REVIEW | The Toyota Corolla Cross is a frugal road trip companion
One of the most agreeable perks of this job is being able to wrangle a test car for the holiday season.
Previously I have enjoyed products from the esteemed likes of Honda, Volkswagen and Audi but this Christmas past I found myself scribbling my old John Hancock on a loan agreement for a box-fresh (there was literally around 1,000km on the odometer) Toyota Corolla Cross — a car I had sampled briefly during its Ben-Hur sized media launch at the beginning of November. It arrived at our offices wearing a glossy coat of Lunar Black paint and was, quite frankly, just what I needed for my annual pilgrimage to the Western Cape.
You see, dear readers, I own a mountain bike that would give a small dual sport motorcycle a run for its money in the size department: a behemoth of a thing that would only fit inside my now-sold Fiat 500 1.2 Pop if I first stripped it down to its individual components. Even after doing that there would be precious little room left for my suitcase or laptop bag. Not so in the Corolla Cross.
After folding down the rear seat backs I was able to “Tetris” my trusty iron horse (with its rear wheel still attached, I’ll have you know) and other assorted paraphernalia, including five generously proportioned Persian carpets, into the back of this Toyota with ease.
Complementing this impressive appetite for luggage is a large, low-lipped tailgate aperture and a conventional roofline that, unlike the steeply raked one native to the Audi Q3 Sportback I commandeered in late 2020, doesn’t impede on taller items of luggage. Or spindly bicycle handlebars for that matter.
With loading duties out of the way it was time to hit the road and enjoy another standout feature of the new Corolla Cross — fuel economy.
My tester happened to be the flagship hybrid model that comes equipped with effectively the same powertrain as you get in the fourth-generation Prius. This means when you pop the bonnet you’ll be met by a 53kW/163Nm electric motor mated to a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine culminating in a total system output of 90kW. Power is sent to the front wheels via a relatively drone-prone CVT gearbox and Toyota claims an official combined fuel consumption figure of 4.3l/100km. On the trek down the N1 with a light right foot and a heavy headwind that blew from Colesberg onwards, I managed 5.7l/100km.
This, I think you will concur, is pretty respectable for a fairly large (4,460mm in length) and fairly hefty (1,430kg in hybrid specification) crossover packed to the proverbial max. However, once I reached the Mother City and stop-start driving conditions let me make the most of the car’s electric motor and battery pack it dropped to a steady 5.5l/100km: a figure worth celebrating with the price of fuel hovering around the R20 mark.
The flipside of this pleasing frugality is, to put it nicely, somewhat laidback performance that certainly won’t inspire you to set any coast-to-coast driving records any time soon. Sure, you will never have a problem keeping up with everyday urban traffic, however out on the open road this Toyota has a tendency to feel a bit lazy with overtaking manoeuvres (think thrusting past long pantechnicon trucks), calling for a certain degree of planning and forethought. Toyota claims this model of Corolla Cross will hit 170km/h when suitably provoked but to be honest I never felt inclined to go beyond 140km/h. It’s just not that kind of vehicle. Instead it encourages you to relax, scoot on over to the middle lane and enjoy the journey.
Enjoy it you will as the cabin is awash with all manner of standard niceties, including a large high-resolution touchscreen infotainment system that syncs with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which allows you to use your preferred smartphone navigation App. Also on offer are three USB ports (one in the front, two in the back), automatic wipers and LED headlamps, dual-zone climate control plus a comprehensive onboard computer that broadcasts all manner of useful driving and hybrid system data.
The multifunction steering wheel and seats are all trimmed in leather and the latter offer a decent blend of support and comfort. Although having said this, I do think the chairs doing duty in both the Prius and Corolla Sedan I tested last year do perhaps offer a more cushioning on longer jaunts.
Topped off with Toyota’s proven TNGA-C architecture that here marries reasonably crisp handling (for a family crossover) with a bump-absorbent ride, the eye-catching Corolla Cross Hybrid XR proved an immensely capable steer: a spacious load-lugger that’s well built, good to drive and refreshingly cheap to run if you pilot it right.
Most of all, priced just under R450k for the range-topping model you see here, it sure does offer a hell of a lot of machine for the money: one that makes you question why you’d spend extra for its hatch or sedan siblings.
TOYOTA COROLLA CROSS 1.8 XR CVT HYBRID:
ODOMETER ON DELIVERY: +-1,000km
CURRENT ODOMETER: 5,537km
AVERAGE CONSUMPTION: 5.6l/100km