Meet the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, the newest addition to Toyota’s SUV fleet. Not that it bears much of a resemblance to the Corolla sedan from the outside—were we in charge of naming vehicles, we would have called it the Highlandette—but in fact there is plenty of Corolla under the skin and behind the doors. Not that it matters: Toyota’s intention is to invoke the familiarity of a name that, for millions of motorists, is synonymous with dependable transportation.
The Corolla Cross fits into the lineup between the entry-level C-HR and the ever-expanding RAV4. It rides the same TNGA-C (Toyota New Generation Architecture-Compact) platform as the Corolla, with the same strut front suspension. Front-drive Corolla Crosses get the Corolla’s rear beam axle while all-wheel-drivers get a multilink rear end. Power comes from the 169-hp, 2.0-liter engine, same as used in nicer versions of the Corolla sedan, and a hybrid powertrain will join the lineup next year.
Inside: Corolla Cross is a Corolla Carbon Copy
The Corolla Cross’ cabin is also lifted almost directly from the Corolla, which is generally a good thing. The first of several Corolla Crosses we sampled was an entry-level L model, and were impressed by the quality of the materials and switchgear, particularly the two-tone, soft-touch padded dashboard. Save for the key-start ignition and the slightly-smaller infotainment screen, we’d hardly have guessed this was the entry-level version, particularly given standard features like adaptive cruise control and an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatible audio system.
Visibility from the front is quite good, with lots of glass, big side-view mirrors, and creases on the hood that neatly frame the road ahead. We liked the driver’s seat positioning and range of adjustment. The XLE gets an all-digital instrument panel that looks good, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the analog gauges found in L and LE models. The three models have three different climate control systems—manual for the L, automatic for the LE, and dual-zone automatic for the XLE—and all are easy to use without taking one’s eyes from the road.
Meanwhile, Back in the Cheap Seats…
Much as we like the front seats, the accommodations are a lot less impressive in the second row. The back seat itself is generous and supportive, and there’s plenty of foot room under the front seats, but leg- and knee room is tight and largely disappears if the front seats are adjusted rearward. The cabin trim isn’t as nice as it is in the front, but rear-seaters do get A/C vents and (in all but the base model) USB-A and -C power ports.
The Corolla Cross offers 26.5 cubic feet of cargo space in front-drive models and 25.2 with all-wheel-drive (the differences are due to the rear suspension, and cars with a sunroof have slightly less space). The Corolla Cross comes with a spare tire, which we are always happy to see, but when you consider how much cargo space it eats, we can understand why so many of Toyota’s competitor have ditched the spare in favor of a repair kit.
Behind the Wheel
Out on the road, the driving experience was pretty much what we expected. The combination of a naturally-aspirated engine and Toyota’s unusual CVT—which uses an actual first gear at low speeds before the continuously variable bits take over—means a smart move-off from stoplights, and acceleration remains adequate, if not exactly quick, right up to highway speeds. It’s a noisy engine that protests loudly if you demand a lot of power, although there’s plenty of road and wind noise to drown out the engine’s howl.
As with the Corolla, the Corolla Cross’ chassis is better than we expected. It stays relatively flat in the corners and grips well, making the Corolla Cross stable and predictable in an emergency swerve. But it’s not much fun, thanks largely to the steering. The problem seemed worst in the Corolla Cross L, which gets 17-inch wheels and a thin, plastic-covered steering wheel. The LE’s thicker leather-wrapped wheel felt nicer to use, and the XLE model, which employs 18-inch wheels with wider tires, came the closest to what we’d consider passably decent steering. That’s a shame, as we know Toyota can make cars that are reasonably fun to drive—such as the Corolla hatchback—and a little work on the Corolla Cross’ tiller might make it more satisfying for those with an affinity for driving. Of course, if a super-hot GR version actually comes to fruition, as has been rumored, we’ll be happy to revisit our opinion.
It’s an SUV We Can Respect, If Not Exactly Love
Toyota plans to price the Corolla Cross at $23,410 for the front-drive L model, $25,760 for the LE, and $27,540 for the XLE. All-wheel-drive will be available on all models for an extra $1,300, and there will be a few optional packages for LE and XLE models. All models come with a comprehensive safety suite, including adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance with automatic braking, road sign recognition, automatic high beams and lane-departure warning; LE models then add blind-spot warning and XLEs get auto-braking to the rear. A lot of the Corolla Cross’ competitors put safety equipment on the option list to keep the base price down; Toyota is to be commended for making a pile of the stuff standard.
We can’t say we love the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, but we certainly respect it. For enthusiasts like us, it’s not a particularly thrilling vehicle, but it’s useful and competent and will no doubt appeal to the worldwide masses for whom the nameplate is synonymous with dependable transportation. But whether or not the Corolla Cross is your cup of tea, it’s certainly worthy of the Corolla name … even if it doesn’t look like a Corolla.
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