2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Overview
Latest model brings needed improvements
On paper, the Toyota Corolla Cross is the kind of car that should be a slam-dunk success. It starts with the winning formula of the Corolla compact sedan: affordability, tons of features, great reliability — you know, the type of stuff that has made the Corolla the bestselling vehicle of all time? Then, it simply oversizes the package into which all of these perks are contained. Given the market’s current obsession with SUVs and crossovers, it seems impossible to mess it up.
Related: Explore the Toyota SUV lineup
The Corolla Cross problem
In practice, it hasn’t panned out that way. Through 2022, Toyota sold just 56,666 examples of the Corolla Cross. While those might be decent figures for a low-volume automaker, it takes Toyota just two months to beat that number with its RAV4 SUV.
Besides having more space for passengers and cargo, which SUV shoppers typically look for, the RAV4 is quicker, capable of towing more than 1,500 pounds, and has more premium features that seem to justify the price tag. And that price is important. It’s less than a $5,000 jump from the Corolla Cross to the RAV4, which might not seem like a big deal when divided into 84 monthly payments, as so many Americans are currently doing.
It goes the other way, too. If the Corolla Cross is seriously on your shopping list, then you’re probably on a budget and don’t need too much room. And in that case, there’s a good argument for simply buying the regular Corolla sedan. After all, you get all of the same features as the Corolla Cross for $1,500 less, plus significantly better fuel economy, a more enjoyable ride, and hardly any less practicality unless you regularly need to load tall objects in the trunk.
The path forward is hybrid
Toyota seems aware of the Corolla Cross problem because just one year after its launch, the automaker has already given the new crossover a few upgrades, the most important of which is the inclusion of the hybrid powertrain that was already available on the sedan.
This setup includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and no fewer than three electric motors, all sending power to the front wheels. Putting any powertrain into a bigger, heavier model is bound to be less efficient, and that’s still the case here — but not by as much as you’d expect. The hybrid Corolla Cross gets an EPA-estimated 45 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which is not quite up to the standard of the sedan’s 50/43 mpg but nonetheless a major upgrade over the best you could get out of the 2022 gas-only model (31/33 mpg).
The importance of this can’t be understated. If you were on the fence between the Corolla and Corolla Cross, that hybrid efficiency might have been the deciding factor. Now that the Corolla Cross is also available with an electrified powertrain, it has a lot more appeal.
The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross also benefits from an upgraded infotainment unit. The previously optional 8-inch touch-screen display is now standard across the board, and it comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, as well as a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. Optional features include wireless device charging, a JBL premium sound system, and rear USB charging ports. On the Corolla Cross LX, you get a 7-inch driver information display on top of all that.
Again, this is parity with the Corolla sedan, and more importantly, with the RAV4, whose infotainment setup is very much the same except for the pricier option of a 10.25-inch touch screen. In fact, the Corolla lineup gets a newer version of the Toyota Safety Sense suite compared to the RAV4, though you may find the differences minor on the road.
The bottom line
On paper, the Corolla Cross should be appealing because it has virtually all the same features as vehicles it’s likely to compete with, but in practice, that’s exactly what makes it difficult to choose a Corolla Cross over even Toyota’s own other products. Buyers in this segment are budget-conscious, and can save a little money by getting something almost just like the Corolla Cross by simply buying the Corolla. Buyers in the market for an SUV may also want more space, and could see themselves spending a little extra for a much roomier RAV4.
That said, the less expensive a car, the more price segmentation matters, and it’s possible that Toyota believes the Corolla Cross is right where it needs to be. After all, 2022 was only its first full sales year, so it’s not realistic to expect the small crossover to compete with much more established nameplates like the RAV4 and the Corolla, even if it borrows its name from the latter. And now that it’s got the hybrid powertrain, the Corolla Cross is one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs you can buy. That’s got to count for something.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.