2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid Review: Cost and benefit


“Wait,” you’re thinking, “the Toyota Corolla is a crossover now? When did that happen?”

Keep in mind, the Corolla is still a sedan and hatchback, but in 2022 Toyota leveraged model name, synonymous with reliability and practicality, and applied it to a compact crossover that slots just below the RAV4—Toyota’s best-seller in America.

The Corolla Cross essentially replaces the Scion-devised C-HR, which was discontinued after the 2022 model year. Similar in wheelbase and overall length to the outgoing C-HR, the Corolla Cross is styled more in line with its larger RAV4 stablemate. Toyota invited us to Carlsbad, California, to drive both the new Prius Prime and a selection of Corolla Cross Hybrids on several circuits around town.

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

What’s new?

For 2023, Toyota added a hybrid system to the Corolla Cross that pairs a 150-hp, 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder (powering the front wheels) with an electric motor (driving the rear axle) to provide as-needed all-wheel drive.

Toyota knows a thing or two about hybridization, so we were not surprised to find that the electric motor’s integration into the Corolla Cross powertrain is expertly done. It’s smooth, unobtrusive, and—as you’d expect—optimized for easy around-town driving. All trim levels record a combined EPA rating of 42 mpg, up from 30 mpg for the non-hybrid AWD Corolla Cross.

Setting the Hybrid apart from its internal-combustion-only brethren is a new fascia, which introduces a slot above the Toyota emblem and pushes the grille a bit lower. The design language is fundamentally the same, and onlookers may easily miss the difference.

Specs: 2023 Toyota 2023 Corolla Cross Hybrid

• Price: $29,305/31,925 base/as-tested
• Powertrain: 2.0-liter inline-four; permanent-magnet synchronous motor
• Total Output: 196 hp
• Layout: All-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger subcompact crossover
• Weight: 3395 lbs
• EPA Fuel Economy: 45/38/42 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
• 0–60 mph: 8.0 seconds
• Competition: Kia Sportage Hybrid, Mazda CX-30, Honda HR-V, Buick Encore GX, Chevrolet Trailblazer

2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid rear three quarter

What it does well

The Corolla Cross Hybrid does a remarkable job of driving, well, like a competent commuter car. It hides its electrified powertrain and operates without fuss or surprises. 196 hp is sufficient for a compact crossover, but acceleration is not what we’d call exciting here. It certainly doesn’t have the torquey pull of its plug-in cousin, the Prius Prime. Off-the-line acceleration is boosted by the motor driving the rear wheels, so the engine doesn’t have to surge and make a ruckus. Higher-spec variants use the same powerplant, but the gauge panel highlights what the engine and motor are doing in a more flashy way. In the SE model that we spent the most time testing, the tachometer will simply spin down to zero to let the driver know that the engine is off and the car is operating in pre-electric mode. Inside, there’s a bit more room than in the hatch version of the Corolla, with extra rear-seat legroom and headroom.

Changes we’d make

Our only real complaint is that the hybrid option adds between $3000 and $5000 when compared with a non-hybrid Corolla Cross. That’s a significant portion of the price tag on a $30,000 car, one that not everyone will want to stomach. That said, the added power, efficiency, smoothness, and likely resale value may be worth the cost.

The hybrid powertrain does reduce one aspect of interior volume. While the front-drive models offer 24 cubic feet behind the second row of seats, both the AWD gas and hybrid models offer 21.5 cubic feet; the rear motor and batteries (or in the gas car’s case, the driveshaft) have to go somewhere.

Another quibble: The steering is very light, particularly so compared with the Prius Prime. Of course, nobody is buying a Corolla Cross for its amazing steering feel and road feedback, and the drivers will adapt to it quickly, but those who prioritize driving dynamics in this class may prefer the Mazda CX-30.

Who’s it for?

If you prefer a slightly higher seating position in your fuel-sipping five-seater, the Corolla Cross Hybrid should be on your list. Franky, it’s noticeably more refined, more powerful, and more efficient than its internal-combustion-only counterpart. And with how long Toyota hybrids last, it’s feasible to drive it long enough that the fuel savings will eclipse the cost premium over the gas version. The Corolla Cross Hybrid hit dealers this summer, and we expect it to be fast seller.

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