Toyota adds another Corolla model to its line-up but this one is more SUV than hatchback. Meet the Corolla Cross, another entry to the crowded compact crossover space.
With one of the most comprehensive model line-ups on the New Zealand market, you wouldn’t think Toyota had much room for another offering. And yet, they have just added the Corolla Cross. Toyota NZ has a ‘leave no customer behind’ mantra, and apparently it had been lacking a key option in its SUV mix. It seems Toyota’s seven SUV nameplates were not enough, and so Corolla Cross now makes eight in total. It lands into what TNZ 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, featured here. 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 hybrid powertrains. And so too the Corolla Cross, which 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.
The Corolla Cross is based on the same platform as the Corolla hatch (and Yaris Cross for that matter), being the GA-C version of the TNGA chassis. And so the Corolla Cross has the same 2640mm wheelbase as those two, 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 physically 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), and has a larger 43L tank.
Toyota says its new hybrid system has an enhanced ‘driver feel’ with more ‘linear driving performance’. This has the usual smooth and torquey hybrid attributes. 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.
The engine isn’t too rowdy under the pump, only becoming vocal when stretched on the overtake or flogging it uphill. Not often do you really need to work it much harder than 2500rpm in everyday running, the torque of the hybrid system doing much of the work.
There are a few drive modes which we didn’t use much, though Sport sees the system become more responsive to the throttle inputs, with less of that on or off type of delivery from the powertrain. These hybrids feel more like conventional set-ups now, though still with that CVT-like transmission character, about which they can’t do much.
We were down in the 4.8L/100km region for urban fuel use, while a sortie down to Taupo from Auckland and back returned 5.5L/100km. The faster running on the 110km/h expressway had the engine working that bit harder. Its highway ride is agreeable, just with a bit of road noise on coarse chip to deal with.
The Cross isn’t particularly exciting to drive, rather competent and without any frustrating traits. It steers well, the assistance sorted and remains predictable as you approach the limits, where some mild understeer will start to creep in.
You can’t accuse Toyota of homogenous design, for the Corolla Cross doesn’t look like anything else in the line-up, though it does remind us of the Probox, modernised and infused with some SUV twists. There is 160mm of raised ride height, which is more for ease of passenger entry and an elevated seat position than for genuine extra ground clearance. The long front overhang means it’s not going very far off road, as minor humps in the trail will have this stumped. But the AWD traction is handy on gravel roads, where it tracks faithfully in the loose stuff and the ESP acts only when needed.
Inside, there is a familiar Corolla look to the cabin with the usual robust Toyota build quality. It’s practical rather than edgy. Regular ventilation controls are appreciated, and while some of the switchgear looks dated, it serves a purpose, and executes the job quickly with one touch. The new digital dials of the Limited aren’t as configurable as you’d hope, with few options to choose from, but the relevant info is clearly displayed.
A new infotainment system comes with the latest Toyota multimedia OS featuring the ‘Hey Toyota’ voice control smarts, which are up to task, and the sat nav is on to it too. The big, clear screen provides a much better view for the reversing camera, the Limited with a good surround view function as well. Asking $52k, this Limited AWD is getting up there in price, but then few things are missing from the specification sheet, with the likes of heated front seats and wheel, a charge pad and glass roof.
While there’s not a vast amount of rear leg room there is good 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. For a compact SUV however, it has a usable amount of space. All can tow a maximum of 750kg.
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 crash rating. Some of the new features include an auto brake mode when you’re manoeuvring about slowly. It rams on the picks when the sensors detect you are getting close to something. It will be handy in tight car parking buildings, but the system also sees overhanging foliage as a threat too. You’ll have to keep all your plants well trimmed around the driveway. The lane tracing and keeping functions are tuned well, the latter we didn’t feel the need to nix, working only really when necessary. The adaptive cruise now features curve control which slows for the bends. But highlighting the inaccuracy of GPS in NZ, it usually starts braking once you’re in the corner, rather than before it.
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. You really don’t need AWD here, so that’s an easy saving to make for buyers of the Limited. In fact, delivery times on the Limited are already out to 2024, so don’t bother, a GXL it will have to be. There is plenty of choice in this segment, and the vehicle which kicked it all off, the Nissan Qashqai, has renewed recently. It arrives imminently, with hybrid power as well and snazzier looks, so it just might be worth waiting for.
|Model||Toyota Corolla Cross|
|Clean Car Discount||Rebate – $2582|
|Engine||1987cc, IL4, DI|
|Hybrid System Output||135kW|
|Stability systems||ABS, ESP, TV|
|Safety||AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,|
RCTA, ALK, AHB
|Service intervals||12 months/15,000km|
|Capped price servicing||$305|
|ANCAP rating||not yet rated|