2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Reveiw: When Cute, Fun and Affordable are a Must

The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid SUV is the teen dream hatchback, grown up: great MPG, lots of power under foot, sophisticated tech, smart design and room for friends.

Me With The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Me with the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty ReissCredit: Scotty Reiss

Corolla has grown up and we couldn’t be more proud.

I got excited about this car the moment I heard about it: The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross, an SUV version of the well-equipped, affordable, compact and fun to drive Corolla. A hatchback for a more grown-up life. 

But, while the Corolla Cross is larger and more spacious, it has the same engine as the Corolla, which left me a bit, well, underwhelmed. Didn’t its larger size warrant a larger engine, or at least, a more powerful one?

Enter the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid: its 196 HP motor delivers plenty of power to complete the all-grown-up feel. And then, it has awesome MPG and a few more premium features that add to that not-a-kid-anymore feeling. 

Related: Is The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross the new RAV4?

A Look At The Rear End Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

A look at the rear end of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Compact Car, SUV-ified

You might not even get the connection to the Corolla in the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid; it has a decidedly SUV-like ground clearance of 8”, and elongated shape with a high, sloping roofline and black cladding around the wheels and lower panels. In fact, from a distance it reminds me more of the Subaru Crosstrek than  the Corolla. 

That’s not a bad thing at all. The Crosstrek has been a favorite for its small size,  versatile interior and all wheel drive. Corolla Cross Hybrid has all that — plus, it has hybrid power, premium features and great MPG. Subaru discontinued its hybrid version of the Crosstrek, so for drivers who really value great fuel economy, the Corolla Cross is a solid choice. 

Related: 2024 Chevrolet Trax: This Could Possibly Be Your Ideal First (or Last) Car

The Front Seat Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

The front seat of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Great SUV for the City

I drove the Corolla Cross for a week around Austin, then took it up to Fort Worth for the weekend. It was a champ on the highway. My XSE model, the top of the line, had all the comforts for both daily and long-distance driving: adaptive cruise control, leatherette seats and a great JBL sound system. 

I especially appreciated how easy it was to drive and park in the city; I never felt like I would ding the doors of the car next to me or had to skip the smaller, closer spots to look for a spot that’s a bit larger. I value that. 

I also loved that hybrid power: speed limits in Texas are high, and people lean into them. You’re expected to merge onto the highway quickly and get up to speed fast. The Corolla Cross Hybrid had no problem with either. 

Related: The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Is Hip, Vivacious and Spacious

The Front End Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

The front end of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

An Upgraded Sound System? Yes, Please

I really appreciated the upgraded JBL sound system in the XSE model, an $800 option. That’s because the Corolla Cross Hybrid has a CVT, or continuously variable, transmission. These are designed to maximize your fuel efficiency by continually adjusting the gears being used, but it can be loud.

With the radio off, it can be very noticeable. I found that when it bothered me I just turned up the radio and I didn’t hear it. For me, that’s a great workaround in order to have more power and great MPG. 

Related: 5 Features That Make the Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE a Great Car for Daily Life

The Center Console In The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

The center console in the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Speaking of MPG…There’s EV Mode

Toyota estimates the Corolla Cross Hybrid to get about 42 MPG. I averaged right around 40, but feel that with some persistence and practice, I could get it to 42, perhaps more. Maybe I just was enjoying all 196 HP too much during my test drive.

Buyers may be able to extend their fuel economy using EV mode. It’s more of a novelty than a strategy; you can put it in EV mode and drive only on electric power for a mile or so. It’s probably not worth using all your electric power for a single mile, but good to have if you really need it.

I found the Corolla Cross to be most efficient in Eco mode. It’s worth noting that in some hybrids you’ll find a “B” or low gear mode; the Corolla Cross Hybrid does not have this and I wish it did. B mode delivers enhanced regenerative braking and gives the driver even more control over energy used and energy saved. 

The Two Cruise Control Buttons Took Some Figuring Out

The two cruise control buttons took some figuring out. Photo: Scotty Reiss

All the Toyota Spoils: New Technology For the Win

The Corolla Cross Hybrid features Toyota’s new multimedia system. The 8” touch screen and redesigned system is well-organized, intuitive and easy to use.  To keep things simple, you can connect your phone’s Apple CarPlay or Android Auto —wirelessly!— and use you phone’s maps and apps. Or, you can subscribe to Toyota’s navigation; it’s an extra cost but if you want it built in, you can have it. 

