2022 Toyota Corolla Cross: A Famous Name Takes On The Crossover Game
Toyota’s compact RAV4 has been the best selling non-pickup in America since 2016, but since then even-smaller crossover SUVs have proliferated like cherry blossoms in spring. Toyota launched its own diminutive C-HR crossover that very year, but in the face of stiff competition from entrants like the Honda HR-V and Kia Seltos, the automaker is adding a new small crossover: the 2022 Corolla Cross.
The Corolla Cross, which debuted in Asia last year, will slot in above the C-HR but beneath the RAV4. While it’s based on the same platform as the C-HR, it’s distinctly closer in concept to its bigger brother.
Even though car buyers have been shifting to SUVs for years, says Ed Kim, an analyst for industry research firm AutoPacific, that change has come slowly to compact cars, which tend to be at the most price-sensitive end of the car market. “Now we’re seeing a lot more small, entry-level crossovers that overlap with traditional compact sedans on price. It’s vital for Toyota to have something very strong in that space.”
Toyota has offered the C-HR for years, Kim says, but it’s much more of a niche product. It offers distinctive coupe styling, but sacrifices back seat and cargo space for its looks. “It also doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, so it’s a little out of step with the market leaders among small crossovers,” Kim adds. Tellingly, in 2020 Toyota sold ten RAV4s for every C-HR according to data from Motor Intelligence.
The Corolla Cross takes a much more traditional approach. “It’s styled like a smaller RAV4, so it looks very familiar, and being more upright it’s likely to have the room and feel that people expect from an SUV,” Kim says.
Corolla Plus Cross
In a way, the new SUV is a return to form for Toyota. The original 1996 RAV4, which shared some parts with the then-current Corolla, was the very first modern crossover SUV. At 175.6 inches long, it’s almost a foot longer than the 1990s RAV4, but it’s proportions are similar, and it’s aimed at bringing the same kind of utility to the same sorts of value-conscious buyers.
Among modern competitors, it’s closest in size to the Jeep Compass, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Kia Sportage, and the brand-new 2022 Volkswagen Taos.
The Corolla Cross rides the same platform as the C-HR, the Lexus UX and the Corolla sedan and hatchback, but it’s upright body is about three inches taller and 2.1 inches higher off the ground than any of its siblings. It’s unlikely to ever outperform a Ford Bronco Sport on the trail, but its 8.1 inches of ground clearance give it plausible light off-roading ability.
It’ll be offered with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and all versions will be powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). That same combination is shared with the sportier S-trim Corollas and the Lexus UX 200, both of which are a bit slower than some of their competitors but just fine for everyday motoring. The Corolla Cross gets a 1,500-pound tow rating, which is just enough for a tiny Kayak trailer.
It’s also a frugal combo, and Toyota says the Corolla Cross will deliver good fuel mileage for the class. Front-wheel drive models are expected to achieve 32 mpg combined, with all-wheel drive models rated at 30 mpg. That’s about even with the Taos and slightly better than the Crosstrek, but way ahead of the Compass or Sportage. In Asia, the Corolla Cross is also offered as a hybrid, though Toyota hasn’t announced a U.S. version of that model.
The bigger body also translates to added space compared to its platform-mates. Although Toyota hasn’t released a number for total cargo volume, the automaker says the front-wheel drive Corolla cross will have 25.5 cubic-feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, with the all-wheel drive model’s extra mechanical pieces reducing that to 24.3. That’s more than the Corolla hatchback or UX, and only a tiny bit less than the Taos or Compass, suggesting plenty of utility.
Rear seat leg room looks a little tight on paper at 32 inches, compared with 36 to 38 inches for most of its intended rivals. The Corolla Cross still rides the same 103.9-inch wheelbase as the C-HR, with its confining rear seat, but being taller and airier it’s likely to have a different feel in the real world. Front passengers get more room, at least on paper, than in the Compass, Sportage or Taos.
Like other Toyotas, the Corolla Cross will come with a host of active-safety features including forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assistance. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts and parking assist will be optional.
The Power Of The Corolla Name
Irrespective of how it looks on paper, the Corolla Cross has one advantage no other new SUV can boast, the power of name recognition. More than 46 million Corollas have been built since the 1966 original, and adding a crossover to the Corolla line is likely to please existing customers as well as conquest new ones, says Ed Kim.
The name is closely associated with durability and value, and many buyers are repeat customers, Kim says. “Some are older and more traditional buyers,” Kim says. “They might find that they like the better visibility and easier entry and exit of crossovers.” When Toyota debuted the youth-oriented Scion xB in 2003, Kim says, it was aimed at hipsters, but found just as much of an audience with older, value-conscious customers because of its upright seating position and great visibility. The same was true of the original RAV4.
In the meantime, the Corolla Cross lineup will be structured in a way very similar to the Corolla sedan and hatchback, and aimed at the same wide swath of customers.
Toyota will offer three trims, L, LE and XLE in escalating levels of equipment. Base models will make do with a 7-inch infotainment screen while LE and XLE models will get an 8-inch unit. Apple Car Play and Android auto will be standard. 17-inch steel wheels come standard, while LE models get 17-inch alloys. XLE models get niceties including softex seating fabric, heated power seats, dual zone climate control, and 18-inch alloy wheels. A moonroof is optional.
Though Toyota has not announced pricing for the Corolla Cross, prices are likely to range from around $24,000 to $30,000 depending on trim level. “Toyota has to price it competitively,” says Kim, “And anything called a Corolla has to be an inherently value-oriented product.”
Toyota will build the Corolla Cross at its new facility in Huntsville, Alabama, a joint venture with Mazda. (Mazda will also build new CUVs at the factory). Due to supply chain issues, it’s unclear if car shoppers will see the Corolla Cross on dealer lots this fall or closer to the December holidays. However, if the RAV4 or regular Corolla’s pasts are prologue, they’ll be seeing them almost everywhere else soon after.