It’s been 55 years since the first Toyota Corolla rolled off the line in Japan. Since then, more than 50 million motorists around the world have bought one. That’s more than twice as many as the Volkswagen Beetle, the runner-up.
But Corolla sales have been on a steady decline in recent years, and, in today’s SUV-crazed market, Toyota has struggled to find a way to shore up demand for its most popular sedan. The solution, it’s betting, is simple: tweak the design, raise the roof, give it more ground clearance, then add some new features and call it a “crossover.” The result? The new 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, a product, the automaker says, “you didn’t know you needed until now.”
The new Corolla Cross 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.
Corolla Cross drops into an increasingly crowded market segment where it will go up against the likes of the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos and the also-new Volkswagen Taos. It also wedges itself into a space between two existing Toyota lines, the long-popular RAV4 and the C-HR. That has raised questions about whether the Corolla-badged model will effectively serve as C-HR’s replacement. For now, however, Toyota plans to retain all three crossovers, with upcoming sales likely to determine whether the smallest of the entries will survive.
In SUV form, the newest member of the Toyota family grows taller, adds available all-wheel drive and a number of other features, including the ability to tow up to 1,500 pounds.
To get a sense of what the automaker came up with, I headed to Austin for a long day’s driving the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross through Texas Hill Country.
In SUV form, the Corolla Cross sits higher than the Corolla sedan, 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. The lighting all goes LED, as well, with the top-line XLE trim offering adaptive lighting.
The design is more robust than the Corolla sedan but more conservative than other, comparably sized models, like the Kia Seltos or Hyundai Venue. One of the more quirky details: the layout of the grille and bumper look to some as if the Corolla Cross is frowning.
Some numbers add perspective. The Corolla Cross is about 5 inches shorter than the Toyota RAV4, with a 2-inch shorter wheelbase. But it measures about 3 inches longer than the C-HR. It’s an inch narrower than the RAV4 but roughly the same amount wider than Toyota’s base crossover. It’s also 2 inches lower than RAV4, though it sits 3.2 inches taller than the C-HR. And to round things out, both RAV4 and C-HR feature roughly the same, 8 inches of ground clearance.
The new Corolla Cross delivers the higher seating position that has drawn 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 that’s not something to complain about, as the layout of the instrument panel, in particular, is among the better ones I’ve seen in this segment.
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. Base models measure 7 inches but there’s an 8-inch version on higher trim models, along with satellite radio.
The XLE all-wheel-drive model I spent the most time in also replaced the standard analog gauge cluster with a slicker digital package. The downside was that the display was not as bright as I’d have liked and, when hit by the bright Texas sun, could be difficult to read — especially details like the tripometer.
As far as cargo capacity, that varies more than you’d expect, the actual figure varying according to whether you have an all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive model, as well as a moonroof. With the FWD Corolla Cross and no moonroof — and the second row up — you get a roughly top-of-segment 26.5 cubic feet. With AWD and a moonroof, that drops to 24.6 cf. Fold down the 60/40 split second row bench and you get anywhere from 65.0 to 66.5 cf of cargo space.
Under the hood, the new Corolla Cross is outfitted with Toyota’s familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged Dynamic Force inline-4. It makes 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, which is channeled through a continuously variable transmission. The CVT is unusual in that it actually has a conventional first gear that is meant to improve launch performance and feel.
The new crossover is available, as already noted 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.
What could be a real selling point for potential buyers is the fact that you can tow with the Corolla Cross, rated to handle up to a 1,500-pound trailer.
Note front-drive versions of the CUV are equipped with a torsion beam rear axle. You have to go with AWD to get the more desirable and better-handling independent rear suspension.
As for fuel economy, it 31 mpg city, 33 highway and 32 combined in front-wheel drive, while the all-wheel model drops to 29/32/30.
Safety and Technology
The XLE package I drove was by far the most well-equipped version of the 2022 Corolla Cross, with everything from a digital gauge cluster and 8-inch infotainment touchscreen to the optional adaptive lighting. Many desirable features are either built into or offered as options on the midlevel LE expected to be the most popular version of the crossover.
There are plenty of USB charge ports though, that again varies by trim level. And you actually lose one up front if you check the box for the optional wireless smartphone charging system.
Even the base version of the Corolla Cross features nine airbags and the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced driver assistance systems. That includes features like forward-collision warning with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane-departure assist, road sign assist and active cruise control. Move up to the LE and you add blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. The XLE adds even more, like front and rear parking assist and automatic emergency braking.
There’s also an onboard WiFi hotspot if you opt for Toyota’s wireless telematics service.
There’s a noticeable difference in driving dynamics when switching between the Corolla Cross with all-wheel drive and the independent rear suspension and the front-drive package with the live rear axle. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to try the crossover out on wet pavement or on dirt or gravel, the AWD package was clearly more sure-footed and allowed me to whip through corners more aggressively — and confidently. I’d strongly suggest it’s worth the extra money, even for those living in the Sunbelt.
As for the 2.0-liter inline-4, the most accurate way to describe its performance is “adequate.” It provided enough power on flat roads, but it started to huff and puff when we turned off onto Hill Country’s steeper roads. Frankly, it would be lagging a bit if you did try to negotiate steeper terrain with a 1,500-pound trailer in back.
Still, for those already familiar with the Corolla sedan, there’ll be a clear sense of familiarity switching off to the Corolla Cross, and that’s not a bad thing.
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross has a starting price of $22,195 for the base L model, before factoring in $1,215 in delivery fees. The more desirable LE model starts at $25,485, while you’ll push up against $28,000 for a well-equipped Corolla Cross XLE. To those numbers add $1,395 to go all-wheel-drive and switch to the independent rear suspension – which, as I stressed earlier, is more than worth the cost.
In today’s crowded small SUV segment, buyers will have plenty of options to choose from in the coming year, and Toyota’s new entry is reasonably priced, albeit not necessarily the cheapest or most well-equipped alternative. It does have its flaws, but it also has a lot going for it, including a good package of safety technologies and, of course, Toyota’s long-standing reputation for solid quality and reliability.
The new Corolla Cross will go on sale in October, though you’ll be able to begin placing orders this month. The new crossover is being produced in Huntsville, Alabama at a plant Toyota runs with partner Mazda.
Toyota officials have strong expectations for their new crossover and I don’t blame them. I’d be surprised if the Corolla Cross doesn’t just deliver a lot of sales but, within the next year or two, start outselling the conventional Corolla sedan and hatchback models.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross — Frequently Asked Questions
Is Toyota Corolla Cross fuel-efficient?
At up to 31 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 32 in the EPA combined cycle, it is one of the more fuel-efficient offerings in its class. The Kia Seltos falls short in the city cycle, at 29 mpg, but jumps to 35 on the highway. The Chevy Blazer doesn’t come close, at 22/29 mpg. And the Honda HR-V also straddles Toyota’s new entry at 28 city, 34 highway. All models with optional all-wheel drive lose a bit of mileage.
Is the Toyota Corolla Cross the same as the RAV4?
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross gets shoe-horned into a bit of white space between the automaker’s entry-level C-HR and the more expensive — and popular — RAV4. It’s about midway between the two existing models in terms of size and offers more content than the base CUV. Corolla Cross isn’t as well-equipped or powerful as RAV4 but is more affordable.
Is the Corolla Cross coming to the U.S.?
The Toyota Corolla Cross comes to the U.S. for the 2022 model year. The American version is built at an all-new plant in Huntsville, Alabama jointly owned by Toyota and Mazda. It is scheduled to hit American showrooms by October.