These days, a jacked-up-anything is pretty much a licence to print money, so it’s a little surprising that Toyota took this long to cook up a legit contender in the subcompact crossover space. Sure, the C-HR exists, but its shortcomings limit its mass-market appeal. Enter the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross; it won’t win you over with gorgeous styling, cutting-edge powertrains, or a cushy interior, but it nevertheless has the goods to tick many boxes for many people.
The Corolla Cross slots between the funky C-HR and the dime-a-dozen RAV4, aimed at shoppers who just want something that gets the job done. Here, you won’t find a zippy turbocharged engine like the Hyundai Kona, a classy interior like the Mazda CX-30, or the Subaru Crosstrek’s nasty weather capability. Instead, the Corolla Cross makes no promises it can’t keep: it’ll take you where you need to go comfortably, efficiently, and eventually. Nothing more, nothing less. It definitely understands the assignment.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Corolla Cross is uninspiring to drive. Who knew?! Sharing its normally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with the standard Corolla hatch, the cute-ute version puts out 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, and it’s paired to a continuously variable transmission. All-wheel-drive is available, and a more powerful hybrid version is coming next year for all you speed freaks.
As a whole, the Corolla Cross is hardly exciting stuff in the powertrain department. Its leisurely acceleration and relaxed throttle response means any sort of merging or passing on the highway requires some patience and planning. On top of that, the engine sounds buzzy when you rev it out, pretty much making the same “vroom vroom!” noises you made playing with Hot Wheels as a kid — or as a grown up. We won’t judge.
Of course, none of that really matters when you’re puttering around town. Here, the Corolla Cross’ relaxed nature isn’t so much a hindrance, but rather an asset. The soft suspension and squishy tire sidewalls won’t do you many favours around tight corners, but the ride is supple and it’s well-isolated from rough pavement and imperfections. The steering is completely numb and light, but it’s responsive and navigating through tight spots is a cinch. And even though the Corolla Cross isn’t a powerhouse, fuel economy is decent: Toyota rates it a frugal, if not optimistic 8.1 L/100 kilometres in the city and 7.4 on the highway. We averaged 9.4 L/100 kilometres — a little on the high side, but not too bad considering we’re in the icy throes of winter and spent most of our time in the city, minus an impromptu weekend road trip hunting for vintage oil lamps. Don’t ask.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator between the Corolla Cross and the C-HR is the styling. While the C-HR is at best a polarizing mix of creases and angles, the Corolla Cross is far more conventional — beyond its pug-like face, it’s pretty much a RAV4 that’s spent a bit too much time in the dryer. Interestingly enough, both the C-HR and Corolla Cross share an identical 103.9-inch wheelbase, but the ‘Rolla is longer, wider, and taller overall, and rides higher.
If the Corolla Cross’ interior gives you a sense of deja vu, that’s because it’s basically a copy-and-paste job from the standard Corolla sedan and hatch. This means a no-nonsense layout with physical switchgear on the centre stack, solid if not class-leading fit-and-finish, and at least on our top-spec XLE tester, a reasonably intuitive eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a sharp seven-inch display in the instrument cluster.
Lesser trims make do with a seven-inch touchscreen, and a smaller 4.2-inch instrument cluster display. It’s largely a good place to spend time, but we do have a few bones to pick: CarPlay seemed a touch too slow to boot up, the buttons alongside the touchscreen were on the smallish side, there’s only one USB port up front, and whoever is riding shotgun might find the lack of height adjustability on their seat a turn-off.
Around the back, the Corolla Cross boasts generous headroom and legroom. Taller folks might find the rear quarters to be a tight squeeze, but it’s plenty spacious for smaller humans. Cargo space with the seats up is a generous 25.5 cubic feet (722 litres) with the seats up, besting the Kona, CX-30, and Crosstrek. Curiously, but opting for AWD will cut into that a touch on account of the slightly higher load floor, but the difference is negligible and either way, it’s vastly roomier than the C-HR.
Price-wise, Toyota keeps the Corolla Cross extremely competitive within the segment — and extremely simple. The base L starts at $24,890 and comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, heated seats, LED headlights, automatic climate control, and Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of active safety nannies, among many other bits and pieces. If you’re not a fan of steel wheels and hubcaps, stepping up to the $27,090 LE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, along with other goodies like a heated steering wheel, the bigger infotainment screen, smart key access with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring.
For $33,990, our full-jam Corolla Cross XLE tester adds goodies like a nine-speaker JBL audio system, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and fog lights, a sunroof, and a power liftgate. AWD is standard on the XLE and a $1,400 option on the L and LE; we’d wager the Corolla Cross LE with AWD will be volume seller.
In more ways than one, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is an appliance — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s not particularly quick, glamorous, or fancy, but it addresses a hole in Toyota’s lineup that the C-HR couldn’t quite fill. With a surprisingly refined ride, a spacious interior, and of course, all-wheel-drive, this jacked-up ‘Rolla is a no-nonsense, gimmick-free crossover that simply gets the job done.