- comfortable and quiet ride
- booming sound system
- without power
- Too few USB ports
- something anonymous
With the rush of every manufacturer on the planet to fill the relentless need for more and more crossover SUVs, with every consumer everywhere seemingly craving the stuff, there’s enough volume for manufacturers to come up with their own interesting and unique take on the segment. Something peculiar, something different, something maybe a little weird.
The 2023 Corolla Cross is none of those things. From the conservative exterior to the drab interior, Toyota’s small SUV doesn’t exactly come close and grabs you to make a first impression. But spend some time with one and you’ll find a comfortable and capable partner available at an attractive price.
It almost feels a bit derivative for Toyota to call its smallest SUV the Corolla Cross, tapping into nearly 60 years of name recognition for small, value-oriented motoring. But the Corolla Cross is a much larger and taller version of the stoic Corolla, and for that reason sensible nomenclature has to be respected here.
That said, for a crossover SUV that shares so much with the sedan, there’s very little on the exterior to visually connect the two. It starts at the front with a tall, dark grille that sits atop a darker material, a black plastic cladding that runs the length of the car, forming the lower portion of the fenders, side panels, and rear bumper. This gives the car a slightly chunky and vaguely rugged look that is necessary for this segment.
The blocky fender flares also help in that regard, highlighting the taillights, which stand out from the receding flanks of the car. A small spoiler mounted to the top of the hatch offers only the barest of sporty pretensions, mounted just behind the only real visual flash: a small chrome badge that reads “Corolla Cross.”
All that cladding on the front, rear, and sides pairs well with the Blue Crush Metallic paint, a color that, like the rest of the car, is pretty understated.
While the exterior of the Corolla Cross doesn’t share much with its namesake, it’s a whole different story on the inside. The interior is a nearly identical clone to that found in the Corolla sedan and hatch. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. It sure helps keep costs down, a factor I’ll be referring to a lot in this review, but despite that, it’s a well-designed, well-done space.
The dash is a combination of simple, clean shapes of soft-touch plastics etched with an unfortunate faux-leather pattern, complete with simulated stitching. With so many premium manufacturers like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz going to great lengths to offer vegan interiors, I’m inclined to say it’s time manufacturers gave up on fictitious leather patterns.
Materials are generally good, with hard plastics limited to the lower door trims and the center console between the seats, though the headliner feels a bit stiff. Only the gloss piano black surfaces around the gear stick and infotainment system are a real nuisance. They’re impossible to keep clean at the best of times, and given the way an average Corolla is used, they’re likely to get properly dirty in nature.
The center console contains a simple, separate HVAC row with a pair of driver and passenger temperature knobs, a few physical buttons, and a small LCD display for temperature and mode readouts. Above the vents, you’ll find the main infotainment touchscreen, eight inches in the XLE and proudly jutting out from the dash.
This is flanked by another pair of knobs, including one for volume, thank goodness, plus eight buttons for going home or jumping directly to various Entune sections. Entune itself is, well, Entune, dated and tired but perfectly functional. There’s no navigation out of the box, you’ll need to install that separately, but if you’re going to bother connecting your smartphone, I’d say you could use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as well. Either works fine here, as long as you don’t mind connecting.
That means the single front USB port will be used to power the infotainment experience. There’s a wireless Qi charger, too, but if your passenger wants to earn some juice and use their phone at the same time, you’re out of luck. Meanwhile, rear-seat passengers get one each of USB Type-A and USB Type-C.
The gauge cluster is a large, centrally mounted LCD display. A physical tachometer runs down the left side, and to the right separate dials for fuel level and coolant temperature. That big central LCD screen doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, its center section can cycle through things like trip information and ADAS status – all the usual and nothing too flashy. Like the rest of the car, then.
However, there’s one thing that will make you sit up and take notice: the nine-speaker JBL sound system. This thing kicks. Sure, it lacks a bit of finesse, and I had to drop the bass in the settings before I could hear the lyrics clearly on most of the music I listened to, but for a car this inexpensive it’s a great system. Bass lovers will find little need to upgrade.
While much of the car is fair to mediocre, if there’s one area that’s sure to leave you wanting it’s the powertrain department. The Corolla Cross features a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable transmission. The CVT here does its best to mimic a traditional automatic transmission, shifting ratios to simulate gear changes from time to time, but you’d still better get used to the continual whining from each of the four cylinders every time you put your foot down. the throttle all the way. flat.
And you will likely do that many times. Anytime you want to go up a hill, for example, or accelerate to highway speed. Passing on a two-lane highway? You’d better make sure the road is clear a good way before you turn on your turn signal. This is the same engine used in the smaller, 175-pound, lighter Corolla FWD. Here, towing a heavier Corolla Cross AWD, he’s in trouble.
It is, at least, frugal. The Corolla Cross in XLE trim is rated at 29 mpg city, 32 highway and 30 combined. In my mixed tests I got 29.2 mpg.
As disappointing as it may be, a lack of performance isn’t the end of the world. The Corolla Cross is perfectly manageable, and if you’re a little less impatient on your daily commute than I am, you’ll be fine. In fact, with the Corolla Cross’s relaxed suspension and comforting ride, there’s no reason to push.
Your backseat passengers will probably appreciate you taking it easy anyway. There’s not exactly a huge amount of legroom back there, but it’s plenty, plus plenty of headroom. There’s seating for three, but unless your guests are small, it’s best to keep it for two and let them use the drop-down armrest.
When you’re traveling solo, the seats split and fold 60/40, providing easy access to the 25.2 cubic feet of storage space (slightly more, 26.5, if you opt for the FWD trim). Accessed to the rear of the car is via a power liftgate (part of the $1,250 Convenience Package), where the floor has handy cubbies on the left and right, perfect for stuffing avocados and other items from your grocery store that otherwise they could be damaged. turn around on the way home.
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-keeping assist. It does a good job of keeping you centered in the lane, but it makes an annoying beep every time you stray near the lines.
If you want blind-spot monitoring, you’ll need to opt for at least the mid-level LE model, which also gives you rear cross-traffic alert, ensuring you stay out of trouble. Finally, step up to the top-tier XLE trim and you’ll also get park assist sensors along with automatic emergency braking.
prices and options
The base Cross L Corolla starts at $22,445. However, the model you see here is a top-tier XLE AWD, starting at $27,625. $1,465 added on that JBL sound system, plus a built-in alarm, while $1,250 brought the power liftgate and moonroof to the party. Self-leveling and auto-dimming headlamps add another $615, plus $249 for cargo mats and $299 for roof rack cross bars.
The total price of the car you see here was $32,718 including a destination charge of $1,215. That’s for a fully loaded car, and one that feels that way, but the sweet spot is in the lower-spec Corolla Cross LE in FWD, which you can get with the brighter light gray interior and still specs many of the options. desirable, walking away with a lot more money in your pocket.
Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll end up with a clean-looking, comfortable, and drivable SUV that will do a great job of transporting you and all your stuff wherever you need to go, as long as you’re not in a rush to get there.