Toyota Corolla Cross review – Yanko Design

Toyota Corolla Cross review – Yanko Design

Toyota Corolla Cross review – Yanko Design

Toyota Corolla Cross review – Yanko Design


  • Comfortable, quiet ride
  • Affordable
  • Booming sound system


  • Underpowered
  • Too few USB ports
  • Something anonymous


Toyota’s small SUV doesn’t exactly reach out and grab you to make a first impression. But spend some time with one and you’ll find a comfortable, capable partner at a compelling price.

With every manufacturer on the planet rushing to meet the unrelenting need for more and more crossover SUVs, every consumer everywhere seems to be craving things, there’s enough volume for manufacturers to come up with their own interesting, unique take on the segment be able. Something quirky, something different, something maybe a little weird.

The 2023 Corolla Cross is neither of those things. From the conservative exterior to the monotonous interior, Toyota’s small SUV doesn’t quite make a first impression. But spend some time with one and you’ll find a comfortable, capable partner at a compelling price.

Grow up

It almost feels a bit hackneyed for Toyota to call its smallest SUV the Corolla Cross, which milks nearly 60 years of name recognition for small, value-oriented cars. But the Corolla Cross is a much larger, higher-level version of the Stoic Corolla, and for that reason you have to respect the no-nonsense nomenclature here.

For a crossover SUV that shares so much with the sedan, there is very little on the outside that visually connects the two. It starts up front with a tall, dark grille that itself sits atop darker material, black plastic trim that runs all the way around the car, forming the lower sections of the fenders, rocker panels and rear bumper. This gives the car a slightly chunky, vaguely rugged look, necessary for this segment.

Also contributing to this are the blocky fender flares, which highlight the rear taillights that stand out against the receding vehicle flanks. A tiny spoiler mounted on top of the hatch gives just the tiniest sporting pretense, placed just behind the only real visual flare: a tiny chrome badge that reads “Corolla Cross”.

All of that trim front, back, and sides goes well with the Blue Crush Metallic paint job, a color that’s pretty basic like the rest of the car.

While the Corolla Cross’s exterior doesn’t share all that much with its namesake, inside it’s a whole different story. The interior is an almost identical clone of that found in the Corolla hatch and sedan. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. Certainly it helps keep costs down, a factor I’ll reference a lot in this review, but nonetheless it’s a nicely laid out and well made space.

The dashboard is a combination of simple, clean shapes in soft plastic embossed with an unfortunate faux leather pattern, complete with mock stitching. With so many premium manufacturers like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz going out of their way to offer vegan interiors, I’m inclined to say it’s time manufacturers ditch the fake leather patterns.

Materials are good overall, with hard plastics limited to the lower door cards and center console between the seats, although the headliner feels a little sticky. Only the shiny piano lacquer surfaces around the shift lever and the infotainment system are really annoying. It’s impossible to keep them clean at the best of times, and given what the average Corolla is used to, they’re probably pretty dirty in the wild.

The center stack contains a simple, separate HVAC bank with a pair of temperature knobs for the driver and passenger, a couple of physical knobs, and a small LCD for temperature and mode readouts. Above the vents is the main infotainment touchscreen, eight inches in the XLE and jutting proudly from the dash.

This is flanked by another pair of buttons, including one for volume, thank goodness, as well as eight buttons for going home or jumping straight to different sections of Entune. Entune itself is, well, Entune, outdated and tired, but perfectly functional. There’s no out-of-the-box navigation, you’ll have to install that separately, but if you want to go to the trouble of connecting your smartphone, you might as well use either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Both work fine here as long as you don’t mind plugging them in.

That means the lone front USB port is used up front to control the infotainment experience. There’s also a Qi wireless charger, but if your passenger wants to gain some juice and use their phone at the same time, they’re out of luck. Meanwhile, rear seat passengers will each get a USB Type-A and a USB Type-C.

The instrument cluster is a large, center-mounted LCD. Running along the left is a physical tachometer, and along the right are separate dials for fuel level and coolant temp. That large central LCD doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, its center section can scroll through things like travel information and ADAS status – all the usual stuff and nothing too flashy. So just like the rest of the car.

However, there is one thing that will make you sit up and take notice: the nine-speaker JBL sound system. The thing kicks. Sure, it lacks a bit of finesse and I had to drop the bass in the settings before I could really hear the lyrics clearly in most of the music I was listening to, but for such an affordable car it’s a great system. Bass lovers will hardly need an upgrade.

patient driving

While so much of the car is pretty mediocre, if there’s one area that will surely leave you wanting, it’s the powertrain department. The Corolla Cross has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 169 hp and a continuously variable transmission. The CVT here does its best to ape a traditional automatic, changing gear ratios every now and then to simulate gear changes, but it’s still best to get used to the continuous booming discomfort of each of the four cylinders when you flatten the accelerator press ground.

And you probably will often. Whenever you want to drive up a hill or accelerate to freeway speed, for example. Overtaking a dual carriageway? It’s best to make sure the road is clear for a good, long way before using the turn signal. This is the same engine used in the smaller, 175-pound lighter FWD Corolla. Here, when lugging around a heavier AWD Corolla Cross, it struggles.

At least it’s frugal. The Corolla Cross in XLE trim is rated at 29 mpg city, 32 highway and 30 combined. In my mixed tests, I came in at 29.2mpg.

As disappointing as it may be, lack of performance isn’t the end of the world. The Corolla Cross is perfectly rideable, and if you’re a little less impatient on your commutes than I am, you’ll be fine. In fact, with the Corolla Cross’s relaxed suspension and comfortable ride, there’s no need to push.

Your rear seat passengers will probably appreciate you taking it easy anyway. There’s not exactly a lot of legroom back there, but it’s enough, plus plenty of headroom. There’s seating for three across, but unless your guests are small, it’s best to stick to two and let them use the fold-down armrest.

When taxiing alone, the seats split and fold in a 60/40 ratio, allowing easy access to the 25.2 cubic feet of storage (slightly more, 26.5 if you opt for the FWD version). The rear of the car is accessed through a power tailgate (part of the $1,250 convenience package), where the floor has handy left and right compartments perfect for stuffing avocados and other items from your grocery store on the drive home roll around.

In terms of active safety, the Corolla Cross comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes the usual niceties like adaptive cruise and advanced lane departure warning. It does a good job of keeping you in the middle of the lane, but annoyingly beeps every time you get lost near the lines.

If you want blind spot monitoring then you’ll have to at least go for the mid-range LE model, which also gives you a rear cross-traffic alert and makes sure you don’t back down into trouble. Finally, step up to the top-trim XLE and you also get parking assist sensors, as well as automatic emergency braking.

Prices and options

The base Corola Cross L starts at $22,445. However, the model you see here is a top trim XLE AWD with a starting price of $27,625. $1,465 for that banging JBL sound system plus a built-in alarm, while $1,250 brought the power tailgate and sunroof to the party. Self-leveling and auto-dimming headlights add another $615, plus $249 for charge mats and $299 for the crossbars on the roof rack.

The total price for the car you see here was $32,718, including a $1,215 destination fee. That’s for a fully loaded car, and one that feels like it, but the sweet spot is in FWD on the lower spec Corolla Cross LE, which you can get with the lighter, light gray interior and still specify many of the desirable options, walk away with a lot more money in your pocket.

Regardless of how you pick it, you end up with a well-driving, comfortable and clean-looking SUV that’s excellent at getting you and all your stuff where you need to go – just so long as you’re in no hurry to get there reach.

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