For all the books, television shows, and movies made over the years about the dystopian future, none was able to predict what’s playing out in the parking lots around us.
The crossover revolution has arrived, and it’s taking the market’s cars in the process. Embracing it isn’t so bad; what they lack in personality they make up for with practicality and, at least when all-wheel drive is along for the ride, peace of mind. That seems like a fair and fitting introduction for the latest to join the uprising: the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross.
There can be no denying the advantages this subcompact has compared to its namesake car when it comes to size and space. But there’s a literal price to pay for what this crossover has in its favour.
For those unfamiliar with the Corolla Cross, it borrows more than just its name from Toyota’s long-standing small car. It’s built on the same underpinnings, and even shares its 2,640-mm (103.9-in) wheelbase with the Corolla five-door. But where the hatchback has its limitations when moving people and stuff, this crossover is much more useful.
There’s less rear legroom here than the Corolla sedan, but the back seat isn’t quite as cramped as it is in the hatch. What both of those lack in headroom front and rear this rather tall and upright version makes up for – even when equipped with its available sunroof. In fact, there’s nearly 60 mm (2.4 in) more headroom up front here than in the larger RAV4 with its sunroof.
This being a crossover, it rides higher than its siblings, too, with 208 mm (8.2 in) of ground clearance and available all-wheel drive. Without it, cargo volume behind the back seats is 722 L, a number that shrinks to 688 L when accounting for the mechanical components needed to provide traction to the rear wheels. Unlike the hatchback, the 60/40 rear seats fold virtually flat with the load floor, resulting in nearly 1,900 L of total space.
From the outside, this doesn’t look very much like a Corolla at all, and not just because of its upright shape and stance. It is, however, stylish, with the Cypress green paint of this tester on the receiving end of its share of parking-lot compliments. The frowning front end uses unpainted plastic to appear more rugged, while the same treatment has been applied to the body sides and rear bumper.
There’s a sense of tried-and-true familiarity inside, and Toyota didn’t do much to differentiate the cabin from the rest of the Corolla lineup – nor did it have to. Designers did address what were the two areas of concern: the awkward placement of the heated seat switches, as well as the location of the lone USB port up front; otherwise, the interior was largely left alone. It’s not an especially stylish space, but then it isn’t boring, either, while this tester’s two-tone colour scheme certainly brightens the interior (although some staining on the upholstery here could be a sign of what’s to come over the course of ownership).
At least at this point, there’s only one engine available: a 2.0L four-cylinder that’s proven adequate in other applications, but is positively anemic here. While the trouble could be limited to all-wheel drive models such as this, the Corolla Cross manages to feel bogged down in a way its siblings simply don’t.
With 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, it’s not as if the engine labours to move the mass of this crossover – it simply feels like there isn’t much to give in the first place. Get on the gas and there’s plenty of ruckus but limited results, with passing and merging requiring strategic planning. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) undoubtedly contributes to the trouble, with the combination not especially refined in this application. It has a conventional first gear to get rolling, but once it shifts past it there’s a noticeable lack of guts.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The on-demand way in which the available all-wheel drive system operates ensures optimal fuel efficiency – an area in which the Corolla Cross excels next to its peers. With a combined consumption rating of 7.8 L/100 km (that number drops to 7.3 in a front-wheel drive format), it’s one of the only all-wheel-drive crossovers on the market to come in below 8.0.
With a massive winter storm arriving at the start of a week-long test of this Toyota, a 255-km evaluation drive across an area still digging out from as much as 60 cm (23.6 in) of snowfall finished at a respectable 7.9 L/100 km. The final tally for the week stood at 8.9 over the course of about 680 km, including quite a bit of extra city driving.
Meant to cut consumption – and emissions in the process – is an ignition stop-start system that shuts the engine off when stopped rather than idling. It’s also nothing new, having been in use for years now across the industry. However, it didn’t feel especially well executed here, with the entire vehicle lurching forward aggressively when the engine came back on.
All-wheel drive may not be standard, but a decent selection of good stuff is. The entry-level L trim skips some basics like a cargo privacy cover and rear window wiper, for instance, but has heated front seats, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, power windows and locks, air conditioning, and heated door mirrors, among others.
Moving to the LE adds alloy wheels, tinted windows, automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, an eight-inch touchscreen, and two USB ports on the back of the centre console – none of it exactly revolutionary, but certainly enough to make the Corolla Cross a competitive offering. That trim’s Premium package ($2,100) includes a selection of features from the range-topping XLE trim like roof rails, a power sunroof, and a wireless phone charger. Meanwhile, the top trim also gets a nine-speaker stereo, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a height-programmable power tailgate, and larger 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as standard all-wheel drive.
The cheapest trim skips blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert but gets the rest of the advanced safety features found elsewhere in the lineup. That means forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and following assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic. The XLE trim also adds low-speed reverse automatic braking.
