A couple of years back, I took the then-new Toyota Corolla Cross
on a long-distance Christmas road trip. On the whole, I liked this new little Toyota. It had a much more comfortable cabin than the Corolla hatch or sedan and more cargo space.
There were two things that made the Cross a non-starter for me, though. The first was that despite a claimed 169 horsepower, this Cross was almost unacceptably sluggish for a modern vehicle. The second was that the small tank, pessimistic fuel gauge, and mediocre fuel economy had me stopping for a fill-up every 300-350 km.
That's a range that most buyers wouldn't accept from an EV, and it's certainly not one that is ok for something that runs on gas.
For 2024, Toyota has made a change that could fix both issues. The Corolla Cross now offers a hybrid driveline, the powertrain that Toyota has done best ever since the first Prius showed up at dealers.
Corolla Cross launched with a 2.0L four-cylinder that made 169 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque. It was the same engine as the standard Corolla, paired with a CVT that was also largely the same. The engine feels underpowered in the Corolla car, requiring multiple downshifts to maintain speed on the highway.
In the CVT-only Cross, that meant lots of time at high RPM. I saw nowhere near the officially estimated 7.3 L/100 km combined in my time behind the wheel. More like 9.
Corolla Cross Hybrid gets a 2.0L four as well. This one only makes 150 hp and 139 hp. But it has a friend along for the ride. A permanent magnet synchronous motor that takes the total up to 196 hp combined.
It is the same driveline as in the latest Prius. It turns the Corolla Cross from a slug into something with a lot more pep. I'm not going to call it fast, but it is most definitely quick. It certainly feels quicker than the quoted 8.2-second 0-100 km/h time.
Toyota shrunk the gas tank even more, unfortunately, from 47L to just 40. But the fuel economy figure is now 5.2 L/100 km city, 6.2 highway. More importantly, when I got in one that had about half a tank showing on the gauge, the estimated remaining range was still 500 km.
Based on my own driving in the Cross Hybrid in the hills east of Carlsbad, CA, along with some high-speed highway driving, those figures aren't out of reach. My average was in the four litres per 100 km range, a very impressive number.
That's my two main complaints solved, but the experience is more than just extra power and more driving time.
Because you need to use max power less of the time, engine noise is less intrusive. It's still not quiet, but if you need to use half the amount of throttle, it makes much less noise. Wind and road noise are still high, but that's par for this segment.
Again because you're not flooring it all the time, the ride is more comfortable. And less stressful. Making the Corolla Cross Hybrid a better place to spend time on your commute or weekend drive.
Toyota says S grade vehicles like the SE and XSE Corolla Cross Hybrids have a sport-tuned suspension, something gas L models do not. The SE is far from stiff, but it was more capable on the twisty parts of the test route than I remember the L grade.
All-wheel drive is standard on the Corolla Cross Hybrid. That, along with Toyota deciding to launch it only in the more sporting "S" grades, creates a bit of a price gulf between the two versions of the model.
A base model gas Corolla Cross L FWD is $29,399.50. The entry point into the Hybrid is the $33,985 SE. That gap, Toyota said, is one of the reasons it will continue to build the gas model.
But with the gas LE AWD just $685.50 less than the hybrid SE, an amount you'll probably make up for in fuel use in the first six months, we can't imagine many buyers seeking out the gas variant. On the other hand, it might be the only one available on dealer lots if you're not willing to wait.
Inside, hybrid and gas are nearly identical. The hybrid adds buttons for EV mode, and that's about it.
So expect the same Corolla hatch and sedan-inspired dashboard. It's not Toyota's best work stylistically, but the ergonomics are solid. It has plenty of buttons and switches for nearly all features, something we still appreciate.
The Corolla Cross Hybrid gets Toyota's latest infotainment system. It has natural voice recognition and response to let you handle loads of controls. The system can even help you with the functions it can't actually change.
An 8.0-inch touchscreen shows you the new system. Not as big as the massive panels in the Tundra and some other Toyotas, but it offers plenty of real estate even for the new split-screen Android Auto modes.
Despite the extra bits that come with the hybrid driveline, cargo space is unchanged. Toyota says the Hybrid has the same 609L as a gas model with the power moonroof. Fold all the seats and there is a total of 1,750L of easily accessible space for your gear.
Toyota identifies the Hybrid from the outside with a new grille. More of the nose is covered, which probably helps the aero out slightly. Other distinguishing features include the wheels and badges, but also the paintwork.
Corolla Cross Hybrid will be offered with special two-tone combos including silver, red, and blue with a black roof. There's also the Acidic Blast with a black roof you can see in the photos.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard. It includes upgraded system sensors with better detection capability than prior versions. It has adaptive cruise, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and the usual other driver aids. Blind Spot Monitoring is also standard.
Emergency Driving Stop is new. The system monitors your inputs. If it thinks you're inattentive or non-responsive, it will bring the vehicle to a stop. It might not be the best place to stop, but it will certainly be better than an uncontrolled collision.
Expect the 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid to start to arrive at dealers in a few months. It will be built alongside the gas version at Toyota's new plant in Alabama. Toyota has said before that the plant can build around 150,000 Toyotas a year.
But don't expect them to sit at dealers for long. With Toyota still working to catch up with pandemic-restriction-related back orders, these will likely be the hot ticket. We can see some buyers even moving down from a RAV4 order because this one is almost as big and more fuel efficient. That's if they can get one more quickly, at least.
There are nicer interiors in this segment, larger cabins, and vehicles that are more fun to drive. But there are none that can manage this level of fuel efficiency along with the large cabin and loads of standard equipment. Toyota has done well with this one, so expect it to start popping up just about everywhere.
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
: compact five-door crossover
: Front-engine, electric AWD
: 2.0-litre inline-four; 150 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 139 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
: 196 hp
: (Regular gasoline) 5.2/6.2/5.6 L/100 km city / highway / combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY
: 4.5 L/100 km
: 609 litres, 1,750L with rear seats folded
: SE $33,985, XSE $436,755 Plus destination, taxes, and fees