Automakers really can’t churn out SUVs fast enough to meet demand. Unhappy with compact, midsize, and large SUVs, consumers demanded smaller options, leading to the birth of the subcompact SUV. Somehow, that wasn’t enough. Automakers decided that they needed two subcompact options, which explains how the Toyota Corolla Cross came out. Sharing the name, platform, and engine as the Corolla, the Corolla Cross expands the nameplate’s reach. Does it matter that the Corolla Cross isn’t the best choice in the class? Not really. That’s missing the point of the Corolla Cross, whose sole purpose is to give consumers shopping for a Corolla a more versatile option to consider.
A Corolla On Stilts
If you squint, you can see Corolla in the Corolla Cross. Surprising, right? Larger headlights, a more prominent grille, a taller roofline, and stretched taillights are some of the more obvious elements that have changed in Toyota’s pursuit to build a bigger Corolla. Of course, Toyota also made sure the Corolla Cross looks like an SUV, so there’s rugged body cladding, roof rails, and a front bumper with a protruding chin that looks like it was taken from Hercules.
All I hear in my head when I look at the Corolla Cross is an elderly, burly boxing coach with spittle running down his lips when he yells, “tough I tell ya’.”
Look, it’s a Corolla that’s larger and raised with some SUV-like touches. Whether it works mostly depends on your definition of an SUV. What that means, is that yes, most people will think the Corolla Cross’ design works, because it’s similar enough to an SUV that it doesn’t really make a difference. If you’re asking me, the answer’s no.
Pretty Obvious Doppelganger
While the Corolla Cross’ exterior design slightly stands out from the Corolla, the interior is a mimic. The center console layout and design of the dashboard are nearly identical to the point where you might not know which vehicle you’re in. This isn’t a bad thing, as the Corolla has a straightforward design with easy-to-use controls and the Corolla Cross’ size results in a roomier cabin. There’s also a decent amount of cargo space, as the SUV has 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
The issue with borrowing an interior from the Corolla mainly falls apart because of quality. The Corolla is an affordable compact car that’s for consumers on a budget. The same thing can be said about the Corolla Cross, which is why the Corolla’s low-quality materials make sense, but it still doesn’t look or feel good. There are plenty of hard plastics and the cabin feels so drab, like a winter that just won’t end. Just like the Corolla, the Corolla Cross’ interior is incredibly loud on the highway. Conversations get drowned out by road and tire noise.
Sure Doesn’t Perform Like An SUV
Toyota took the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the Corolla and shoved it into the Corolla Cross. The engine puts out 169 horsepower, is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, and is offered with all-wheel drive. In the Corolla, the engine is a snooze-fest, bringing lethargic acceleration and dull performance. Guess what adding extra weight does to the motor? If it’s underpowered in the Corolla, the engine in the Corolla Cross is like asking a Chihuahua to act as Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer in the neighborhood’s rendition of The Santa Clause. Acceleration is painfully slow, the CVT delivers lazy fake shifts, and the buzzy noise coming from the front end of the SUV is deafening.
Ride quality is decent and having optional all-wheel drive is nice, but the Corolla Cross isn’t nearly as enjoyable to drive as the majority of its competitors. The good news is that the SUV won’t beat you up on the daily commute to work or when you’re using the SUV as a ride-sharing vehicle. Unlike a traditional SUV that will beat you up, but conquers a random mountain, the Corolla Cross is the new age of SUVs that can’t go up a mountain, but don’t kill you in regular use. That’s exactly what people want and it’s what the Corolla Cross delivers. Just don’t expect to get any joy out of it.
One thing I will say about the Corolla Cross is that it’s great at dodging deer. One night, at roughly 2 a.m., my wife, the family dog, and I were heading home from visiting family. Heading at a steady 75 mph on 95 North, I spotted a deer in a full-out sprint from the left side to the right side of the highway. After spotting the deer, I slammed on the brakes, and yanked the wheel to the right. The Corolla Cross obliged with a screech and a fair amount of roll before, but it handled my frantic inputs well. That moose test you see on YouTube is fun to watch until you have a moment where you have to put it to test in the real world. I’m happy to report that the deer was fine and so were we after we pulled over to catch our breaths.
The Toyota Corolla Cross isn’t a great subcompact SUV. It’s not even a good one. But it doesn’t need to be. Just making the darn thing has given Toyota and its faithful consumers plenty to cheer about. Let’s be honest, the C-HR is an absolute dud that no one should ever buy. The Corolla Cross is far more competitive than that option, which automatically makes it a win. For everyone that isn’t married to the idea of getting a Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Mazda, Hyundai, and Kia all have much better