Although we live in a capitalist economy that, in theory, encourages competition, there are certain brands that we purchase by default. If you need aluminum foil, you buy Reynolds Wrap. Want a lighter? You get a Bic. If you have a vacuum, it's probably a Dyson. Cars typically aren't quite so cut and dry given the vast variety, but if you're looking for a simple, economical, reliable compact vehicle, you're probably looking at a Toyota Corolla.
One of the most successful nameplates of all time, the Corolla story spans 55 years and 12 generations. But in over half a century, there's never been something like the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross. What's remarkable about this otherwise unremarkable product is that despite its new form factor, the Corolla Cross nails the same qualities that have made the more familiar sedan a perennial best seller.
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|2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD
|29 City / 32 Highway / 30 Combined
|24.6 / 65.0 Cubic Feet
|$22,195 + $1,215 Destination
All In The Family
A big part of that is because the Corolla Cross is, well, a Corolla. This is not some loose affiliation where an automaker slaps a badge on an unrelated product and says that even though it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's actually a Mustang.
Instead, the Corolla Cross rides atop the same modular TNGA-C platform as the Corolla. It has the same naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine, while the shared continuously variable transmission has an identical ratio spread. The suspension geometry is different by necessity (how else would you get 8.2 inches of ground clearance?), but the overall layout of a McPherson-strut type in front and a multi-link arrangement in the rear remains the same (unless you get a front-drive model, which has an inferior torsion-beam setup).
The similarities abound in the cabin too. We won't waste words describing the dash – just play with the slider below and see if you can tell which cabin belongs to the sedan and which is from the Corolla Cross. Good luck.
Give up? Slide all the way to the left to reveal the Corolla Cross' interior, which as you can see is almost a direct port from the sedan.
Despite the strikingly similar cabins, Toyota wisely avoided taking the Corolla's exterior design language and applying it to a crossover. In fact, the automaker deserves credit for pairing the interior with body styling that fits so naturally into the RAV4/Highlander hierarchy. Featuring a scowly fascia with an imposing grille, strong front and rear character lines that curve over the over the fenders, and a softly styled rear with pleasant taillights, the design of the Corolla Cross is as anonymous as any other Corolla, but it's also immediately identifiable as a Toyota CUV. More importantly, it's far less polarizing than the C-HR.
While the commonality between the Corolla Cross and its sedan sibling means current consumers will feel right at home going from one to the other, the downside is that Toyota's insistence on sticking to the script while adding a larger, heavier body and an available all-wheel-drive system has resulted in a car that as slow as a stoned sloth.
The 2.0-liter engine produces 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque regardless of which Corolla you buy. But with the all-wheel-drive system adding anywhere from 280 to 380 pounds depending on trim, the four-cylinder, which already feels overwhelmed in the Corolla sedan, can't cope in this crossover.
The Corolla Cross moves at the speed of continental drift.
The Corolla Cross moves at the speed of continental drift, and even a modest incline will send the buzzy 2.0-liter screaming as the engine speed climbs into the stratosphere. In the hills outside of Austin, Texas, where we drove the CC, though, the powertrain also struggled with even reasonable demands for more steam, such as while merging onto the highway.
The powertrain's malaise is all the more concerning considering the cars Toyota lists as competitors: the Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona are two livelier options, with both offering turbocharged 1.6-liter engines with 175 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, while the Subaru Crosstrek added a new 2.5-liter engine that's good for 182 hp and 176 lb-ft. While Toyota has refused to confirm it, a Corolla Cross Hybrid is a virtual certainty and it can't get here fast – pun intended – enough.
In terms of handling prowess, the Corolla Cross is much closer to its rivals. This is a pleasant vehicle to chuck about, with predictable body manners. There's a lot of roll and very little feedback through either the chassis or the weightless steering, which we expect in this segment, but this Toyota isn't actively bad to throw into a corner.
More importantly, the ride on our all-wheel-drive test model was pleasant and well isolated. The rear multi-link suspension is vastly superior to the torsion-beam arrangement on the front-drive model, exhibiting more rear-end composure over bumps and imperfections. We like the idea of having all-wheel drive to manage snow and low-grip scenarios, but even if you live somewhere perennially warm and sunny, you should opt for the AWD model purely because its suspension is better.
The Corolla's biggest strength over the decades has been its ability to transport four adults and their things comfortably without costing a boatload of cash. The Corolla Cross rejiggers that formula slightly, sacrificing a small amount of rear seat space for substantially more cargo volume and a slightly higher price tag compared to a Corolla sedan.
If you're regularly toting adults or grown children, this is undeniably an upgrade over the compact four-door.
You won't notice any of this from the front seats, though. Like the sedan, they're flat and unsupportive – you will be hanging onto the wheel if you're foolish enough to toss this thing into a bend – but mostly comfortable over the long haul. There's plenty of padding and a fairly decent center armrest. The seating position is superior to the sedan, though, if only because the higher roofline makes the front of the Cross feel roomier than a comparable sedan or hatchback.
The second row loses about two inches of legroom over the Corolla sedan, but it remains a tolerable place for a pair of adults over the course of a few hours. More importantly, ingress and egress remain strong points, owing to the larger door apertures, generous roofline, and higher ride height.
If you're regularly toting adults or grown children, this is undeniably an upgrade over the compact four-door. And while you give up some legroom, the Cross has a larger cabin overall, at 93.9 cubic feet to 88.6. In the way back, you'll find a cargo hold with 26.5 cubic feet of space – 13.4 more than the four-door – and a large rear tailgate. The floor of the trunk is below bumper level, too, so it's impossible for objects to roll out.
The price premium is tolerable here, as well. You'll owe $23,410 (including a $1,215 destination charge) for a base Corolla Cross L, $25,760 for the LE, and $27,540 for the XLE. All-wheel drive is available on all three trims and bumps the price up by $1,300. A base Corolla sedan, meanwhile, starts at $21,145 (including a $1,050 destination fee) for the fleet-only L – the LE, which you're far more likely to encounter on a dealer lot, rings up $21,595. A $2,000 premium for double the cargo volume, more overall cabin space, and a crossover design is a pretty easy pill to swallow.
And Toyota basically maintains that premium on the high end, with the Corolla XLE going for $25,545. Price differences on budget cars might look small, but as a percentage they tend to be quite large – asking $2,000 more for a Corolla Cross (a still manageable $3,300 for an all-wheel-drive model) doesn't strike us as a huge ask for frugal consumers.
Then again, should we really be surprised? Toyota has gone to an almost obsessive level to capture as many Corolla hallmarks as possible with the Corolla Cross, and it will almost certainly pay off. While we'd take a strong look at the turbocharged alternatives from Hyundai and Kia (at least until a more powerful Corolla Cross Hybrid arrives), if your regular commute doesn't include steep hills, Toyota's new compact crossover will serve well as an alternative to its perennially popular compact sedan.
Corolla Cross Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross: First Drive
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD