Test Drive: 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid SE AWD
Class: Subcompact Crossover
Color: Blue Crush Metallic
Miles driven: 171
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B-|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||B-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||196-horsepower 2.0-liter|
|Engine Type||4-cylinder hybrid|
Observed fuel economy: 35.8 mpg
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 45/38/42 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Snow Performance: N/A
Base price: $29,290 (not including $1335 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Moonroof Package ($1740)
Price as tested: $32,365
The great: Good power, practical design, great fuel economy
The good: Roomy front-row seating, simple controls
The not so good: Limited 2nd-row space, indifferent cabin materials
Mitsubishi made a mistake. When the Japanese carmaker introduced a new subcompact crossover to its U.S. lineup in 2018—a lineup which already included a subcompact crossover—it named it Eclipse Cross, borrowing the name of a discontinued sporty coupe and convertible not especially well loved in its later years, and not known for reliability.
Using the same naming convention, Toyota took at different tack in 2022 when the company rolled out a new North American-market subcompact crossover of its own. For its new trucklet, Toyota borrowed the name of one of its longest-running, best-loved, and most-understood-to-be-reliable models: Corolla. Knowing only the name, most Consumers likely make a handful of assumptions about the Corolla Cross, all of which are likely positive. That’s good marketing.
As noted above, the Corolla Cross was new for ’22, and seemed to be on the path for hot-seller status, were it not for a supply-chain crisis which affected Toyota especially. None the less, Toyota continued its rollout plan—despite profound inventory issues—and introduced a hybrid version of the ‘Cross for 2023.
Interestingly, non-hybrid and hybrid versions of the Corolla Cross are given completely separate trim-level designations. Non-hybrid variants ascent through L (starting around $25,000), LE ($27,000), and XLE ($29,000) trims, while hybrid ‘Crosses come in S ($30,000), SE ($31,000), and XSE ($33,000) variations.
All standard ‘Crosses are powered by a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a CVT automatic transmission, and are available with front- or AWD drive. Hybrid models are powered by a similar 2.0-liter engine that is augmented by three electric motors. Hybrids, as noted above, come only with AWD and also make use of a CVT automatic.
Because the Corolla Cross better fits American-market expectations of what a small crossover should look and act like, Toyota’s similar-size but racier-looking CH-R crossover has been discontinued; it was dropped after the 2022 model year. The CH-R was never offered in the U.S. with AWD.
Consumer Guide recently spent a week in a 2023 Corolla Cross SE in Blue Crush Metallic. Though our test car was technically a pre-production unit, all that appeared unsorted was pricing. Our price numbers shared above are estimates. All told, the Corolla Cross seen here came to $32,365 including Moonroof Package (which includes JBL premium audio) and destination charge.
It is perhaps in the cabin where the Corolla Cross disappoints the most, though we have no major complaints. The cabin itself is decently appointed, and looks OK for a $32,000 vehicle. We would note though, that for similar or less money, the cabins of similar-size vehicles, including the redesigned Chevrolet Trax and the recently freshened Subaru Crosstrek come across as more premium. That said, workmanship appears top notch.
Functionally, we found the primary controls easy to locate and simple to use, and touchscreen operation generally seamless, though the system was often slow to respond to touchscreen inputs. The instrument panel is comprised of real gauges—not a digital facsimile—and is clean and easy to read in all light conditions. The optional JBL audio system is a nice touch at this price point, and provides better-than-average playback.
Occupants of all sizes will find the ‘Cross’s front-row seating spacious, and entering and exiting the car is easy. The second row, however, is less accommodating, and best reserved for smaller adults and children.
On the move the Corolla Cross Hybrid shines. Though no rocket, there’s plenty of power at all speeds, and sufficient low-end muscle to make easy work of daily commuting chores. The same cannot be said of the standard Corolla Cross, which wants for power even in routine driving.
They hybrid systems is especially refined, and its operation is rarely noticed by drivers not looking for evidence of its existence. Likewise, the engine stop/start system is smooth and unobtrusive. In routine driving with a bias towards urban use, our test Corolla Cross Hybrid returned 35.8 mpg. That’s less than the EPA combined fuel-economy estimate, but still excellent given the power and performance on tap.
Handling is another strong Corolla Cross attribute. Toyota’s little crossover is generally fun to drive, turning with limited and well-controlled lean, and serving up better-than-average steering feel. The brakes, too, feel solid and strong.
Given the relatively modest price bump—remember that hybrids come standard with AWD—we see no reason not to go hybrid if purchasing a Corolla Cross. The added power, improved fuel economy, and likely better resale value easily justify the upgrade. As for the Corolla Cross itself, it’s a little light on frills, and the cabin is a little spartan, but the general commuting experience is refined and surprise free, and there’s just enough ride-and-handling sportiness to keep things interesting. There’s a reason that Corolla is part of the Corolla Cross name, and Toyota loyalists won’t be disappointed by making the association.
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid SE Gallery
Click below for enlarged images