2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Review: The Corolla of crossovers

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Review: The Corolla of crossovers

Pros: Strong fuel economy for the segment; available hybrid

Cons: Bland to drive and look at; slow acceleration; unremarkable space and storage

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross is the definition of what perfectly fine and acceptable looks like in a midcompact SUV. It’s both smaller and cheaper than a RAV4, but doesn’t come off as quirky or weird like the canceled C-HR was. It’s a Corolla, but in SUV form, and that makes a certain amount of sense for someone looking for a basic and utilitarian form of transportation. It has competent tech, OK backseat and cargo space, and some of the best fuel economy in the segment. There’s also the Hybrid being added to the lineup later this year that’ll improve that fuel economy even more and give it an X factor for a segment that counts only one other hybrid, the Kia Niro.

Unfortunately, the standard car just doesn’t do enough to push the needle. There are plenty others that are more fun to drive, have better tech, look more stylish and are simply all-around more enjoyable vehicles to own on the daily than the Corolla Cross. Perhaps the Hybrid will change the overall dynamic (we have yet to drive it), but it’s hard to find much to get excited about in the otherwise dreary standard version.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Features   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

Toyota upgrades the Corolla Cross’ infotainment system with its latest Audio Multimedia system that also brings a bigger 8-inch screen to the party. Additionally, it gets the latest suite of Toyota’s driver assistance systems standard, going from TSS 2.0 to TSS 3.0. A Corolla Cross Hybrid is joining the party for 2023, too, and it brings an AWD hybrid powertrain for better fuel economy, unique styling to set it apart, and exclusive sporty trim levels.

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What are the Corolla Cross interior and in-car technology like?

While the Corolla Cross exterior looks nothing like a Corolla, the interior is a spitting image with a fairly minimalist dashboard and an infotainment screen popping up out of the middle. As is usually the case in the midcompact SUV segment, interior plastics are a mix. Some stitched soft plastic is front and center on the dash, but harder varieties are found in most other places. Everything is put together nicely with tight gaps, and the XLE trim looks a bit more premium than the base model. However, our test car had some rattles, and cranking the audio system would cause some annoying vibrations.

We appreciate the dedicated physical buttons and knobs for the climate control, as well as the knob for volume control. Toyota’s latest infotainment system that the Corolla Cross is updated with this year is much faster and more fluid than the old, but its user interface can prove tricky to navigate. Both wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto are onboard as standard equipment, and if you like talking to your car, the Amazon Alexa-based voice control is snappy and understands commands well. A mostly-analog gauge cluster is standard and awfully plain by today’s standards, but higher trims adopt a fully digital cluster with slick, modern graphics.

How big is the Corolla Cross?

Size-wise, the Corolla Cross is what we’d call a midcompact SUV, and as such, is sized similarly as the Mazda CX-30, VW Taos, Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek. Notably, it has a fair amount of ground clearance at 8.1 inches, which is almost even with the all-wheel-drive Jeep Renegade and more than the Kia Seltos, though less than the Crosstrek or a Renegade Trailhawk.

In terms of passenger space, the Corolla Cross is somewhere in the middle of the segment, but represents a significant step up from its Corolla namesakes (again, they’re just barely related). There’s good room up front in all directions and a comfortable seating position, but the back seat is merely mid-pack for space. The front seats have thick cushions that are comfortable, though they don’t have much shape or support. The rear seats are firm and flat, and the seatbacks are more upright than we’d like.

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Cargo space is on the large side for midcompact crossovers at 24.3 cubic feet with all-wheel drive and 25.5 with front-wheel drive. 

What are the Corolla Cross’ fuel economy and performance specs?

The gas-only Toyota Corolla Cross comes with one engine and transmission option. It gets a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. A CVT is standard, and there’s an option of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Your pick of drive wheels will also affect your fuel economy, though it’ll be among the most efficient in the segment regardless.. With front-wheel drive, the Corolla Cross gets 31 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. With all-wheel drive, the numbers drop to 29/32/30.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder augmented by Toyota’s three-motor hybrid drive system, giving it standard all-wheel drive. Combined output totals 196 horsepower, which Toyota says is good for 0-60 in 8.0 seconds. EPA figures weren’t available at the time of publishing, but Toyota estimates 37 mpg combined.

What’s the Corolla Cross like to drive?

In most respects, the Corolla Cross is just fine to drive. It has a slightly soft ride without being floaty. The steering is numb, but accurate. Wind, road and tire noise are loud, but at an expected level for this segment. If you put a lot of emphasis on how a car drives and handles, the Corolla Cross isn’t the one for you. That stands in contrast with the Mazda CX-30 and turbocharged Kia Seltos, which are surprisingly fun to drive.

Ultimately, what really brings down the Corolla Cross is the standard powertrain. The four-cylinder is coarse, and it has to rev hard to produce power enough to keep up with traffic. Because of the CVT, it tends to hang up on a particular rpm for acceleration, which results in loud, unpleasant buzzing. It also takes a serious prod of the pedal to wake up the Corolla Cross, as most of the time it works hard to keep the revs low and acceleration slow for maximum fuel economy. 

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We’ve yet to drive the Hybrid.

How much is the 2023 Corolla Cross’ price and what features are available?

The base Corolla Cross is the L trim level, and it starts at $24,395 with its $1,335 destination charge. Adding all-wheel drive increases the price by $1,300 on all trims. Convenience features are sparse on L trim. It comes with 17-inch steel wheels, LED headlights, manual single-zone climate control, manually-adjustable cloth seats, power windows and locks, remote locking and an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It does come with a number of welcome standard advanced driver aids that we cover in the next section.

Above the L are the LE and XLE trims. The LE adds roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, keyless entry/push-button start, automatic climate control, wireless phone charging, leather-wrapped steering wheel and two more USB outlets. As for the XLE, it’s pretty decked out adding LED DRLs/turn signals, LED taillights, fog lights, chrome trim on the grille and window frame, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver seat, rear folding armrest with two additional cupholders, and a 7-inch instrument cluster panel screen.

The Hybrid is available in S, SE and XSE grades. They mimic the climb in equipment that the gas-only version provides, but the S and SE grades come with some extra equipment such as 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED head and tail lamps and keyless entry/push-button start. Pricing for the Hybrid wasn’t available at the time of this story’s publishing.

Full pricing for the gas-powered Corolla Cross is below, including the destination charge. We’ll update this list with Hybrid pricing when it becomes available.

L: $24,395
LE: $26,725
XLE: $28,500

What are the Corolla Cross’ safety ratings and driver assistance features?

The Toyota Corolla Cross received an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2022 model, and there’s little reason to expect it won’t this year. It received “Good” marks for all crash tests. Its only blemish is an “Acceptable” score for the headlights without the “Adaptive Front Lighting System package.”

The little SUV comes standard with a good range of driver aids, including everything in Toyota’s TSS 3.0 suite. It has automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beams road sign assist full-speed adaptive cruise control. Move up to the LE, and you get blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning and a “Safe Exit Assist” feature. The XLE adds front and rear parking sensors with automatic emergency reverse braking and grid lines to the backup camera.

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