2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Review

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross - Not flashy, Corolla Cross is a solid subcompact crossover that ticks all of the boxes.


Introduced at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show, the Toyota Corolla Cross is a subcompact crossover that's loosely based on Corolla underpinnings. Seating 5-passengers and offering front- or all-wheel drive, Corolla Cross is offered with gas-only and hybrid powertrains and competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, Mazda CX-30, Subaru Crosstrek and Volkswagen Taos.

Similar in size to the Corolla, Corolla Cross is slightly lifted and comes only as a 4-door wagon. Gas-only variants come in L, LE, and XLE while Hybrid models are offered in S, SE and XSE trim. Gas models get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 169 horsepower. Hybrids come with a similar 2.0-liter engine paired with an electric motor to offer a combined output of 196 horsepower. Both engines mate to a continuously variable transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

Prices for the gas model start at $25,000 and the hybrid starts at $30,000. Standard safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, intersection-collision warning with brake intervention, and adaptive cruise control. Other standard equipment includes LED headlights, heated exterior mirrors, wireless support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

Aiming for the heart of the market, Corolla Cross tries to balance fuel efficiency with performance and that's obvious with both powertrains. The gas-only model will accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in about 9.5 seconds. The hybrid model is slightly quicker at about 8.2 seconds. Either way, both powertrains are sapped by soupy continuously variable transmissions.

Thankfully, fuel economy is a strong point. Hybrid models are EPA rated as high as 42 MPG combined, while the gas-only model is no slouch with a high combined rating of 32 MPG. Both numbers are impressive for the class and somewhat offset the uninspired acceleration. Real-world economy easily matches the EPA number with one hybrid netting 44 MPG over a week-long test and a gas-only model matching the EPA 30 MPG combined rating. Gas-only models get a 12.4-gallon fuel tank and hybrid models have a 10.6-gallon tank. Both are capable of 400-plug mile highway range.

Given its mission, the Corolla Cross provides a comfortable and composed ride. It's not sporty in any way other than its subcompact size makes it easy to drive in urban environments. The suspension does an excellent job of softening hard impacts without unduly upsetting the chassis. Conversely, there's lots of lean in turns and brake drive in hard stops.

Dynamically, Corolla Cross is one of the least sporty subcompact crossovers. It's combo of rubber-bandy CVT transmission, soft suspension and numb steering make sure of that. Hybrid models are not entirely smooth in power delivery either as there are peaks and valleys as the powertrain shifts from EV to gas and combo mode.

Interior noise levels are impressively low around town, but there's also a fair amount of road and wind noise on the highway.

Corolla Cross is one of the larger subcompact crossovers in both height and width. This leads to a roomy and spacious cabin with lots of room for four adults to spread out. The overall design is modern, but materials are just mediocre and there aren't any high-end finishes. Hybrid models get a digital instrument cluster while gas-only model get traditional analog dials. Both get a large central infotainment screen. Most other controls are well placed and clearly marked.

The front seats have adequate cushioning but come up a bit short on thigh support for taller drivers. Still, they prove comfortable. The rear bench is flat, but the seatbacks are adjustable. Front-seat head and leg room are quite good, given the class. Rear seats could use a bit more leg room. Outward visibility is excellent and step in is about perfect.

From a technology standpoint Corolla Cross is packing all of the expected features. A nice one is adaptive cruise control with lane centering that works very well. Interesting to note that many vehicles in this class are eschewing navigation systems, instead offering standard support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

Cargo capacity is good for the class with 25 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold those seats flat and that number grows to more than 61 cubic feet -- though totals are somewhat smaller on all-wheel-drive and hybrid models. Though the load floor isn't quite flat, the hatch opening is large.

Bottom Line --
Corolla Cross has been selling very well for Toyota -- and for good reason. It's comfortable, economical, packs plenty of features and, most importantly, is affordable. No, it's not the most athletic or nicely finished. But it offers buyers plenty of vehicle for a fair price and comes with Toyota's reputation for long-term reliability.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.