The Toyota Corolla has been a mainstay in vehicular culture for the past 50 years, and more than 50 million units have been sold since its introduction. So, it makes sense Toyota would cash in on a popular name when introducing a new compact SUV, calling it the Corolla Cross.
But there’s more than just name sharing going on here. The interior of the Corolla Cross will be very familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a Corolla sedan or hatchback. Plus, the powertrain, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, is the same one you’ll find in the S variants of the sedan.
Frankly, it’s exactly what you think Corolla would be as an SUV: compact, value laden, safe and reliable.
When I first saw the Corolla Cross at Toyota Headquarters earlier this year, I initially mistook it for a RAV4. It has the same wide-mouth grille, strong horizontal lines and a boxy side profile. Plus, from the shape of the headlights to the rear trapezoid around the license plate, the Toyota family resemblance – and its relationship to the RAV4 – is unmistakable.
In addition to the fact Corolla Cross is about 5 inches shorter than RAV4, other exterior differences include the extra cladding around the bottom of the vehicle, the Corolla Cross lettering etched into the chunky D-Pillar and a sleeker looking nose.
While the exterior is RAV4 inspired, the interior is all Corolla. From the general design to the materials used, the Corolla and Corolla Cross have a lot in common.
The base L and volume selling LE will have cloth interiors with an attractive pattern whereas the XLE will get the more up-level “leatherette” seating surfaces. The dash materials are a bit plasticky, but the door panels have padded, soft-touch accents where your hands fall most frequently.
Corolla Cross is situated between C-HR and RAV4 in terms of both size and pricing. But its closer to the C-HR in size, especially since the two vehicles share the same TNGA-C platform. But in terms of actual size proportions, the Corolla Cross is about 3 inches longer, 3 inches taller and 1 inch wider than C-HR.
The biggest difference, however, is going to be ground clearance as Corolla Cross has a ground clearance of about 8 inches, which is about 2 inches greater than C-HR. In fact, in terms of ground clearance, it’s way closer to RAV4.
That way people get efficiency and power benefits of the smaller size, but still have some decent capability to do some mild off roading to get to a trailhead or camp site.
In terms of pricing, the base price for the L trim will be $23,400, including the $1,215 destination fee. The topped-out XLE pricing, with all the options and destination, will be $32,170. So, in terms of pricing, Corolla Cross more closely aligns with C-HR than RAV4.
In my mind, this begs the question: Is the C-HR long for this world? Toyota says it’s not being discontinued, but I can’t help think there’s an implied “this year” at the end of that sentence. The C-HR is a carryover from the defunct Scion brand (originally revealed as a Scion concept), and it has quirky un-Toyota styling and clunky handling. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2022 is its last year in the lineup.
True to Toyota’s penchant for safety, the Corolla Cross will come standard with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.0, which will include automatic emergency braking, road sign assist, automatic high beams, lane departure alert, lane trace assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality.
Available safety tech includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic reverse braking.
In the U.S. Corolla Cross gets only three trims at launch: L, LE and XLE. People on social asked if there would be SE or XSE trims, and all I can say is not for 2022, and perhaps not ever. Toyota made no mention of these traditionally sportier trims.
However, I’ll point out Toyota also didn’t make any announcements about a hybrid powertrain for 2022, simply stating there will be more news on that next year. So, perhaps SE and XSE could make their way into the lineup as hybrids.
But for now you have base, volume seller and up-level trims. So, let’s see what’s included:
L ($23,400): Includes a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display, 4.2-inch behind-the-wheel multi-information display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Sirius XM Radio, rear HVAC vents, 2 USB ports, LED headlights and taillights, 17-inch steel wheels. One interesting thing we noticed but Toyota didn’t call attention to: the LE trim doesn’t have a rear wiper.
LE ($27,060): Adds an 8-inch infotainment screen, wireless charging, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, passive entry, push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate controls and three USB ports. At the LE trim, you also have two options available: the moonroof ($940) and the JBL premium audio system ($1,465).
XLE ($28,840): Adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch behind-the-wheel multi-information display, leatherette seats, heated front seats, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, LED daytime running lights/fog lights, front and rear parking assist, automatic reverse braking, dual-zone automatic climate control and a rear folding armrest. Options available on XLE include the moonroof and power liftgate ($1,250), JBL premium audio ($1,465) and adaptive front lighting system with auto leveling ($615).
Another interesting thing to note is AWD will be available on every trim at a $1,300 add.
I’ll be honest. There’s nothing special to the handling on the Corolla Cross. It’s not awful but there’s nothing fun or exceptional about it either. It’s a solid performer with the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque.
Acceleration is decent, and I didn’t feel like I was going to get hit while merging with or passing traffic on the highway. Because of its smaller size, it’s more on the nimble side of things, which is great for smaller urban environments. However, one thing I did notice is because of its smaller size, it did get blown about a bit by larger vehicles and trucks.
One huge bright spot here is the driver’s position. Even with the base manual adjusting seats, I was able to push the seat high enough to get great visibility out of all the windows. The steering wheel is both tilt and telescoping, so that also helps with the driver’s position. I was also impressed that Toyota included a height adjustable seatbelt on all trims – a lot of vehicles on the entry-level side of the spectrum do not.
You’re going to have to take my misses with a grain of salt. Most of them are trim specific complaints, and the one that isn’t is something that comes with being a compact SUV – that’s rear-seat legroom. It isn’t ideal.
In terms of the trim-specific stuff, let’s start with the base trim, I was disappointed the key was an actual key. You did have lock/unlock buttons on the fob portion of the key, but to start the vehicle, you had to insert a metal key into a real ignition. How quaint. I’d like to see passive entry and push-button start trickle down in the L trim. As a lot of my followers pointed out on social: Nissan does it, so why can’t Toyota?
Also, on the base trim, I was disappointed by the steel wheels. They scream cheap, and even the valets at The Line hotel where we were staying commented on it, stating that they knew which was the base model immediately just because of the wheels.
The final trim-specific complaint I had was about a feature on the XLE trim I think should be standard: automatic reverse braking. This isn’t an option on lower trims and is standard on XLE. Back to Nissan – its standard on some of their most basic vehicles, including Kicks and Versa.
Overall, I think the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is going to be a huge hit. With standard safety, good cargo capacity and decent amenities at each trim, it has a lot going for it.
Plus, It has a nice ride height with better visibility than a sedan, but it’s not so large you have to hike yourself into the vehicle. With that in mind, while I think the C-HR’s days are definitely numbered, the sedan and hatchback days might also be dwindling as the world transitions to utility vehicles over cars.
If they have to go, at least the Corolla Cross will be a good replacement.
Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Toyota Motor Sales covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.