The fact that Toyota is calling its latest small crossover the Corolla Cross really tells you all you need to know about the new model. This crossover version aims to please the average buyer with the same combination of reliability, practicality, and efficiency as Toyota’s eponymous compact car, and it’s only logical for Toyota to extend the lineup to include a small-SUV variant given the current sales of anything with a raised ride height and plastic body cladding.
You may question 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 the space between the RAV4 and C-HR will be good for 100,000 annual sales. To hit that target, the Corolla Cross offers things that the C-HR lacks: an inoffensive design, decent cargo space, and optional all-wheel drive.
Its pug-dog face and a few interesting creases in the body sides attempt to liven up the Corolla Cross’s design, but overall it has an anonymous-SUV appearance. The base L model starts at $23,410 and is positively normcore with its wheel covers and non-tinted windows. Stepping up to the LE ($25,760) and XLE ($27,540) trims brings a bit more style with alloy wheels and chrome trim.
Inside, the Corolla Cross’s 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. Two-tone leatherette seats that do a good impersonation of leather are available on the XLE, 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 CH-R’s 19. Opting for all-wheel-drive ($1300) necessitates a higher cargo floor that reduces space somewhat.
Under that raised cargo floor in AWD versions is a multilink rear suspension that replaces the front-driver’s torsion-beam setup. Both versions enjoy similar handling, although the AWD model is slightly more buttoned-down in corners. Either way, the suspension tuning is more about tackling bumps than corners. Further eroding any driver engagement and fun are over-assisted steering and significant body roll.
A naturally aspirated 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-four paired with a CVT isn’t much fun either, although a more powerful hybrid version is coming. Throttle response is lazy, the engine is buzzy in the upper rev range, and merging onto the highway requires a degree of patience. 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, Chevy Trax, and other subcompact entries have achieved plenty of sales success, and the Corolla Cross is refined enough, big enough, and offers enough value to carve out its 100,000 sales. A nice start on the next 50 million.
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