Auto123 reviews the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross small crossover.
The idea makes so much sense it’s a wonder it took Toyota this long to develop: how about a crossover version of the trusty, trusted Corolla, now that sedans have given up so much ground to SUVs. Indeed, the new Corolla Cross largely delivers what folks expected from something with the Corolla name stuck on the hatch. But does it do enough to draw consumers’ attention away from the many other, very modern models now inhabiting the small SUV segment?
To be clear, the Corolla Cross is actually quite distinct from its sedan brethren. Yes they share the same platform, but there are more differences here than, say, between the Impreza and the Crosstrek over at Subaru. For one thing, the exterior looks pretty completely unique. On the other hand, those who know the Corolla’s interior well will find a pretty familiar environment when they slide into the Cross.
But really, none of that matters all that much. For sure, Toyota’s idea with a model like this is to keep those abandoning the car format as they shop for their next small vehicle in the Corolla fold. But for that to work, Toyota has to put forth a product that can compete with rivals in the segment.
Certainly, there’s no way in which the new Corolla Cross really disappoints – with one possible exception. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The crossover looks nice enough as you approach it, though it won’t exactly get hearts racing. The proportions are spot-on, and all is in good taste, from the sanely proportioned front grille to the sleek but not overly squinty headlights to the lightly sloping roofline that manages not to cut much into rear-seat headroom. All around the bottom portion are plastic elements designed to toughen up the appearance a little bit. In a nutshell, this Corolla Cross looks the part of the RAV4’s new, smaller sibling. It may not overflow with personality, but it’s handsome and very well put-together.
Entry is obviously more of a horizontal affair than in the Corolla sedan or hatchback, which you do need to ‘drop into’ slightly. Once in, you find a comfortable, fairly roomy space with a straightforward, uncluttered dash and central console. As mentioned, those who know Toyota and more particularly its compact-sized models will know their way around instantly, and that’s not a quality to be discounted. Not every new-vehicle owner wants to go through a learning curve.
As you’d expect, the interior offers more room and versatility than the Corolla, this even though the latter’s hatchback variant and the Cross models share the same 2,640-mm wheelbase. In our AWD XLE tester, cargo space with seats up is 688 litres (compared to 722 with the FWD configuration); that’s more than the Nissan Qashqai (648 l) and a lot more than the Subaru Crosstrek (588 l) offer.
The Corolla Cross gets its power from a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine delivering 169 hp in conjunction with a continuously variable transmission (CVT); our tester had the AWD system that powers the four wheels and can automatically transfer up to 50 per cent of power to the rear. This version also features independent rear suspension in lieu of the FWD’s semi-independent torsion-beam system.
This powertrain does a good job in terms of fuel economy, with the AWD variant delivering a combined rating of 7.8L/100 km. Know that there’s a hybrid version in the works, that will improve on that impressive figure even more; it should be ready later this year for the 2023 model-year.
Here’s the hiccup
What this powertrain does less well, is offer any kind of a dynamic drive. The 2.0L engine doesn’t deliver a ton of power, but it should be sufficient for this vehicle format; rather, it’s made to look bad particularly by the sluggish nature of the CVT that manages the horses. Acceleration is sluggish and noisy, to the point where you will only find satisfaction if you stay very, very zen with your right foot.
And that, despite the model’s agility and nimbleness on the road, may cause some to hesitate, because there are rivals in the segment that perform far more energetically and undeniably offer more fun behind the wheel, for instance the Mazda CX-30, and it’s not alone. This weak point may not be enough to counter the great reputation for reliability and solid engineering that Toyota carries with it into this new segment, not to mention the draw of the Corolla name. But it’s not a selling point for the Corolla Cross, that’s for sure.
The 2022 Corolla Cross has a starting price of $24,890 for the base L model, which comes by the way with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of safety systems. After that come the LE, LE Premium and XLE trims. All-wheel drive is a $1,400 option on the first two and is included standard on the last two.
The last word
The new Corolla Cross is overall a very solid entry for Toyota in a segment it really needed to step into. This is a worthy addition that slides into the lineup just under the juggernaut RAV4 model, and it doesn’t embarrass itself when being compared to that model. The many qualities of Toyota models and engineering are on full display here, but so is the lack of excitement that quite often characterizes its model.
Still, if Toyota can fix the party-pooping effect of that CVT, and maybe offer a second engine option for those who want a little more punch, it may well have a segment leader on its hands in the years to come. Because the Corolla Cross does come with a solid design and offers great versatility, a roomy, comfortable interior and decent-to-great fuel economy (especially when the hybrid version arrives).
Handsome good looks
Fairly generous passenger and cargo space
Good fuel economy
Familiarity for Toyota motorists
Good road grip and handling
We like less
AWD not standard across the range
All-round lack of pizzazz
Lack of rear seat heating