CHATHAM, Mass. – Toyota Corolla is the best-selling automotive nameplate in history. During its seven-year lifespan more than 50 million subcompact and compact sedans, coupes, hatchbacks and station wagons have been sold worldwide under the Corolla name.
In 2020 a subcompact crossover/sport utility (CUV/SUV), the Corolla Cross, became the latest iteration of the global icon with the first American model rolling out of the company’s Alabama factory in 2021.
In 2023 the hybrid version was added to the lineup and one of these, a distinctive two-tone Acidic Blast (sparkling metallic green)/black roof Corolla Cross HV XSE, recently provided me with a week’s transportation on and off Cape Cod.
Electrics transform the powertrain
Toyota introduced the world’s first mass-produced hybrid-electric passenger vehicle, the Prius, in 1997 with United States sales commencing in 2001. Since then, the Japanese company has added hybrid powertrains throughout its extensive lineup of cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs.
The company added hybrid capability to the Corolla Cross for its second year in the American market simultaneously boosting the CUV’s performance and fuel efficiency.
The system includes a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder internal-combustion engine (ICE) with aluminum block and cylinder head. A double-overhead valve setup and direct injection are featured in the engine’s design, all of which results in output of 150 horsepower and 139 pounds-feet of torque.
Working in conjunction with the ICE a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor operating in conjunction with a Lithium-ion battery and producing 151.9 pounds-feet of torque (Toyota does not reveal horsepower output of the electric motor).
The overall output of the hybrid powertrain is 196 horsepower (again, no Toyota torque figures) which flows through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to all four wheels through the standard electronically controlled all-wheel-drive (AWD) system.
This translates into a subcompact with sub-eight-second 0-60 times (7.3 according to Car and Driver) and plus-40-miles-per-gallon fuel economy. I got 43 mpg during my week while the federal Environmental Protection Agency rated it at 42 mpg overall (45 urban, 38 highway). The hybrid powertrain also provides for towing trailers up to 1,500 pounds.
Sporty platform supports the Corolla Cross hybrid
Toyota describes the Corolla Cross HV’s suspension as sport-tuned (more about that in a moment). The components certainly sound like those of a sporing vehicle: independent MacPherson-type struts with stabilizer bar, coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers upfront and independent double-wishbone multi-link setup with coil springs, trailing arms, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers in the rear.
Power-assisted, anti-lock equipped (ABS) brakes with ventilated 12-inch rotors in the front and 11.1 solid ones in the rear operate within 18-inch alloy wheels with a black-painted machine finish shod with 225/55R18 all-season tires.
Befitting its CUV/SUV intention, the Corolla Cross has eight inches of ground clearance, two more than a Corolla sedan.
These pieces add up to a vehicle which is spunky, lively and fun to drive. It is an SUV in a subcompact package which, thanks to the response of its powertrain and buttoned-down suspension engineering, maneuvers through tight traffic and small village streets with aplomb.
Ride comfort is comfortable – no jarring actions when the road surface deteriorates.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 brings comprehensive ADAS
Helping the driver is a comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), most of which come under the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 umbrella. This system includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; radar cruise-control; lane-departure alert with steering assist; automatic high beams; road-sign assist and lane-tracing assist.
In addition to the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, the Corolla Cross comes standard with blind-spot warning; rear cross-traffic alert, and front/rear parking assist with automatic braking.
Well equipped cabin
The Corolla Cross might not be categorized as a luxury or premium SUV, but, especially in XSE trim as I drove, the interior is filled with technology, conveniences and amenities normally found in such vehicles.
The front seats are heated (the driver’s with 10-way power adjustment, including lumbar support); the tilt/telescoping steering wheel is leather wrapped; the driver views a seven-inch customizable digital instrument cluster, and there is a dual-zone automatic climate-control system with ECO mode. The climate-control system features simple piano-key switches in the center of the dash without the need to sort through any on-screen menus for adjusting the Corolla Cross’s environment.
Rising from the center of the dash is an eight-inch color touchscreen, the heart of the infotainment system and vehicle-system controls (with manual volume-control knob protruding from its left side).
The infotainment system features sources like SiriusXM satellite radio; Toyota Connect navigation; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as AM/FM, with (in the case of the test vehicle) the sound coming through the optional ($800) nine-speaker (including subwoofer and amplifier) JBL Premium Audio system.
Six cupholders, four USB-C ports, a 120V outlet in the cargo area and wireless mobile-device charging are also included within the XSE trim level.
The optional ($1,200) Convenience Package added a tilt-and-slide moonroof as well as the power liftgate.
A value proposition
The Toyota Corolla Cross lineup includes ICE and hybrid variants. It ranges from a front-wheel-drive L model starting at $23,610 to the hybrid XSE model like I drove with a $31.065 base price. As tested, the fully equipped XSE tester came in at $35,850 with the options discussed and a $1,350 delivery, processing and handling fee.
This is an excellent, competitive price for an excellent, competitive vehicle. Its value increases when Toyota’s well-earned reputation for quality and reliability is factored into the equation. If a subcompact SUV is on the shopping list, the Toyota Corolla Cross deserves serious consideration.