle you buy for performance, but improving the driving feel is a simple thing. It's like a smile, it's simple and so much more enjoyable. 

Believe it or not, in California we managed to find roads as bad as our home-grown obstacle courses in Quebec. No complaints were forthcoming about the absorption power of the suspension, which did an excellent job. We did find any snow or rainy weather to properly test the all-wheel drive, but it's an extra layer of safety that's always welcome. We’ll know more when we drive the vehicle back home in wintertime.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Interior
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Interior | Photo: Toyota

The interior: a nice living space
The interior shares the same features as the other Corollas. In higher trim levels, the all-new model can be equipped with a power sunroof, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control. All versions also come standard with heating and A/C vents for rear passengers. 

The SE version comes with cloth seats while the XSE model is upholstered in Softex in black or black/blue. 

All 2023 Corolla Crosses get Toyota's new multimedia system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly as standard features, as well as more USB-C charging ports to get all your devices ready for action. 

Specifications sheet of 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Steering wheel, multimedia screen
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid - Steering wheel, multimedia screen | Photo: Toyota

Drive Connect (optional) gives drivers and passengers access to Smart Assistant, cloud-based navigation and Destination Assist. With Smart Assistant, simply saying phrases like “Hello Toyota” wakes up the system and gives it commands.

The final word
If your main goal is to get your family from point A to point B comfortable and economically, this is the car for you. It does what you want it to do and it does it well. While the performance of the hybrid system isn't exceptional per se, it's far superior to what you get from the regular Corolla Cross, while offering excellent fuel economy of around 5.6/100 km. 

Let's not forget the price. The suggested retail price for an SE version is $33,985 and the XSE is $36,755 before shipping, preparation and taxes. A very fair price for what you get.

Strong points

  • Value for the money
  • Convenient and generous size
  • Full set of driving aids
  • Modern infotainment system
  • Excellent fuel economy

Weak points

  • Rear seats a bit tight
  • No driving pleasure
  • Dull interior
  • Engine lacks refinement
Benoit Charette
Benoit Charette
Automotive expert
  • More than 30 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 65 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists