It was inevitable, wasn’t it? Toyota has turned the Corolla into an SUV.
The Corolla Cross sits between the Yaris Cross and the rampantly popular RAV4 SUVs in the local range, and competes with everything from high-end city crossovers at the bottom end of its range, to generously-equipped mid-sized SUVs at the top end.
The top end is where we’re playing today. On test is the range-topping Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos AWD Hybrid, with a price nudging $50,000 before on-road costs.
It’s the most expensive car ever to wear the Corolla badge in Australia (until the GR Corolla arrives), usurping the 2001 Corolla Sportivo Levin Manual and its $37,990 sticker price.
That means along with the usual Corolla staples of efficiency and reliability, the Atmos AWD Hybrid needs to be a bit special to justify its sticker price. Is this high-riding, $50,000 take on the Corolla formula a winner?
The top-end Corolla Cross Atmos AWD Hybrid has a sticker price just shy of $50,000 before on-roads, equivalent to $54,000 drive-away using a Melbourne postcode.
That means it’s actually more expensive than the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD Hybrid ($48,750), although it narrowly undercuts the range-topping RAV4 Edge AWD Hybrid ($52,700).
Nissan has confirmed the Qashqai e-Power for Australia, but hasn’t confirmed pricing. It’ll likely line up neatly with the Corolla Cross at the top end, however.
Haval will sell you a Jolion Ultra Hybrid for $40,990 drive-away, while Volkswagen doesn’t offer a hybrid T-Roc, and Mazda only offers a mild-hybrid CX-30 in the X20 Astina AWD ($48,190) that doesn’t actually offer any electric drive and can’t match the Corolla’s thrifty fuel consumption. The Honda HR-V e:HEV L is a smaller car dimensionally and only a four-seater, but is priced from $47,000 drive-away.
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross pricing:
- Toyota Corolla Cross GX 2WD: $33,000
- Toyota Corolla Cross GX 2WD Hybrid: $35,000
- Toyota Corolla Cross GXL: $36,750
- Toyota Corolla Cross GXL 2WD Hybrid: $39,250
- Toyota Corolla Cross GXL AWD Hybrid: $42,250
- Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos: $43,550
- Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos 2WD Hybrid: $46,050
- Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos AWD Hybrid: $49,050
Prices exclude on-road costs
There’s plenty of Corolla about the front section of the Corolla Cross cabin.
The dashboard and steering wheel are lifted from the hatchback, although the Cross features a bigger screen and some unique detailing lower down. It’s reasonably handsome, but it’s not particularly expensive or flashy at first glance.
Driver and passenger sit high in generously padded leather seats, for a more commanding view of the road ahead than the Corolla hatch can offer, and the tall roofline and generous glasshouse make the Cross feel quite spacious. You’ll be able to get comfortable behind the wheel, no matter what shape you are.
All the major controls fall easily to hand. There’s no missing the 10.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which dominates the dashboard, while the simple climate control pod below it is direct from the Corolla hatch.
Below that sits a bank of switches (heated seats, steering wheel) that look and feel like an afterthought, while the inclusion of just one USB-A port up front is hard to understand in a brand new car. Most rivals offer two plugs, and most have moved to USB-C.
As for the technology? Traditionally a Toyota weak spot, it’s much improved here. The bigger screen features more modern graphics and faster responses than the outdated setup now being phased out elsewhere in the range, and the inclusion of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a win.
Does it propel the Corolla Cross to the top of the class? No, but it doesn’t feel like Toyota has brought a knife to a gunfight anymore.
The same applies to the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which is more modern than the hybrid analogue/digital setup that’s featured on range-topping Toyotas until now. Volkswagen still offers more customisation, sharper graphics, and better mapping, but the Big T is closer than ever.
Although there are some high points, the front of the Corolla Cross can’t hide its budget origins. The dashboard trim to the right of the steering wheel is hard plastic, as are parts of the (slightly flimsy) door trims, and the love lavished on the RAV4 with its rubberised climate dials and interesting materials hasn’t been replicated here.
Given this is a $50,000 car before on-roads, we were hoping for a bit more.
Space in the rear seats is in keeping with the Corolla Cross’ pitch as a car for people who think the Yaris Cross is too small, and the RAV4 is too big. Legroom is solid behind adults, although headroom isn’t standout in the Atmos with its panoramic sunroof.
The inclusion of air vents will endear the Cross to parents in Australia, as will the USB-C ports standard back there to keep devices charged. There are two ISOFIX and three top-tether points.
If you’re constantly carrying a full load of children, the RAV4 is a better bet. If you have a smaller family and have only just outgrown your hatchback, it’s likely the right size.
At 380 litres with the rear seats in place, boot space in the Atmos is the worst of the Corolla Cross range. The all-wheel drive hybrid hardware eats into room where your stuff could otherwise sit, although the flat floor and relatively broad load bay mean it’s still a practical space.
Given the front-wheel drive has an extra 35 litres, and lower-spec FWD cars without the uprated JBL sound system have a further 10L atop that, this isn’t the Corolla Cross to buy if practicality is your top priority.
Power in the Toyota Corolla Cross comes from a choice of petrol or hybrid drivetrains; our tester is the range-topping hybrid all-wheel drive.
Both the front-wheel and all-wheel drive hybrids feature a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine under the bonnet, making 112kW and 190Nm, mated to an e-CVT.
In the front-wheel drive version, it’s mated with an electric motor making 83kW and 206Nm. The all-wheel drive additionally features a 30kW rear axle motor.
Hybrids feature a 4.06Ah lithium-ion battery pack which Toyota says is 14 per cent lighter, and more powerful, than before.
Toyota quotes a combined power output of 146kW from the front- and all-wheel drive hybrids, but no combined torque output.
Claimed fuel economy is 4.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and the AWD Hybrid has a 43L fuel tank. It drinks 91 RON regular unleaded fuel. We actually managed to undercut that figure on a mixed highway and city loop, with an impressive 4.3L/100km.
The Corolla Cross is comfortable and quiet, but it’s unlikely to set your pulse racing. In other words, it’s true to the Corolla badge.
Every iteration of Toyota’s hybrid drive system seems smoother, smarter, and more willing to lean on its electric motor, and the AWD system in the Atmos continues that trend.
You can dip deeper into the throttle’s travel off the mark without the petrol engine kicking in, and it was able to remain in EV Mode for a sustained stretch of 30km/h traffic on the highway outside Melbourne. If you aren’t in a hurry it’ll hit around 40km/h without the petrol engine kicking in.
You still won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a proper electric car, but more of the mundane day-to-day crawl than ever can be handled with the petrol engine sitting idle.
When it does cut in, the petrol engine is quieter and smoother than before. It can be hard to know when it’s on if you gently tip past the top of electric mode’s reach, although asking for more than mild performance makes it shouty, fast.
Toyota claims a sprightly 7.6 seconds for the 100km/h sprint, which feels accurate in the real world. With the e-motors and engine working in unison the Corolla Cross gets a move on, but there’s nothing pleasant about how it delivers its performance.
Do you really need all-wheel drive? We’d argue the answer is probably no. Traction has never been an issue in front-drive Toyota hybrid models, and the Cross is unlikely to be going anywhere AWD is needed. It’s nice to have, but we’d be looking seriously at the FWD.
At a settled cruise, it’s impressively quiet. The Corolla Cross hums along with minimal wind, road, and engine noise at 100km/h on Australian roads, and the ride is excellent on the 18-inch alloy wheels standard on the range-topping car.
Sometimes small-ish SUVs with big wheels can crash and bash over potholes and expansion joints, but this feels impressively plush.
Coupled with light, fluid steering and excellent all-round visibility, the ride makes the Corolla Cross feel right at home on pockmarked city streets.
Toyota has improved the quality of its cameras and displays, leaving fewer excuses for scraped or dinged bumpers – although the static guidelines on the reversing camera and its low-light performance still feel a bit cheap relative to what’s on offer in other $50,000 crossovers.
The range of driver assists on offer work smartly. The adaptive cruise does a good job keeping a consistent gap to the car in front, the lane-centring feels the right amount of hands-on, and the lane-keep will confidently nudge you back between the white lines if you stray.
Corolla Cross GX highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- 17-inch temporary spare wheel
- LED headlights
- LED daytime running lights
- Heated, retractable side mirrors
- Automatic air-conditioning
- Fabric upholstery
- Keyless entry and start
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Wired Android Auto
- DAB+ radio
- 6-speaker audio
- Toyota Connected Services, which through the MyToyota app allows:
- Check lock/unlock status
- Check vehicle location
- Log recent trips
- Start the engine and climate control
- Set controls on guest drivers
Corolla Cross GXL adds:
- LED (high-grade) headlights
- Front fog lights
- Rear privacy glass
- Roof rails
- Leather-accented/fabric upholstery
- Leather-accented steering wheel, shifter
- Electrochromatic rear-view mirror
- Dual-zone climate control
- 10.5-inch touchscreen infotainment
- Satellite navigation
- USB-C rear charge ports
- 360-degree camera system
Corolla Cross Atmos adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Panoramic sunroof
- Electric tailgate with kick sensor
- Leather-accented upholstery
- Heated front seats
- 8-way power driver’s seat
- Heated steering wheel
- Wireless smartphone charger
- Rain-sensing wipers
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- Advanced Park Assist
- 360-degree cameras with see-through view
The Toyota Corolla Cross hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP yet, but given the related Corolla wears five-star ratings for hatch and sedan body styles, we’d expect a similar result when it is.
Standard safety features include:
- Toyota Safety Sense
- AEB with Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control incl. curve speed reduction
- Auto high-beam
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Lane Trace Assist (centring)
- Lane change assist
- Speed sign assist
- Blind-spot monitoring incl. safe exit assist
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reversing camera
- 8 airbags incl. front-centre airbag
- Parking support brake incl. vehicle, object detection
- ‘Simple’ panoramic view monitor (360 cameras)
Atmos Hybrid adds:
- Enhanced panoramic view monitor (360 cameras with see-through view)
- Advanced Park Assist
- Parking support brake incl. pedestrian detection
The Corolla Cross is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which extends to seven years on the powertrain if the car is serviced using Toyota’s capped-price service program.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, and the first five services are capped at $230 each.
The Corolla Cross does what it says on the tin.
It offers the impressive efficiency with polished, no-nonsense driving dynamics in a bigger, more versatile body than we’ve seen from the Corolla before. The Atmos AWD Hybrid might not be the pick of the range, though.
Its price is right up there with high-end versions of the bigger RAV4 Hybrid, but some of the materials and finishes aren’t up to the price. The boot space in the range-topper is also a mark against it, given practicality is the point of this car.
The Corolla Cross has plenty to offer, but its strengths are potentially better highlighted elsewhere in the range.
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