The Corolla Cross is officially billed as an SUV version of the popular hatchback - but is it any good?

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From a dull also-ran to one of the most recommendxable family hatchbacks out there, the Toyota Corolla has had some turnaround in this generation. The wilderness days when it was known as the Auris now firmly behind it, the Corolla, like so many other recent Toyotas, is a compelling car that’s good to look at, good to drive, and great to own. 

Sensing it is on to a good thing with the Corolla, even more spin offs are coming - but not all of them for the UK. Sadly, we’re being denied the excellent Toyota GR Corolla hot hatchback we tried recently, but this Toyota Corolla Cross version remains up for grabs with no decision yet taken on a UK launch.

The Corolla Cross is officially billed as an SUV version of the hatchback. It’s a global model that’s been on sale in some markets including the US for almost a year. Some European countries have already decided to take it, and we tried a European-spec version in Denmark on judging duty for the 2023 Car of the Year contest.

While Toyota might call it an SUV, it actually looks more like an Allroad-style estate car. In the metal, it still looks like it sits quite close to the ground and it doesn’t appear to be the tallest visually either even though it’s officially 185mm taller than the Corolla hatchback.All this while lacking the fun styling of the C-HR (a car that still looks so fresh a good five years after launch), and the chunky, rugged appeal and SUV presence of the RAV4. It’s the gap between these two cars, however small (the C-HR is 4385mm long and the RAV4 4600mm), that the 4460mm-long Corolla Cross looks to plug.

The presence of the other recent recipient of the ‘Cross’ treatment, the Yaris Cross, which is easily one of the best-looking small SUVs out there, is also nowhere to be seen in another route Toyota could have gone down. 

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Toyota corolla cross 09 back tracking 1

So far, so safe. To drive, it feels more like something from the Auris era of this car, too. It’s all a bit sombre and joyless, the driving experience largely dominated by the overbearing whirr of the eCVT under even lighter throttle loads. This is in sharp contrast to how calm and relaxing it is when it is running on electric power, which Toyota’s usually excellent hybrid system allows the Corolla Cross to do so for short distances in the right conditions.

Two versions of the hybrid drivetrain are offered, both based around a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The entry-level version drives the front wheels with a combined 194bhp, while an all-wheel drive version is also offered with an extra 41bhp motor on the back axle. Both cars share a 8.1sec 0-62mph time, and they do feel brisk, although you’ll be putting up with that drone for 8.1sec at the same time.

Toyota corolla cross 05 dashboard 3

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What can’t be criticised is just how efficient the system is in the real-world: we saw close to 55mpg on a mixed roads test in fairly foul conditions, which is even in excess of the official claimed 52.3mpg figure. Nobody does real-world efficiency as well as Toyota.

Thankfully, some elements of Corolla’s dynamic competence have carried over into this raised version. It rides well and is comfortable over bumps large and small, and also has plenty of grip and a light, direct feel to the steering. But what has been lost on the Cross is the everyday handling appeal, those more intangible qualities that make something pleasing or even fun to drive. In growing in size, the Corolla has lost that extra dynamic sparkle, something felt most in the body control. 

Toyota corolla cross 04 front tracking 2 3

Beyond more headroom and a bigger boot (487 litres here versus 313 litres in the Corolla) that’s easier to access thanks to a wider and lower lip, the rest of the interior package is familiar from the Corolla. So it’s easy to use, with a good mix of buttons and touchscreen functionality, although the age of the dash is just starting to be felt against newer rivals.

All of which makes the Corolla Cross feel a bit disappointing, then. Shame, even more so as we’re in such a golden age for Toyotas with great-looking and fun-to-drive cars the norm now, no matter what the shape or size.

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Perhaps it’s no bad thing there’s a question mark over whether or not it will even be sold in the UK, as it’ll be a case of not missing what we don’t have if the decision is taken not to bring it here.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.