Tested: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross Aims for Mass Appeal
UPDATE 12/9/21: This review has been updated with test results.
The fact that Toyota is calling its latest small crossover the Corolla Cross tells us exactly what the automaker is trying to do here. This crossover version aims to please the average buyer with the same combination of reliability, practicality, and efficiency found in Toyota's compact car. And considering the current sales of anything with a raised ride height and plastic body cladding, it's only logical for Toyota to extend the lineup to include a small-SUV variant.
You may wonder whether Toyota needed yet another crossover, given that the automaker already sells seven SUV models in the U.S. But Toyota believes there is space for the Corolla Cross between the smaller and funkier C-HR and the larger and top-selling RAV4. Toyota is hoping that gap will be good for 100,000 annual sales. To find buyers, the Corolla Cross offers things the C-HR lacks: an inoffensive design, decent cargo space, and optional all-wheel drive.
A pug-dog face and a few interesting creases in the body sides attempt to liven up the design, but overall the Corolla Cross has an anonymous-SUV appearance. The base L model starts at $23,410 and is positively normcore with its wheel covers, manual climate control, physical key, and nontinted windows. Stepping up to the LE ($25,760) and XLE ($27,540) trims brings a bit more style with alloy wheels and chrome trim—and a lot more equipment. Our fully loaded all-wheel-drive XLE test car included features such as a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and blind-spot monitoring, and it stickered for $32,170. It is worth noting that this is about what you'll pay for a decently equipped RAV4 with a lot more space inside.
Inside, the dashboard is nearly identical to what you'll find in a Corolla sedan or hatchback. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard, and an 8.0-inch screen is optional; both feature easy-to-use controls including physical buttons and volume and tuning knobs. Available on the XLE are two-tone leatherette seats that do a good impersonation of leather, but the vibe inside the Corolla Cross lacks the upscale look of the Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-30. Rear-seat space is adequate, and the 27 cubic feet of cargo area is way up on the C-HR's 19. Opting for all-wheel drive ($1300) necessitates a higher cargo floor that reduces space by a couple of cubes. We fit seven carry-on suitcases in the back with the seats up, which is two more than in a C-HR and three fewer than in a RAV4.
Under that raised cargo floor in all-wheel-drive versions is a multilink rear suspension that replaces the front-driver's torsion-beam setup. Both versions enjoy similar handling, with the all-wheel-drive model slightly more buttoned-down in corners. We measured 0.80 g around our skidpad, and the Corolla Cross stopped from 70 mph in 172 feet. The suspension tuning is more about tackling bumps than corners. Further eroding any driver engagement and fun are overassisted steering and significant body roll.
A naturally aspirated 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-four paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission isn't much fun, either, although a more powerful hybrid version is coming. That's good, because the nonhybrid Corolla Cross doesn't achieve very good fuel-economy ratings. The EPA estimates the front-wheel-drive version at 32 mpg combined, which trails the Corolla hatchback by 3 mpg. In the base Corolla Cross equipped with all-wheel drive and 17-inch wheels, we achieved only 30 mpg on our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy test; the EPA highway estimate is 32 mpg. It also doesn't help that the Corolla Cross weighs 3384 pounds, some 355 pounds more than the last Corolla hatch we tested.
Throttle response is lazy, the engine is buzzy in the upper rev range, and merging onto highways requires a degree of patience. It takes a long 9.2 seconds to get to 60 mph and 17.0 seconds to reach a quarter-mile, slow even by the low standards of this class. Shoppers wanting more power will find it in the much quicker but pricier turbocharged versions of the Kona, CX-30, and Kia Seltos.
Those more expensive SUVs aside, the Corolla Cross's $23,410 base price places it in a segment that isn't as cutthroat as the next level up. The Honda HR-V, the Chevrolet Trax, and other subcompact entries have achieved plenty of sales success, and the Corolla Cross offers just enough refinement, space, and value to bank on 100,000 sales. A nice start on the next 50 million Corollas.
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