Our friends from Brazil have us convinced the new crossover will do well when it arrives in the US for 2022.

Editor's Note: This review comes to you from Motor1 Brazil. The story was translated from Portuguese and edited for clarity and region-specific details. You can read the original piece here.

When the Toyota Corolla Cross arrived in the Brazilian market, it ended the easygoing life of the Jeep Compass. The Stellantis model once dominated its small-SUV segment, but now it has a competitor that promises to shake things up. Recently introduced for our South American neighbors (and built in Brazil), the Toyota Corolla Cross brings the similarly named compact sedan’s sterling reputation to the class.

Master's Degree In Engineering

Built on the TNGA-C base that supports the Corolla, but with some simplifications that we will explain later, the Corolla Cross will debut in four versions, two with a 2.0-liter inline-four (XR and XRE) and two with the 1.8-liter hybrid (XRV and XRX). For this first contact, we had a few hours with the XRE, XRV, and XRX versions. The experience was brief, but it still allowed us to gain a good first impression of the SUV. For the record, the American version of the crossover will wear L, LE, and XLE badges on back, with only a 169-horsepower (126-kilowatt) 2.0-liter four under the hood. A CVT will send power to the front or all four wheels.

First off, the Corolla Cross carries a lot of the eponymous small sedan in its DNA. In spite of its SUV form factor, it is more like a tall Corolla Hatch than a model designed for off-road use. With only 6.3 inches (161 mm) of ground clearance and an approach angle of 21 degrees, the Corolla's crossover was made to face urban obstacles such as damaged asphalt, spring breakers, and driveways, without much aptitude for dirt.

Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)
Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)
Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)

The Corolla Cross design is more robust than the sedan's, notably the RAV4-like front end and plastic-clad fender flares, but the interior basically repeats the same layout and equipment of the Corolla. Except for the slightly taller driving position and the high hood in front, it looks and feels much like the sedan. In the rear, there is noticeably more vertical space due to the roof not extending past the the C-pillar, but the Cross has a 0.7-inch shorter wheelbase (105.5 inches against 107.2) and this is reflected in the legroom of those who travel in the back seat: it is not bad, but it loses out some compared to the sedan.

If measured only to the beltline, the trunk also has less capacity: 15.5 cubic feet versus 16.6 in the Corolla, although loading to the roofline obviously quells that concern. It’s also enough to beat the Compass, whose 14.4 cubic feet to the beltline falls somewhat short. Compared to the Thai version of the Corolla Cross, the Brazilian SUV received a temporary spare tire, which reduced the capacity of the compartment. The US model will do the same, putting a donut under the cargo area for roadside emergencies.

Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)

There are also some engineering simplifications relative to the four-door Corolla. The rear suspension, for example, is a torsion beam instead of the independent multilink of the sedan. Toyota's explanation is that the system is lighter and takes up less vertical space than the multilink, but we suspect the decision also has to do with costs. In the US, opting for all-wheel drive will swap in that more sophisticated suspension setup, restoring each rear wheel’s independence.

The Brazilian-spec SUV’s materials have also been simplified relative to the Corolla. While in the sedan the dashboard is made of injected foam, the SUV's is molded in rigid plastic and receives some imitation-leather trim – curiously the door panel uppers keep the sedan’s soft touch material. Of course, we’re not positive what’s regionally specific or if the American-market Cross will have different materials (perhaps equal to that of the Corolla sedan and hatch).

Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)

We do know that all versions of the crossover will receive Toyota Safety Sense standard when it arrives in US showrooms, with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure prevention. LE and XLE trims also get blind spot monitoring.

Family Resemblance

A brief drive on Toyota's test track allowed us to sample the 2.0 and 1.8 hybrid versions, resulting in lots of Corolla flavor, as expected. With weight kept close to the sedan and the same engine and transmission, the Cross would quietly pass as the three-box Corolla if we could drive it with our eyes closed. The steering weight, the smoothness of the controls and even the same comfortable ride led to this conclusion.

Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)
Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)
Toyota Corolla Cross 2022 (US test)

In this aspect, at least in this first evaluation, the torsion-axle rear suspension does not seem to affect things negatively, but we still need to test the potholes in the streets and also to take some curves with more momentum (Toyota's track has only two low curves and the road surface was slightly wet at the time of our test). The directional stability, however, proved to be quite adequate, and even with sudden steering inputs at speed, the body remained well balanced. A sedan-like ground clearance also helps to keep the ride close to that of the normal Corolla.

The same goes for straight-line performance, with the Cross feeling much like the sedan in acceleration and overtaking. The more powerful 2.0-liter inline-four is the enthusiast’s choice, because in addition to more grunt, it also has Toyota’s excellent CVT Direct Shift, which includes a physical first gear for more precise departures. As in the sedan, it is certainly one of the highlights of the Cross, giving it much more response off the line. The Corolla Cross accelerated from to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in 10.1 seconds, or only 0.4-second more than the equivalent Brazilian-market sedan.

Moving on to the hybrid Cross, with just 122 hp (91 kW) underfoot, the drive is more about a smooth ride and fuel economy. The added weight of the electrified powertrain is noticeable, and the gearbox here is a normal CVT with no physical gear. The 100-km/h (62-mph) sprint takes 12.1 seconds, two ticks seconds slower than the 2.0 and half a second off the hybrid sedan. As compensation, the Corolla Cross hybrid offers a quiet engine and improved fuel economy. We’re not positive the US market will receive a hybrid, but if so, expect it to beat out the 2.0-liter’s combined EPA rating of 32 miles per gallon with front-wheel drive.

Good Omens

If the first impression is what stays, we can already say that Toyota’s first Brazil-produced SUV was worth the wait. [Editor’s note: The American-market CUV will likely be produced at the company’s Alabama production facility.] The Corolla Cross is exactly what you would expect from a crossover derived from such a successful sedan, and it should do just as well in its respective market. Shame, then, that Toyota made some apparent cost cuts, but it might have been not only to make the Corolla Cross reasonably priced, but also to keep the sedan attractive now that it will have its most dangerous rival now coming from within the family.

Gallery: Brazilian-Market 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross

Got a tip for us? Email: tips@motor1.com