When Toyota launched the Corolla Cross for 2022, it was missing one key Toyota feature. What is a Toyota without a hybrid, after all? Aside from two sports car models and a couple of trucks that are as old as hybrid drive itself, they all offer hybrid systems.
For 2024, Toyota has remedied that. The Toyota Corolla Cross is now available as a hybrid. And it’s much better for it.
In short: Toyota has taken its popular Corolla Cross and added a hybrid powertrain. With no sacrifices to cargo or cabin space, this makes Toyota’s smallest crossover smoother, quicker, and much more fuel efficient.
- Engine 2.0L four-cylinder with hybrid electric assist
- HP 196
- MPG 45/38/42
- Cargo 21.5, 61.8 with seats folded
- Towing 1,500 lbs.
- Solid fuel economy
- Quieter highway drive
- Easier highway merging
- No sacrifice to cargo space
- Convenient exterior size
- Price hike versus gas
- Still not quiet at speed
- Lackluster dashboard
- Looks just like the gas
Small Outside, Big Inside
I liked the Corolla Cross when I first drove it. About the size of a second-generation RAV4, it was one thing compact crossovers aren’t anymore: Compact.
Compact crossovers (like almost every segment) have grown so much over the years that they started to make less sense in the market. Almost as pricey as a larger model but with less power, similar fuel economy, and less space.
Corolla Cross fixed that. It was smaller outside but not much smaller inside. Unfortunately, it was saddled with Toyota’s anemic 2.0L four-cylinder.
The same engine offered in the Corolla sedan and hatch, it felt much weaker than its power figures suggested. And that was before it was installed in the heavier AWD Cross.
Now, like its sedan sibling, the Corolla Cross is offered as a hybrid, and the experience is much better for it.
Corolla Cross Hybrid System Borrowed From Prius
Instead of the hybrid system offered in the Corolla, Toyota has recognized that this bigger vehicle needs a bigger system. Plus it has a brand new fifth-generation hybrid system in the parts bin, the one that launched in the 2023 Prius. So, that’s the one that got the nod here.
The 2.0L four used here makes 150 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque all by itself — almost as much power as the gas Corolla Cross.
Then there’s the electric motor, which adds 111 horses of its own, bringing total power output to 196 horsepower. No, that math doesn’t work, but that’s because the power peaks don’t arrive at the same time.
This is a good thing, because power peaks at different speeds and gear ratios give you more power more of the time. The Hybrid makes figures close to its max at more speeds than a gas engine alone can.
Toyota says it cuts the 0-60 miles per hour time by a couple of seconds. Eight seconds to hit highway speeds isn’t fast by modern standards, but it is a heck of a lot better than the gas model.
More importantly, the Corolla Cross Hybrid feels much quicker than the gas model most of the time. More torque and more power more often means more acceleration.
More Power About More Than Going Quickly
Acceleration is about more than going fast and the need for speed. Acceleration makes driving up mountain roads less harrowing. It makes two-lane road passing safer. It makes highway merges and lane changes less stressful.
Even if you never plan on using the power, there are two big benefits of the hybrid drive system.
The first is that the driveline is smoother. This isn’t a quiet crossover, with road and wind noise aplenty in the cabin. In the gas model, the 2.0L engine was constantly adding to that noise. A CVT and lack of power meant the engine was spinning at high RPMs much of the time in average driving. The sounds were not great.
With hybrid electric boost, the engine spends more time not running in the first place. At a stop, in low-speed coasting, and plenty of other situations, the gas engine is just off.
At higher speeds, lower throttle openings accomplish the same forward progress. The Cross Hybrid doesn’t need to rev to the moon to get up that next rise, and it makes the entire driving experience more pleasant.
Big Increases in Economy and Range
The second is fuel economy.
A 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross with a gas engine and AWD has an EPA estimated figure of 30 mpg on the combined cycle. That’s 29 city, 32 highway. A front-drive model was only slightly better at 32 combined. In my experience with the Corolla Cross, real-world figures were lower, largely because of that lack of power. More time on the accelerator kills economy.
The fuel economy estimate for the Corolla Cross Hybrid is 42 combined. 45 city, 38 highway. That’s a massive improvement. Crucially, it seems to be able to easily match that window sticker number.
A quick glance at the dashboard of half a dozen or so of the Corolla Cross Hybrids in Carlsbad, Calif., for our drive backed that up. I saw high 40s on most and even 50s on one in vehicles that had economy-sucking roof rack cross bars installed — and heavy-footed journalists driving them.
Better yet, the range is higher too. With a 10.6-gallon tank, about 2 gallons smaller than the gas model, the Corolla Cross still offers much more distance between fill-ups.
My prior time in the gas Cross saw me filling the tank every 200 miles. That’s when the gauge would read low. Half a tank in the Hybrid showed more than 300 miles of range remaining. An important difference is when the Corolla Cross is doing family road trips or heading to rural areas for weekend camping and hiking.
Cargo Space Unaffected by Electrification
Speaking of hauling and camping, the Corolla Cross is pretty good at that, too. Despite the hybrid driveline, cargo capacity is unchanged from the gas model. The Corolla Cross Hybrid has 21.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place and 61.8 with them folded.
This is a wide and deep cargo space. It stays almost perfectly flat from the tailgate to the edge of the folded seatbacks, and the load height is one that should work for most customers.
Unusually in this segment, the Corolla Cross Hybrid comes with a tow rating. Up to 1,500 pounds of trailer isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot better than nothing. And it is certainly enough to be handy for homeowners or anyone with an ATV or a few motorcycles to move around.
Cabin Carries Over From Gas
On the inside, nearly everything is standard Corolla Cross, so there are some good things going on and some that could use improvement.
The dashboard is one of the latter. The wide expanse of plastic is styled to resemble the Corolla sedan and hatch. That’s not a source you should look to for stylistic merit. Or even for a pleasant place to stare blankly.
Fortunately, you can instead look a little higher at the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s touchscreen display. The 8.0-inch screen runs Toyta’s latest multimedia interface. The system is slick and responsive.
I’ve had nothing but nice things to say about it since the system debuted in the 2022 Toyota Tundra pickup. Excellent natural voice response and intuitive commands make it easier to ask the Cross to do something than it is to press a button.
Even better, the climate control settings are still real buttons because plenty of us prefer them. And the heated seat controls are toggle switches so they stay on even when you power down the vehicle for the night.
The cabin itself is also one of the good things. Unlike the standard Corolla, the Corolla Cross has loads of headroom and knee room in both the front and rear seat. This is a spacious vehicle considering its footprint. Some more adjustment range in the tilt and telescopic steering wheel would be nice to help take advantage of the extra space. Irritatingly, this is an area where Toyota does not do well.
Three Grades, Loaded With Active Safety Assists
Corolla Cross Hybrid starts with the S grade. S is Toyota’s more sporty alternative to its L grade trims. S, SE, XSE, versus L, LE, XLE. The changes are mostly cosmetic, including a new grille and different wheels.
Toyota says that S versions have a more sport-tuned suspension, too, though the differences are minor.
From a starting price of $27,970, the Corolla Cross Hybrid comes loaded with active safety features. Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 has collision avoidance systems, lane departure alerts, radar cruise, and road sign assist.
New this year, TSS 3.0 adds Emergency Driving Stop. This can detect a nonresponsive driver and bring the vehicle to a halt. It doesn’t include the low-speed hands-off Traffic Jam Assist included in Prius Prime’s Safety Sense 3.0.
S gets 17-inch alloys as well as LED lights and smart key entry. The price is a bit of a jump over a gas L with AWD, though, about $3,610. That’s significant in this price-sensitive category. The difference shrinks to about $2,600 with XSE, but that is still not small potatoes.
SE adds tinted rear glass, roof rails, and it comes with paddle shifters. It also includes blind spot alerts as well as rear cross-traffic safety alerts.
At the top of the line is the XSE model. It has 18-inch wheels standard it also comes with premium LED front lamps, tail, and fog lamps. XSE comes with Softex faux-leather seats and adds heating for both fronts and a power-adjust driver seat.
Toyota will offer several packages including adaptive headlights and JBL audio on XSE and JBL Audio on SE. The top two trims will also offer the option of a black roof for a two-tone look.
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review: Conclusions
Doing what it does best, Toyota has transformed the competent if dull Corolla Cross into something much better. Not by being flashy — aside from that paint — but by adding solid, proven engineering solutions. Lots of space, a comfortable if noisy ride, and a class-exclusive hybrid drive.
Expect the 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid in dealers this summer.
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