April 18, 2024
Wheels

Corolla Cross takes a step up with addition of hybrid power

Crossover interior space is a plus, performance efficiency is even better

The 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross ups efficiency, space with addition of hybrid power.

My first experience with the Toyota Corolla Cross in 2022 was a bit perplexing. Here was a compact crossover that seemingly was flying in the face of trends by actually being compact and, as a Toyota, lacking a hybrid option. It was a good-looking vehicle but it felt a little behind the times in terms of options.

It has been said no industry changes as fast as the auto industry and the 2024 Corolla Cross reflects Toyota’s ability to pivot quickly and deliver a darn good vehicle. I was not a fan of the previous model’s weak 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and the new hybrid version has changed my mind.

Hybrid pivot

One thing the auto manufacturers have learned is that not all hybrid systems are created equal and certainly not capable of just being dropped into any vehicle in the lineup. Toyota pivots from the Corolla sedan hybrid powerplant and jumps to the Prius powerplant for the heavier Corolla Cross. This makes all the difference in the driving experience.

Part of the satisfaction of buying a hybrid is less fuel consumption and the Corolla Cross delivers. The fuel economy estimate for the Corolla Cross Hybrid is 45 city, 38 highway, and 42 combined, which is a giant step forward over the gas-only Corolla.

With a 10.6-gallon tank, about 2 gallons smaller than the gas model, the Corolla Cross still delivers more miles on the road between visits to the gas station. That is called an efficient trade-off.

The 2.0-L four-cylinder engine offers up to 150 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, which is close to the gas Corolla Cross – and we still have not kicked in the hybrid-electric component to the equation. Once the electric motors do their thing, the Corolla Cross can give you 196 horsepower and a lot more torque/acceleration.

Interior

My Corolla Cross tester offers surprising headroom and kneeroom in both the front and rear rows. When you look at the exterior footprint, the cabin feels a heck of a lot bigger once you settle in. I found the seats to be accommodating and the availability of seat heaters adds to the comfort. Road and engine noise is a bit loud, though the hybrid ratchets that back a bit.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid has 21.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in place and 61.8 with the seats folded flat. That flat position is nice as it runs from the front row seatbacks all the way to the edge of the rear tailgate. Everyone will appreciate the low loading height in back for those heavier items.

My least favorite item in the cabin has to be the expansive plastic landscape that runs from both A-pillars. Luckily, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s 8-inch touchscreen display breaks it up a bit and, even better, it is running a Toyota multimedia interface that I found to be intuitive and lightning fast.

The abundance of plastic in the cabin, and a lack of sound-deadening materials, may be a slight drawback for the Cross Hybrid, but it is the only way Toyota can offer the entry-level price below $30K. It doesn’t feel “cheap” in the cabin, but there are no punches pulled here as Corolla has always made a point of being economical.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid comes loaded with active safety features, with the newest being the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 with collision avoidance, lane departure alerts, radar cruise, and road sign assistance.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 also adds an Emergency Driving Stop feature, which can detect a nonresponsive driver and bring the vehicle to a stop. This was not something I could muster the nerve to test out, but I’ve seen the video and it’s impressive.

Exterior

The Corolla is a sharp-looking sedan, and the Cross doesn’t lose any flair with the addition of the larger cabin. Up front you get a bold grille stretching almost the entire width of the fascia and sleek LED headlights wrapped around the corners to give it a distinctive and stylish appearance.

The hybrid variant boasts unique badges and subtle aerodynamic enhancements to improve fuel efficiency. Standard rims start at 17 inches, my tester featured 18-inch upgrades that gave the Cross a bit more attitude. The top-end XSE and middle-level SE offer an optional black roof (if you like the trendy two-tone look).

The body lines flow seamlessly, creating an aerodynamic profile that not only enhances the vehicle’s aesthetic appeal but also contributes to its overall hybrid fuel efficiency ratings. Not every hybrid manages both aspects equally.

Final Thoughts

Overall, mostly because of the hybrid torque numbers, the Corolla Cross Hybrid will feel quicker than the gas-powered sedan. Add in the total fuel efficiency and you have a winning hybrid crossover. This makes the compact Cross a compelling choice for consumers who are willing to compromise a bit on performance to save cash on fuel at the pump.

A true compact vehicle featuring a starting price of $27,970, the Corolla Cross is roomy and accommodating for passengers. A bit loud in the cabin and a bit of plastic are the most obvious drawbacks, but then again, compromise is often essential for success.

John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and new vehicles.