While Toyota has the most comprehensive model line-up in the market (leave no customer behind is the mantra), it was lacking a key option in its SUV mix. Not that you’d pick it, given Toyota previously had seven SUV nameplates. But that number is now eight with the arrival of the Corolla Cross. It lands into what Toyota NZ calls a ‘massively competitive SUV segment’ in the $40-$50k area. This area previously belonged to the Qashqai, largely by default given it was the lone player. But the sector is now bubbling with choice.
The Corolla Cross kicks off at $41,990 for the FWD GX, topping out at $51,990 for the AWD Limited. Given the entire line-up is hybrid powered, each enjoys money back from the Clean Car scheme, with the front-wheel drive models claiming $3109 and the lone AWD Limited $2852.
Toyota’s overall sales mix is now 36 per cent electrified, and the Corolla, Camry, C-HR and Highlander are now only available with the hybrid powertrain. And so too the Corolla Cross, for it features Toyota’s ‘fifth generation’ hybrid system.
It’s logical for Toyota to offer this model here given passenger car sales continue to decline while the SUV segment is growing significantly, with those of the compact variety driving the change. And with corporate buyers having a requirement to reduce their CO2 emissions, a hybrid Cross fits the bill. As is the norm these days, pre-sales are strong, Toyota already holding 450 orders.
Helping here is the name, evolving the Corolla badge that everyone knows. It is based on the same platform, naturally, being the GA-C version of the TNGA chassis which also underpins the Yaris Cross. And so the Corolla Cross has the same 2640mm wheelbase but is longer overall at 4460mm long (1825mm wide and 1620mm high). It fills the gap between the C-HR and RAV4 in the line-up.
There are four model grades (GX, GXL and Limited, the latter offered in FWD and AWD) all powered by a 2.0-litre four cylinder and paired with an improved hybrid system. This features a smaller but more powerful motor (83kW) incorporated up front which draws energy from a new lithium-ion battery packaged under the rear seat. This is smaller and 40 per cent lighter than the old nickel metal hydride packs and, along with a new power control unit, delivers more power and recovers energy faster (remembering that Toyota hybrids are of the ‘self-charging’ variety so you don’t need to plug them in).
The Limited AWD version also adds a 30kW motor at the rear which delivers extra traction in low grip situations as well as some motor assist in the ‘mid speed range’. The AWD model also swaps out the usual torsion beam rear suspension for a more sophisticated double wishbone arrangement.
All models have a combined 135kW output, and the FWD variants are claimed to use 4.8L/100km (107g/km). With a 36L tank (that you can fill with 91 octane), Toyota says that should give you a 750km range. The AWD, being a bit heavier, uses 4.9L/100km (112g/km).
Toyota says its new hybrid system has an enhanced ‘driver feel’ with more ‘linear driving performance’. We had a brief drive of the new model, taking mainly city driving routes, and found the usual smooth and torquey hybrid attributes to be present. On a light throttle it switches in and out of electric motor drive seamlessly, the petrol engine coming in to help boost power when needed. The best feature is the simplicity of the drive; just stick it in D and enjoy the easy, low down torque delivery with minimal fuel use in city running.
While there’s not a vast amount of rear leg room (about the same as in the hatch) there is more boot space in this Cross, rated at 428L for the front drive models which come with a spare wheel, while the AWD is down on space at 384L and gets a tyre repair kit. All can tow a maximum of 750kg.
Inside, there is a familiar Corolla look to the cabin but the touchscreen system comes with the latest Toyota multimedia OS featuring the Hey Toyota voice command while the Limited models get digital dials and a bigger screen. The usual Toyota Safety Sense crash avoidance systems are present on all models and Toyota NZ says it is confident the car will achieve a five-star ANCAP rating.
As stated, the GX retails for $41,990 drive away, the GXL is $44,990, the Limited $48,990 while the Limited AWD version is $51,990, and all are eligible for a Clean Car rebate.