I also really liked the enhanced driver information screen. It offers nice feedback about the efficiency of your driving, and lets you turn on or off your driver assistance settings — lane change alert, blind spot monitor, follow distance. 

One detail I found a bit confusing was the adaptive cruise setting. There are two buttons on the right side of the steering wheel: the one on the upper right featuring the car and speedometer icon is the on/off setting; the one with the speedometer and “Mode” allows you to toggle between adaptive cruise and regular cruise control. Since this one sits right next to the resume and cancel buttons, I expected it to be the “set” button, but it’s not.

I found this to be a bit confusing until I understood that “mode” toggles between the two types of cruise control. It’s a small thing, but when you’re counting on your car slowing behind traffic on the highway and it doesn’t, don’t freak out. Just tap the mode button and it will. 

The Rear Seat Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

The rear seat of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Sporty Interior That Looks and Feels Great

This small SUV has everything you need, but not a lot that you don’t. The center console is nicely organized, though I will advise that those with larger hands may struggle to reach the drive mode selector or get a phone into or out of the phone cubby due to the location of the gear selector; it sits quite a bit forward and blocks the cubby.

However, its position leaves quite a bit of space for cups in the cupholders, which are wide open between the two front seats. There’s a narrow but deep storage cubby under the arm rest, which is also narrow— ideal for one arm but not two to rest. 

Our XSE model had leatherette seats fitted with sporty striped inserts. Overall the look and feel is more athletic than luxe.

How My Car Seats Fint In The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

How my car seats fint in the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Capable Rear Seat — But Good for Car Seats?  

The rear seat has three things back seat passengers will be grateful for: Air vents, an arm rest with cup holders and 2 USB-C ports. That’s about it for the spoilers, but will make the rear seat usable on the regular.

We installed our child passenger car seats and found the forward facing seat to fit just fine. Legroom is minimal in this car —it’s a compact, after all — so installing the seats was OK but not ideal. 

The rear facing seat, however, was more of a squeeze. It fit, but the front seat had to be pushed forward quite a bit to accommodate it. I’d put this SUV in the “driver + baby alone” or “in a pinch” categories for carrying kids in rear facing car seats; you’re better off going for a larger SUV such as the RAV4 or Highlander. 

All The Seats Folded In The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

All the seats folded in the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How Much Does the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Cost? 

This SUV is about $3,900 more than the Corolla Hybrid sedan and about $3,700 more than the gas-only front wheel drive version of the Corolla Cross. AWD accounts for about $2,000 of the difference, as do the more powerful engine and premium features that even the base model include standard. Here’s what you get at each trim level:

  • The Hybrid S comes standard with a 4 cylinder hybrid motor that produces 196 HP, all wheel drive, smart key, 2 years maintenance and 24 hour roadside assistance, black cladding, LED head lights and brake lights, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and assist, 2 USB ports, premium driver information screen, fabric seating, 8” touch screen multimedia system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rear seat reminder, Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 with lane departure alter, lane tracing assist, automatic high beam headlights, road sign assist and pedestrian detection, 17” wheels with sport tires; pricing starts at $27,970
  • SE Model adds roof rails, leather trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters, 4 total USB-C ports, wireless phone charger, safe exit assist; pricing starts at $29,290
  • XSE model adds LED Daytime running lights and LED projector headlights, 7” premium driver information screen, ambient lighting, cargo cover, leatherette seating, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, dual climate zones, rear view camera with grid lines; pricing starts at $31,065
  • Our model included a moonroof and power lift gate package for $1250, premium JBL audio for $800, adaptive headlights for $615 and roof rail cross bars for $330 
  • Our test model was priced at $37,208, including a $1335 delivery charge
The Xse Hybrid Badge

The XSE Hybrid badge. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Bottom Line: YAY

The power, the all wheel drive and 40 MPG put this compact SUV over the top for me. Personally, I prefer leatherette seating, but if you can stand cloth, the SE model may be the ticket for drivers who want a city-capable, long-haul comfortable, quiet driving compact SUV. The premium features are a nice touch and give the Corolla Cross Hybrid a more sophisticated feel.

It’s nice to see this cute little compact grow up into a smart SUV. 

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss