Skip to main content
road test

2022 Toyota Corolla CrossJeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

It may not be strictly true that Toyota’s original RAV4 invented the car-based compact crossover (try Googling “Matra Rancho,” or even “Toyota Tercel Wagon”). But the auto maker’s mid-’90s interpretation of the concept had the staying power.

Now in its fifth generation, the RAV is presently the top-selling nameplate in the segment it arguably invented, which in turn is the single biggest segment of the Canadian market.

But as crossovers have evolved, they have also spawned a burgeoning subcompact subsegment, and here, Toyota’s approach has been surprisingly diffident. There’s been no direct Toyota equivalent to, say, the Hyundai Kona or the Honda HR-V. The closest it gets is the cute-alien C-HR, which lacks either the utility or an all-wheel-drive option to be a convincing crossover (though it sells very well).

Now there’s this. First launched in Asia last year and in production at a new Toyota-Mazda joint-venture plant in Alabama, the Corolla Cross slots between the smaller C-HR and the larger RAV4 and it is available with all-wheel drive. It properly fits the subcompact-crossover template.

The Cross keeps the shorter wheelbase of the C-HR (about 6 cm. less than the Corolla sedan and the RAV4) but its boxier shape and longer rear overhang substantially boost cargo capacity. In overall length it’s at the top end of its category, almost identical to the Subaru Crosstrek at a little under 4.5 metres.

Propulsion is provided by a 2.0-litre, 169-hp engine and continuously variable transmission driving either the front wheels or all four via a system that can automatically transfer up to 50 per cent of power to the rear. The AWD model also includes independent rear suspension in place of the FWD’s semi-independent torsion-beam setup.

The Cross starts at $24,890 and it is offered in L, LE, LE Premium and XLE trims, with AWD a $1,400 option on the first two and standard on the others. A hybrid option will be joining the line-up next year, but even the conventionally powered models offer class-leading fuel consumption at 7.3 L/100 km (combined) FWD and 7.8 AWD.

According to the car’s chief engineer, Daizo Kameyama, the goal was to deliver “an affordable SUV for the price of a sedan.” With a Corolla L automatic starting at $21,250 that may not have been achieved, but the Cross is priced in the ballpark with its segment peers.

Some consumers might prefer to save a few thousand dollars and drive an actual car, but if you’re joining the stampede into crossovers, this is an option that has the dependable familiarity of the Corolla nameplate and engineering. The Cross’s rear-seat space is disappointing, and the engine unrefined when driven with vigour, but it looks the part, its cargo space and fuel economy are among the segment’s best, it combines engaging handling with a compliant ride, and it’s loaded with standard safety tech.

In a segment bursting with choices, making a short list may have become more difficult. On the other hand, if you’ve just been waiting for Toyota to get in the game, do you even need a short list?

If you’re joining the stampede into crossovers, the Corolla Cross is an option that has the dependable familiarity of the Corolla nameplate and engineering.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Tech Specs

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross

Price: $24,890 – $33,990

Engine: 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder

Transmission/drive: Continuously-variable automatic/FWD or AWD

Fuel consumption (L/100 km): FWD, 7.6 city/7.0 hwy | AWD, 8.1 city/7.4 hwy

Alternatives: Buick Encore and Encore GX, Chevrolet Trax and TrailBlazer, Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade and Compass, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-3 and Mazda CX-30, Mitsubishi RVR and Eclipse Cross, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Crosstrek, Volkswagen Taos

Looks

The wide-mouth grille, and flared fenders that blend into body-side scallops, add some visual interest to what would otherwise be a non-descript, sensible-shoes utilitarian shape.

Interior

A seven- or eight-inch touchscreen stands proud, high-and-centre on the dash.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Only the top XLE trim has an eight-way power driver’s seat, so the six-way manual chair on the rest may require at-the-wheel comfort compromises for some. The seating position is not especially tall-in-the-saddle but visibility is fine, secondary controls are well placed, and there are traditional knobs and buttons for the things that matter.

A seven- or eight-inch touchscreen stands proud, high-and-centre on the dash. Instrumentation is clear and readable (including the digital cluster on the XLE) but there’s not much stowage on the centre console. In the rear there’s ample foot-room even when the front seat is set low, which helps mitigate the tight knee-room.

The rear bench also lacks thigh support for grown-ups, but that may be a plus for their kids. And Toyota made a point of easy-access LATCH hooks for child restraints.

Performance

In a segment of below-average performance levels, the CC’s relatively large and powerful engine should give it an edge – say nine to 9.5 seconds for the 0-100-km/h sprint. Maximum-effort driving is a somewhat shrill and gritty affair, but the engine dials back the fuss in routine driving, which helps disguise the random waxing and waning of engine speed orchestrated by the continuously variable transmission. (In Auto, sometimes it pretends to be a stepped transmission, other times it doesn’t, or it can be a manually shifted 10-speed when you put the lever in Shiftmatic mode.)

Spirited driving gets more gratifying when the road turns twisty. There’s not a lot of grip, but within its modest limits the lively steering and flat, balanced cornering stance hint at an unexpectedly playful chassis limited by couch-potato footwear. The ride is firm (more so on the FWD) but cushioned and controlled, though occasional lateral head-toss motions attest to stiff stabilizer bars.

Technology

Infotainment assets beyond the norms include available wireless phone charging, and various smartphone-based connected services.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Standard driver-assist tech on all trims includes adaptive cruise with stop and go, forward emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping and lane-tracing assist, and automatic high beam. Higher trims add blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic braking, and parking assist with automatic braking.

Infotainment assets beyond the norms include available wireless phone charging, and various smartphone-based connected services. Not on the menu, however, is navigation or a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Cargo

Toyota cites higher cargo volumes that are above average for the segment.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Toyota cites higher cargo volumes for the FWD (750 L seats up, 1,891 L seats down) than the AWD (713 and 1,855) as the latter’s rear axle mandates a higher floor. Either way, the figures are above average for the segment. There’s no under-floor storage, and the FWD’s lower deck creates a big step up to the folded backrests, but those backrests do fold commendably flat, and there are wells at the side to store a snow brush and jug of screen wash. Both FWD and AWD models are rated to tow 1,500 lbs. (680 kg).

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct