Why start your driving life in a sedan when you need an SUV?
We just went through this exercise in our house: Our daughter needed an SUV with all wheel drive for her sophomore year, and both those details—SUV and AWD— bump up the price from a same-sized and similarly equipped sedan. Call it the SUV penalty, one that the Toyota Corolla Cross, priced from $22,000, is taking on.
For our daughter these things were a need, not a want: AWD for the hilly, wintry roads in Colorado and an SUV with higher ground clearance so she’s not stuck behind snow mounds left by early morning plowing. And, SUVs are simply more comfortable for long drives, lots of errands and moving in and out of dorms and college apartments.
Shopping for an SUV on a budget can be frustrating, even though SUVs have become the most popular type of car on the road. That leaves a lot of families making compromises either on the vehicle or the budget, and neither is a good option.
Toyota saw this conundrum as an opportunity, and added SUV function and capability to its very popular sedan. For 2022, the answer to the budget SUV question has a very familiar ring: Corolla.
Toyota Corolla Cross: The Best of Corolla and the Best of an SUV
With the uptick in SUV popularity, extending the popular Corolla nameplate into the compact SUV space is a natural. The Corolla Cross is smaller than the RAV4 but bigger than the C-HR, and all models are available in all wheel drive (the C-HR does not have an AWD option).
The Corolla Cross will look familiar to Corolla fans; inside it has the same comfortable interior and sensible features that we appreciate in this car. In the base L model buyers will find comfortable cloth covered seats and the basics: a media touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, steering wheel controls and Toyota Safety Sense driver assist and safety features. Upgrade to XE and some nice features are added, including a smart key, wireless phone charge pad and a USB-C power port. And at the XLE level the Corolla Cross takes on more luxury features, including heated leatherette seats. What none of the models have is built-in navigation (though there is a map button), but with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you’re set.
On the outside, the Corolla Cross has a familiar face, defined by a mesh grille and slim LED headlights. However, its look is sporty and modern. From to black cladding that covers all its lower quarters (protecting it from rocks or other road hazards), to the 8” ground clearance, arrow-like body accents for a bit of flair and some elegant paint choices, the Corolla Cross has the feeling of an all new SUV, not simply a sedan that’s been beefed up.
Second Row Passenger Comforts Are Not Forgotten
One of the bragging rights in the Toyota Corolla Cross, a consideration that will make this SUV a real option for city families, is a relatively spacious and functional back seat. It’s roomy enough for taller passengers and there’s plenty of head room. And, with climate vents, USB ports and in the XLE edition, a fold-down arm rest with cup holders, passengers won’t feel as if they were left out.
And not having to beg someone in the front seat to plug your phone into the USB port—or being able to let the kids plug in their own devices—is a great thing.
So Efficient! Lots of Cargo Space and Great MPG
The Corolla Cross has plenty of cargo space. Plenty. About 25 cubic feet behind the rear seats (this is adjusted up or down slightly for AWD models and by the presence of a moonroof). Lower the rear seats and that number jumps to about 66 cubic feet (again, impacted slightly by AWD or a moonroof).
The Corolla Cross is also rated for more than 30 MPG on average; it’s expected to get about 33 MPG combined in the front wheel drive model and about 32 MPG in AWD models. What a nice improvement over so many SUVs on the road, and even many sedans.
Taking the Corolla Cross Out on the Road
City driving is much the point of the Corolla Cross. Think, commuting in Los Angeles, family outings in Brooklyn or getting around Boston in all its weather, glorious and not. We took the Corolla Cross around Austin for a day, sitting in traffic, hitting the highway and finally, finding some of the more sweeping roads and views. The Corolla Cross was a natural everywhere: it was easy to park when we needed to back it into a parking spot on South Congress Avenue (the parking rule). It was easy to slide into narrow parking spots and to squeeze in next to larger vehicles at the hotel’s valet.
On city streets the Corolla Cross’s 169 horsepower and 150 torque—it has the most HP versus its competitors at the base model level—gave us plenty of power (it carries the same engine as the Corolla XSE and Corolla Hatchback). We were able to get up to speed and merge in to fast Texas traffic (speed limits on city highways are 70 MPH) without feeling afraid. Fully loaded with people and luggage, I might have taken a bit more caution when merging, but sailing along on the highway or even in city traffic it should be fine.
Three Corolla Cross Choices: Good, Better and Best, All With Towing and AWD
And a starting price that is pretty good: about $22,000 (about $23,300 with AWD). The Corolla Cross is about $2,000 more than the same trim in the sedan, but it’s sized and in the same price range as base model versions of the Subaru Cross Trek, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V and Nissan Kicks.
With three trim levels, this is what the Toyota Corolla Cross offers:
- Base L edition includes Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (adaptive cruise control, forward crash mitigation, lane departure alert and assist, automatic high beam headlights and road sign assist), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, rear climate vents, 2 USB ports, 17” wheels, LED headlights, rear spoiler, 60/40 split second row, steering wheel controls, 7” media touch screen and a standard key with remote lock and unlock, starts at $22,195
- LE edition adds 8” media screen, wireless phone charge pad, blind spot monitor, roof rails, smart key, 3 USB ports (one in front, two in the rear), starts at $24,545
- XLE edition adds 18” wheels, 7” driver information screen, Softex leatherette seats, heated front seats, power drivers seat, front and rear park assist, rear seat folding arm rest with cup holders and cargo cover, starts at $26,345
- Add a moonroof (LE and XLE) $950
- Add the power liftgate and moonroof package (XLE) $1,250
- Add a premium JBL sound system, $1,465
- Add all wheel drive, $1,300
- The Toyota Corolla Cross has a tow capacity of 1,500 lbs. and no tow package is needed
What We loved
- The look and style of the Corolla Cross; it’s petite and fresh
- Toyota’s Softex leatherette seating; it’s clean, comfortable and comes in light colors!
- The easy driveability of this SUV
- Lots of cargo space and easily folding rear seats
- The standard features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa
- Our favorite of the 7 color choices: Celestite Gray Metallic, though the Cypress green is pretty stunning
- The price: even nicely loaded it falls under $29,000
What You Need to Know
- All wheel drive is available on all Corolla Cross models
- Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4
- Navigation is not an option; buyers will need to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to get maps and turn by turn navigation
- A spare tire is included
- Two lower anchors for each rear outboard seat
- 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty
- 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
- Complimentary scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance for 2 years/25,000 miles
The Toyota Corolla Cross will get a lot of attention for carrying the Corolla name. Starting in October you’ll probably start to see them on the road. And, with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and SUVs with capability, you might find it’s a great option for your first, or next SUV. One that won’t break the budget just to get what you need in a car.
What We Listened to in the Toyota Corolla Cross
Disclosure: I was Toyota’s guest for this test drive but all opinions are my own.