EAST HADDAM, CT – It’s often said that it’s not a good idea to wake up a sleeping giant. After watching Hyundai and Kia take flight by leaps and bounds in the American market, a new day has now dawned at Toyota.
Having deviated and been distracted by things like eccentric designs for the most recent Prius range and falling behind when it comes to full-size pickup trucks, Japan’s biggest automaker has regrouped around its recognized core competency. That is, providing mainstream value for the masses; satisfying the common cause as opposed to being controversial.
So here comes the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid utility vehicle.
There’s no doubt that Toyota’s RAV4 was, and very much is, a solid citizen in the SUV arena. The problem up until now has been Hyundai and Kia managed to encircle it with ever-improving, quality products that further offered a cost advantage. They ambitiously bit at Toyota’s ankles.
But that was then. The Korean brands have earned plenty of market demand of their own. Hyundai and Kia pricing has matured, though, because there’s no need to bargain-price them anymore. Cost-wise, they’re now akin to numerous others, such as the Japanese.
Toyota, meanwhile, has begun to flex its muscles with the Corolla Cross. It’s a subcompact utility vehicle that picks up where the Corolla sedan and hatchback leave off. It’s built on the same small platform, thereby ensuring that there’s a commonsense Corolla variant for anyone looking for appealing practicality, versatility, reliability and affordability.
For this review, I drove an attention-getting Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE in Acidic Blast, a bright yellowish-gold paint hue with a two-tone black roof scheme. Needless to say, Toyota remains at the forefront of redundant electric and gasoline powertrain technology as a result of its Prius supremacy. So if a Hybrid’s your thing, there’s no need to look any further.
Fuel economy is as advertised, which is EPA-rated at 45 miles per gallon city and 38 highway. I saw well over 40 around town and high, high 30s on the highway from Connecticut to Charlotte, NC and back. As a result of its gas-sipping nature, the fuel tank capacity is a mere 10.6 gallons which will deliver a 400-plus mile range. So the fact that the gas station pump clicks off so-o-o fast takes some getting used to. That’s is a good thing.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder which is rated at 196 horsepower with Hybrid electric motor assist. On-Demand e-all-wheel drive (by using a rear electric motor) is combined with a sport-tuned suspension. It has 8.1-inches of ground clearance, thus the “Cross” designation, via black, machine-finished 18-inch alloy wheels.
Like a lot of recent CVT-equipped (Continuously Variable Transmission) vehicles, hard acceleration at speed on the highway can convey a slight bit of growly, “rubber-band” response. And since it’s built on basic Corolla underpinnings, it’s not the most refined vehicle on the road.
With its broad shoulders and tall greenhouse, the Corolla Cross is roomy enough up front. But due to its economy car heritage, the rear seat’s a bit cramped. The interior design displays a sense of basic practical function as opposed to inspiring aesthetic form but with acceptably accommodating upholstery. The electronic interface across the seven-inch instrument cluster and eight-inch center screen includes some small, tough-to-decipher typefaces.
Toyota certainly didn’t skimp on its attention to safety detail though and has included its comprehensive Safety Sense™ 3.0 system as standard equipment. Which includes everything from pre-collision and pedestrian detection up front to blind spot monitoring with lane departure alert on the side, and rear cross-traffic warning.
Built in Huntsville, AL, my Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE carried a base sticker price of $31,065. Additional options such as power tilt/slide moonroof and lift gate, JBL premium audio, adaptive/auto-leveling headlights and the two-tone paint combination, along with delivery and handling, resulted in a bottom-line of $35,580.
Truth be told, I’ve already recommended the compact Toyota Corolla Cross to a few who were considering “other” entry-level hybrids. I believe the dominant Toyota solution is a better bet. Even though you won’t get a 10-Year/100,000-Mile Korean powertrain warranty, the Corolla Cross coverage of a 5-Year/60,000-Mile warranty is all it needs. The ever-evolving Toyota Corolla value proposition’s been well proven since 1966.
The long-standing Corolla name, by the way, is derived from the ring of petals within a flower. It also means “little crown” in Latin. It’s a well ll-recognized nameplate that enjoys huge owner loyalty, and the Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE won’t disappoint its fans.
(Photos unless otherwise noted are courtesy of Toyota.)