That those features are found throughout the lineup is unquestionably commendable, although they perhaps aren’t quite as refined as some competitor systems. For instance, Toyota’s lane-following function, which it calls “lane tracing,” isn’t quite as smooth as others on the market, applying near-constant steering micro-corrections, while there’s no separate lane-keep assist like competitors including Kia and Nissan offer.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Like just about every other Toyota product, the Corolla Cross stands out for its turnkey approachability. There are no finicky controls or confusing labels to be found – just familiar ones found precisely where they should be. The infotainment interface is far from flashy but it’s effective, with a host of buttons and knobs flanking the screen and a simple menu structure.
The buttons themselves are a little on the small side, as are their corresponding labels, but they’re useful. Take the one marked “map”; while no trim features built-in navigation, it works as a shortcut to pull up Google (or Apple) Maps with a smartphone plugged in – convenient when jumping from, say, the radio to either Android or iOS interface. On the flipside, those connections are wired instead of wireless, while there’s only a single USB-A port in the front half of the cabin.
This crossover’s simplicity goes beyond interacting with its various functions and features, with outstanding fundamentals, too. The rear doors don’t open as wide as they perhaps could, but the ones up front do, while all four extend to the bottoms of the rocker panels, protecting pant legs from road grime in the process. Likewise, the tailgate opening is wide, while the liftover height is reasonably low.
The increased ride height makes entry and exit easy, with nothing more than a lateral motion required for occupants of varying height. Once in the driver’s seat, the tall glass all around results in good outward visibility, while the door mirrors are located far enough back to make the quarter glass useful for spotting pedestrians in crosswalks when turning.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Despite the underwhelming acceleration, particularly from a standing start, the Corolla Cross is a capable cruiser once a prescribed speed is reached. The throttle is a little tough to modulate and requires constant pedal play to stay where it’s asked, but the four-wheel disc brakes bring the nearly 1,500-kg (3,307-lb) crossover to a stop confidently. Acceleration also feels far more competitive when travelling at highway speeds, although it’s never going to be as swift as some of the turbocharged entries in the segment.
When equipped, the all-wheel drive system automatically shuffles torque around according to conditions. While it shouldn’t be confused with a full-time setup like the Subaru Crosstrek’s and the confidence that comes with it, there’s certainly some peace of mind that’s part of the package here. The rear wheels receive torque only when accelerating or when the front ones have limited traction; think roads that have been plowed but have a tightly packed surface of snow remaining.
The system was sharp in its response during testing, shifting torque rearward before any wheelspin took place – even when provoked with quick changes of direction. Of course, proper tires are a must in order to reap the full reward of all-wheel drive, but the Corolla Cross’s system worked admirably through a variety of conditions.
Otherwise, it drives like a tall and sort of top-heavy Corolla (go figure!), with its shape and size noticeable on highway ramps and tightly winding backroads. It’s not especially tippy, and it’s far from concerning, but the centre of gravity is very much that of a crossover and not a car.
Overall ride quality is good, carrying on the Corolla tradition of class-leading comfort and composure. While the hybrid-powered sedan and its squishy tires is the best of the bunch in that regard, this CUV has its suspension damping dialled, with only the worst surfaces able to upset what’s happening inside. (Only those equipped with all-wheel drive have an independent rear suspension, with front-driven models featuring a torsion beam in the back that’s likely a little more jarring.)
The driver’s seat is supportive, yet another trait shared with its Corolla compatriots, while the two-stage heat that’s standard works quickly. On that note, it’s somewhat disappointing that heated rear seats aren’t available here given they can be had in both the gas-only and hybrid sedans.
That’s the kind of feature one might reasonably expect here given how much more expensive this is than the rest of the Corolla family. Just look at the Corolla Hybrid and its optional Premium package, or the conventional Corolla sedan done up in this same XLE trim: both cars barely break $29,000 before tax. Even the most expensive hatchback model barely touches $31,000. This tester? Try $35,880 once its non-negotiable $1,890 freight charge has been factored in.
It’s not just the availability of all-wheel drive that’s to blame, either, although it does play a significant role. Factored into the asking price here isn’t just the features but the very fundamentals of this crossover. The increased ride height and (mostly) improved interior dimensions are why the cheapest Corolla Cross model is still thousands of dollars more than comparable siblings.
When viewed in the context of its segment, this new subcompact crossover slots in competitively, although there are some other compelling entries out there. The Corolla Cross manages to land within range of entries like the award-winning Kia Seltos and the adventurous Subaru Crosstrek, while others like the Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos can be more expensive still but are still worth driving back-to-back with this Toyota.
While traditionalists won’t ever admit it, the idea of crossovers like the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross replacing cars isn’t so bad. The reality is that the Corolla will probably be among the last to go anyway, but this version makes that eventuality a little easier to come to terms with. The powertrain is certainly in need of some tweaking, but it’s well executed otherwise, proving to be the most versatile version of the Corolla on the market.
|Peak Horsepower||169 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||151 lb-ft @ 4,500–4,900 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||8.1 / 7.4 / 7.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||688 / 1,840 L seats down (w/AWD)|
|Model Tested||2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE|
|Price as Tested||$35,980|