(This story has been updated with additional information about sales expectations and potential powertrain options.)
In an SUV-crazed market, how do you retain demand for one of your most popular sedans? Tweak its design, add some new features and transform it into a “crossover,” or so Toyota is betting with the new Corolla Cross, a product, it says, “you didn’t know you needed until now.”
The Corolla Cross joins the Toyota line-up for 2022 and takes aim at a variety of small crossovers like the Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trailblazer.
“Our loyal customers love the quality, durability and reliability that has helped make Corolla the best-selling nameplate in history,” said Lisa Materazzo, group vice president of Toyota Marketing. “With the all-new Corolla Cross we are building upon that foundation and offering more versatility and fun to adapt to their evolving lifestyles.”
Much like it’s efforts to change the perception about the Corolla being a first-time car for buyers, officials see the Corolla Cross as more upscale.
“The Corolla Cross is anything but entry level,” Sam Goot, Marketing general manager, told TheDetroitBureau.com. He said the automaker believes they’ll account for about a third of all Corolla sales, totaling more than 100,000 units starting next year.
Goot noted the vehicle is a “fierce competitor” for South Korean automakers, adding later that potential buyers wanting a non-currently-available hybrid model should keep their “eyes and ears open” for an announcement next year.
The new crossover is based on the same TNG-A architecture as the current Corolla sedan – and a growing list of other Toyota models. But buyers might not notice the two models are related before checking out the badge on the new CUV.
As you’d expect, the Corolla Cross sits higher, with a taller roof that gently tapers towards its tailgate. The front end features a bolder, more upright, black grille and large bumper designed to give the new model a more rugged appearance. There’s more curve to the door panels and fenders that flare out over the wheel wells.
Under the hood, the new Corolla Cross will be outfitted with Toyota’s familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged Dynamic Force inline-4. It makes 169 horsepower which is channeled through a continuously variable transmission. The new CUV is available with a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. The AWD package can send up to 50% of its torque to the back wheels, depending on road conditions and driver input. And the Corolla Cross gives a motorists the ability to haul up to a 1,500-pound trailer.
Fuel economy, meanwhile, comes in near the top of its segment, with an EPA estimated 32 mpg combined for the FWD package, 30 with AWD.
Plenty of options
The new Corolla Cross delivers the higher seating position that draws many customers to crossovers, especially women. Overall, though, the new model’s “spacious interior shares many similarities with its sedan and hatchback siblings,” Toyota said in a statement.
And, as with the Corolla sedan, there’s a long list of optional features, including a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control and a nine-speaker JBL audio system.
All versions come with a touchscreen infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but buyers can upgrade to a larger, 8-inch screen and add satellite radio.
A power tailgate is another option, as are 17- and 18-inch wheels.
Safety technology includes the basic Toyota Safety Sense package on all models, with additional driver assistance systems available, depending upon trim. “Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert come standard on LE and XLE, while Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking is standard on XLE.And, nine airbags are mounted throughout the cabin to help protect occupants,” notes Toyota.
Toyota isn’t the only one to attempt to turn a sedan into an SUV. It didn’t do much for Buick when it launched the short-lived Regal TourX a few years ago. But Ford is hoping to do better with a new utility model borrowing the once-popular Fusion badge.
In today’s market, it’s logical for Toyota to expand its crossover line-up. And considering both sales trends and the long-running popularity of the original sedan, the expanded use of the familiar Corolla name might seem a safe way to instantly build the new CUV’s market awareness.