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2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid: Efficient, AWD package wrapped in sportiness (First Drive)

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When I originally drove the Corolla Cross back in 2021, people asked about the traditionally sportier SE and XSE trims, but that model only had L, LE and XLE trims. Well, I found the sport, and it’s in the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, which has more performance and efficiency than the regular model.

But the hybrid also carries a $5k premium over the straight gas model, so you’ve gotta ask, Is it worth it?

Sportier feel

If you are someone who wants a vehicle with some spunk, then the immediate answer is: Yes. It’s worth it. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid comes equipped with Toyota’s fifth generation hybrid system. So, it pairs a 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine to a 152-horsepower electric motor for a combined output of 196 net horsepower. That’s 27 more horsepower than the gas model, and it makes a difference. As does the sport-tuned suspension.

While I wouldn’t call the 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid “sporty,” it’s definitely sportier. It has a little more get-up-and-go off the line, and it’s a little more comfortable on the highway. While the engine is certainly buzzy under hard acceleration, I chalk that up to lack of noise dampening materials. For this class, it sounds the way you’d think it should sound.

Toyota is one of those automakers who has perfected the hybrid powertrains, and even though the Corolla Cross Hybrid has a sub-$30k price tag, this system is smooth and seamless.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

Corolla Cross vs. hybrid

Another thing you need to consider when looking at base price to base price, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid comes standard with all-wheel drive. The regular gas model doesn’t. Also, even with standard AWD, the hybrid gets 10 MPG more than the gas model in combined driving, as Toyota estimates it will get 42 MPG in all trims.

The big visual differences will be the smoked-out Toyota badging as well as the “Beyond Zero” logo on the back bumper. Another big visual difference: The hybrid will have available two-tone exterior color combinations – the gas model doesn’t currently offer that option.

Pricing

So, while you’re looking at a $5k price disparity between the gas and hybrid models, you have to consider the extra power, efficiency and standard AWD. That plus the sport-tuned suspension and two-tone paint options make that premium look a little more palatable.

Pricing, including destination fees, and features are as follows:

S ($29,305): This base trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch touch screen, cloth seats, sport-tuned suspension, LED headlights, smart key access and the new Toyota infotainment system.

SE ($30,625): This trim adds privacy glass, roof rails, paddle shifters, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

XSE ($32,400): This top tier trim adds 18-inch alloy wheels; premium LED headlights, taillights and fog lamps; leatherette seating surfaces; heated front seats; and a power driver’s seat.

Option pricing is as follows:

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid option pricing

The good stuff

Since this vehicle is more on the entry side of the spectrum, I love all the small things Toyota has included – things like rear air vents and charging ports as well as a pull-down center arm rest. Plus, the Toyota infotainment system, though it’s paired with the 8-inch screen, is fairly robust as it supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, over-the-air-updates and “Hey Toyota” voice-activated commands.

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid also has a ton of standard safety features, including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist, road sign assist and automatic high beams.

Why? Just, why?

However, as much as I love everything that’s included on the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, there are a couple things that had me pounding my head on the steering wheel. Let’s start with the cup holders. The hard plastic holes look like something straight out of 1999. There’s nothing to grip a smaller bottle or a small coffee, and that’s a huge miss in 2023. Good thing the leatherette seating surfaces are easy to clean – you’ll probably be wiping up a lot of spilled liquids.

The other head-slap feature is the available wireless charging. If you listened to our recent livestream, you’ll know this hits one of my biggest pet peeves in cars right now: wireless charging that doesn’t work. I feel like automakers are including this feature in cars to keep up with the Jones. But if it doesn’t actually work, it’s pointless. The wireless charger in the Corolla Cross Hybrid not only heats up your phone but also doesn’t have anything to keep it on the charging pad. So it slides around and disengages the charger. Boo.

The bottom line

Outside of a couple of ill-executed features, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross is a great buy for the money. Standard AWD, standard safety and standard efficiency (as well as available heated seats), make this new hybrid an excellent buy. Especially when you consider that competitors like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona don’t offer hybrids.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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