2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE

The Corolla Cross offers hybrid power and a long list of bells-and-whistles, making it an unbeatable value in the segment
The Corolla Cross offers hybrid power and a long list of bells-and-whistles, making it an unbeatable value in the segment

by Nathan Leipsig | June 18, 2024


In attempting to shape my thoughts about the 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE into complete sentences, I thought about the very act of reviewing cars at all. There’s an awkward side to this line of work that nobody brings up: it’ss pretty much all subjective, all somebody’s opinion. These reviews are all just book reports for grown-ups, summarizing the main plot points and characters of Bridge to Terabithia, and how it made us feel — except with cars.

I think part of the only reason, the only paper-thin excuse why this might go beyond product reviews — and arguably pass as journalism in some circles — is because evaluating a car is so subjective. Of course there are numbers, like performance figures, cargo capacities, cupholder quantities, prices, and other factors that can be objectively measured and put alongside a long list of line-items on a spreadsheet for comparison’s sake. But the real work comes in determining what the sum of those spreadsheet figures actually means.

And sometimes, I’m at a bit of a loss for what to say. There’s a lot of reasons for why this might be: it could be a popular product that’s already been covered to death. It’s an old product where there’s nothing new (of significance) to talk about. Or it’s because the car didn’t speak to me, and didn’t help me translate that spreadsheet into a memorable experience.

The latter was the case with the Corolla Cross, but this isn’t the car’s fault. If you’re in the market for a cute-ute, you have $40,000 to spend, and your number-one priority is maximizing the reach of every dollar spent, thanks to its low operating costs and strong resale value, stop reading and go to your closest Toyota dealer right now. Nothing else on the market does it better than the Corolla Cross, especially the hybrid.

Our Corolla Cross XSE tester with the hybrid powertrain has a long list of line items that means it’s very safe, very practical, and will essentially drive itself. It returned a fantastic 5.5 L/100 kilometres in my week with it, and costs $37,890 as-tested before fees and whatnot. Most of its competitors don’t offer a hybrid powertrain at all in the North American market; the fact that the Corolla Cross does so while also offering a long spreadsheet of all the right bells-and-whistles, while costing less than its competitors, makes it an unbeatable value.

I think the biggest problem for me is that I’m approximately the furthest thing from this car’s target audience. I like cars that make me feel something, that stimulate the senses and stir the soul. The sense of style, and the sensations of the driving experience matter so very much more to me, personally, than rear cross-traffic alert and wireless Apple CarPlay. The Corolla Cross’ unmatchable prowess as a frugal transportation product in a cute-ute package is lost on me.

Now, this isn’t to say I can’t appreciate a normal car for normal people. I was smitten with the Honda HR-V and the Lexus NX 450h+ was one of my favorite cars last year, but that’s because they spoke to me. They’re just as competent in their applications as this tall Corolla, but I felt better driving them, and that feeling better is a huge subjective component in this process.

The Corolla Cross didn’t resonate with me. This happens, and I’ll openly admit that in times of not knowing what to say, I’ll skim other reviews and see if maybe there’s something I’m missing. My colleague, Ben, loved it when he had it last year, so much so that it was his runaway pick for Crossover the Year when we voted for our annual awards. He convinced enough people with his praise that he nearly got his wish; its focus on inexpensive and easy living resonated with him far more than it did with me.

Personally, I think it’s a case of there being two sides to Toyota. There is a side of the company that’s been absolutely nailing everything they’ve put their mind to lately. From the new Prius to the spicy GR Corolla; from the finally redesigned Tacoma to the reborn Land Cruiser, Toyota’s recent parade of vehicles do a meaningful job of going beyond being a mobility appliance, being compelling beyond value and feeling inspired.

The Corolla Cross is the other side — the side that’s less, um, interesting. Instead, it focuses solely on being a quality mobility appliance for people who just want a quality mobility appliance. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can appreciate a well-executed product that’s well-fitted for its intended purpose. It’s just not a product I’d want, because that’s not a purpose I seek.

Looking around the broader internet as a whole — because yes, I’ll do that sometimes when the creativity well runs dry — that seems to be the general consensus. The Corolla Cross is very good, just not very interesting, and the tone of the review is based entirely on how much the concept of being interesting is valued. What I’ve found most curious in trying to craft this piece is how much variability I’ve found in the tone of these reviews on the Corolla Cross; how differently the same things are interpreted, because once again, all of this is subjective. In the immortal words of Jonathan Frakes on Fact or Fiction:, it’s all made up.

One reviewer said the ride felt plush, even going as far as to say luxurious. I couldn’t disagree more; I thought the Corolla Cross felt slightly under-damped under most conditions and downright flinty over sharper bumps, but then again, he jived with what Toyota’s doing here. Another said he appreciated that there’s zero learning curve to the Corolla Cross’ interior and infotainment. He’s half-right; the physical controls are brain-dead easy to use, but the infotainment has some quirks, most notably with changing radio stations. However, this particular reviewer admitted he uses Spotify through CarPlay almost exclusively, so he’s not seeing what I see.

I’ve always found it curious how two people can look at the same thing and come away with polar opposite impressions. It’s a gentle reminder to my ego that my opinion is not always objectively correct. Even among my own experiences, I find it odd how I can look at two very similar things, like Corolla Cross and the HR-V, and come away with two very different opinion. I can’t consistently pinpoint when or why this happens, but it happens. I do my best to control these biases and preferences, just as I’m sure my colleagues do in this industry, but we all go about it differently. I prefer to put it in the open; it’s a crapshoot. If you’re reading a review to augment a car buying decision, do yourself a favour and read a lot of reviews to gain a general consensus. If one particular review really sticks out to you for one reason or another, make a point of consulting a few other reviews from that author to get a sense of who they are, and if their sensibilities align with yours.

Me reviewing the 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid XSE is like getting me to review a sushi place. I have a background in food service, I know what I’m talking about, I can recognize when sushi is well-executed, but it’s not something I’d ever order on my own. Yet sushi’s kissing cousin, sashimi, is one of my favourites. I couldn’t tell you why I prefer one and not the other, but that’s the way it is. What I can tell you is that Toyota’s made a damn fine California Roll here, and you owe it to yourself to check it out if that sort of thing jives with you.


Vehicle Specs
Subcompact crossover
Engine Size
2.0L inline four-cylinder hybrid
Horsepower (at RPM)
196 hp (net)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
609/1,750 L (seats up/down)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Nathan Leipsig

Deputy Editor Nathan is a passionate enthusiast with a penchant for finding 80s and 90s European vehicles. He can typically be found messing about on his E28 5-series or on Kijiji looking for the next project. Current Toys: '23 Miata Club 6MT, '86 535i, '99 Beetle TDI 5MT