The compact Corolla Cross is now available as a hybrid, but you should get a RAV4 instead
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid review with The Road Beat
Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman
What is it?
Toyota released the Corolla Cross in the past two years, an inbetweener of a crossover placed below the popular RAV4 and discontinued C-HR. Initially released with a weak combustion engine only, it was a clumsily executed prospect that was far from efficient given its relative size. A hybrid from day one would have been a better idea, and now we have just that, bringing promising fuel economy and power gains. This well-optioned XSE model costs $36,694 as-tested and its polarizing color is unfortunately known as Acidic Blast. Alarmingly, that price also overlaps with the larger RAV4 Hybrid.
The most promising aspect of this new addition to the Corolla Cross family is the Hybrid moniker, bringing an improved powertrain both in terms of power and formidable efficiency gains. Horsepower increases from a paltry 169 to 196, allowing this little crossover to now be able to get out of its own way. The first model I had tested averaged a disappointing (for such a small and slow car) 26 MPG, but this new Hybrid scored a brilliant 37 MPG overall after a week of mixed driving. For comparison, the last RAV4 Hybrid with AWD I tested averaged 35 MPG.
Being a Toyota and a decent XSE trim-level, this Corolla Cross is well-equipped with all the safety and tech features you would expect and want in a new car. Build quality seems sturdy enough, and the Corolla Cross is easy to drive at all times, requiring no effort nor brainpower.
With the price for this version encroaching on $37,000, there's almost no reason to choose a Corolla Cross Hybrid instead of a RAV4 Hybrid (or the mechanically identical Venza). With the RAV4 Hybrid, you get even more power, no real detriment to fuel economy, and it's a noticeably larger car on the inside with a comparatively spacious rear seat and cargo bay. The back seats might be fine for kids, but trust me when I say your friends won't find it all too enjoyable; Just ask mine. And best (or worst) of all, a comparable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for only an extra couple thousand over this, which would be well worth justifying. Looks are totally subjective, but I had several friends who commented how ugly they thought the Corolla Cross is, too, and they swore it wasn't just because of the color.
On the road, I said the Corolla Cross Hybrid is masterfully easy to drive, but it's also so uninspiring and dull, with zero enthusiasm for driving. Once you spend time in a vehicle like the Mazda CX-30, which kind of ruins other cars due to its surprisingly profound athleticism and eagerness, cars like the Corolla Cross come across as such boring forms of transportation. Trust me, it's fine for getting in driving on the daily basis, but there's nothing that the Corolla Cross Hybrid does well or that makes driving anything that resembles fun. Even a RAV4 has superior steering feel and a more balanced handling and ride quality to it. It's unfortunate, but the Corolla Cross inherently just kind of feels like a toy, lacking substance to the controls and the cabin doesn't hold up to the asking price either. At the end of the day, it's just too expensive for what you're getting.
Choose a RAV4 Hybrid
If you're after a reasonably priced and efficient crossover, the RAV4 Hybrid is going to be the vehicle you want due to its noticeable lifestyle benefits and such a marginal increase in cost for a comparable trim. The only reason I see someone wanting a Corolla Cross Hybrid is maybe due to specific size constraints, such as a tiny garage or parking situation, or perhaps you personally love the looks and the unique color on this one. For all others, though, you'd be best going for the superior RAV4 Hybrid. If you want to spend less, and it may get less gas mileage, but a top-spec Honda HR-V is a nicer, more pleasant, and spacious vehicle. I'm not trying to be cruel, but simply saying it how it is; In the words of Kuiil from The Mandalorian, "I have spoken."
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE
Price as-tested: $36,694
Pros: Compact size may appeal to some; Great economy
Cons: Too similarly priced to superior RAV4 Hybrid