Over the last few years, the subcompact crossover sport utility vehicle game has gotten evermore competitive. Toyota’s existing entrant in this segment is the C-HR, and while its sales are growing this year, it’s is more of a lower volume niche offering that leans towards quirky rather than mainstream. Enter the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, which intends to fill the gap in between the Corolla Sedan and Hatchback models, and the larger RAV4 compact crossover SUV. To give you a sense of what the Corolla Cross is, picture the original Toyota Matrix from nearly two decades ago, stretch it a little, and give it the crossover SUV treatment – the Matrix reloaded, if you will. In order to get an early scoop for you, our Daddy’s Digest readers, Toyota Canada offered us a chance to drive out to Gatineau, Quebec to check out this new family-oriented model. Full disclosure – our lodging, meals, and travel expenses were covered by Toyota during this two-day event.
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With a two-row, five-door configuration, the Corolla Cross comes in at an overall length of 4,474 millimetres (176.1 inches), which is shorter than the RAV4, which is 4,600 millimetres (180.9 inches). This reduction in size makes it particularly attractive for urban drivers or those who want to save a few dollars if they don’t need the extra passenger and cargo space. The Corolla Hatchback, which has been around since the 2019 model year, is considerably smaller for cargo and rear legroom, and until now, those with children were better served by the Corolla Sedan’s longer trunk and better legroom.
On the other hand, the Corolla Cross can handle up to five passengers, and the rear cargo area can easily accommodate the average stroller without complaint. Although the rear legroom still trails the Corolla Sedan, the Cross is a good body style for dads and families. Additionally, crossover buyers often enjoy a higher vantage point when on the road, and the Corolla Cross seats drivers about 130 millimetres (5.1 inches) higher than the Sedan. Depending on the trim model and configuration, there can be up to 750 litres (26.5 cubic feet) of cargo capacity behind the second row, and the number grows up to 1,891 litres (66.8 cubic feet) with the rear seats folded. Vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive and/or a moonroof will lose some capacity.
The rest of the Corolla Cross’ interior is pretty similar to the existing Corolla range, with not too many changes to report. The cabin is well put together with the typical excellent Toyota fit and finish, and special attention has been paid to improving the feel of touchpoints. That said, there is still a considerable amount of shiny black piano black plastic trim that looks great when new, but it will likely scratch and tarnish with fingerprints very easily. Other than that, it’s a very functional place to spend time in, with plenty of buttons and knobs for audio and climate controls, which is much more ergonomic and much less driver-distracting compared to capacitive touch buttons. For connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone pairing connectivity is standard equipment across the board and complements a functional, no-nonsense infotainment setup.
Under the hood of all 2022 Corolla Cross models is one engine, regardless of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configuration. The 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder is pulled from the up-level Corolla Sedan and makes 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and is paired to Toyota’s Direct Shift continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). On the highway, pulling up to a couple hundred extra kilograms over the non-Cross does mean that the engine has to rev up and make noise as it works harder than would be ideal, but lower speed driving keeps things more in the sweet spot. The CVT automatic features a real first gear and its ten-speed manual mode was more responsive than expected, which translates into a transmission that remains unobtrusive as it optimizes performance and fuel efficiency.
Ride and handling on the Toyota Corolla Cross are relatively strong suits, as has been the case with vehicles built upon the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. Improvements in crash safety have brought in a very stiff structure, which brings a bonus side effect of improved driving dynamics. Now, nobody will mistake the Corolla Cross for a sports car, but it more than held its own when hustled around the curvy and rutted backroads outside of Gatineau. While all models have independent front suspension, front-wheel drive models feature a torsion beam rear axle that didn’t appear to impact ride and handling negatively at all. All-wheel drive cars get fully independent double-wishbone suspension out back. In the noise department, expect similar performance to the regular Corollas, but with a little more added road noise due to the open cargo area behind the passenger cabin.
In the safety department, drivers can dance if they want to, without leaving their friends behind. Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 driver-assist system includes a forward collision warning with automatic braking (including pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Upper trim levels also get a blind spot monitoring system and extra guidance and assist on the reverse camera system.
For pricing, the 2022 Corolla Cross comes in four trim levels with varying feature sets. The base model front-drive L starts at $24,890 ($26,290 with AWD), and gets a 7-inch touch screen display, heated front seats, and LED headlamps paired with its no-nonsense 17-inch black steel wheels with hub caps. The LE is $27,090 ($28,490 with AWD) and adds a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, ups the touch screen display to 8 inches, adds pushbutton start, blind-spot monitoring, and changes the wheels from plain steel to styled aluminum alloy.
The LE Premium is $30,590 and is offered in all-wheel drive only, and adds a power moonroof, wireless phone charging, and roof rails. For those looking for all of the bells and whistles, the XLE AWD is $33,990 and ups the audio to nine-speaker JBL, adds 18-inch wheels, SofTex synthetic leather seats, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED fog lights, low-speed automatic braking on the driver safety assist system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power liftgate, and enhanced rearview camera assists.
Overall, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross does just about everything well without any sense of pretentiousness, which is typically what one comes to expect from Toyota. It’s not flashy, but it’s also not a penalty box. It gets the job done well as one of the most reliable cars that money can buy, and is relatively practical to boot. Those looking for a little more pizazz or power in their subcompact crossover might want to look at a Mazda CX-30, but other than that, the Corolla Cross will do battle at the top of its segment. If you liked the original Toyota Matrix and think that the RAV4 is a little too much car for you (in size or price), it’s definitely worth a look.