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Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8V Hybrid: Is it worth the hype?

Can you expect this car to shake up the competitive crossover class?

This car looks good in any environment you put it in. PHOTO BY VINCENT SUAREZ

When I first wrote about the Toyota Corolla Cross a few months ago, I became genuinely curious about how the actual vehicle would be like to drive. I figured the Japanese carmaker would not use its legendary nameplate just for kicks. And now that I have finally met the new compact crossover, I already know whether it is worth the hype.

Pictures do not do the Corolla Cross justice: This thing strikes you so much better in the metal. The car may not have that in-your-face attraction on paper, but it does make you want to drool over it up close. The flared fenders with simple yet stylish character lines accentuate the sides very well. Eighteen-inch, two-tone alloy wheels wrapped in 225/50 Michelin Primacy 4S perfectly complement the squared-off wheel arches. Subtle creases here and there enhance the vehicle’s stance.

You will love the cosmetic elements Toyota's designers used to prettify the car. PHOTOS BY VINCENT SUAREZ

The rear end leaves me wanting, though. It is not bad, but given how good the car generally looks, Toyota designers could have done more with the back. In particular, the “Corolla” badge on the tailgate looks like an afterthought. But that’s just me nitpicking. Overall, this crossover can definitely hold a candle to its rivals in terms of styling.

Do you agree with the author that the rear portion could have been better? PHOTOS BY VINCENT SUAREZ

The interior’s build quality is rather good. Piano-black panels, silver accents and blue ambient lighting give the dark theme some contrast. As a firm believer in simplicity, I feel that the Corolla Cross’s cabin is one of the best-designed on the market. Hard plastics are still used liberally, but the abundance of soft-touch materials more than makes up for it. The Apple CarPlay– and Android Auto-compatible infotainment system is one of the sweetest-sounding, non-branded stock systems I have tried so far. It is responsive to the touch, and the interface is pretty intuitive. The meaty, leather-wrapped steering wheel is a joy to hold. The tiller also has buttons to manage the radio, the dashboard functions and the cruise control. Finally, I find this ride to be quite roomy in spite of what its exterior dimensions suggest.

The predominantly black interior is both sporty and techy. PHOTOS BY VINCENT SUAREZ

Newer Toyotas are getting more exciting to drive, and the Corolla Cross is no exception. The 1.8-liter straight-four gasoline engine and electric motor may only have a 121hp, but it feels a lot more powerful than that. Sure, it may not have breakneck acceleration, but the instantaneous torque of the electric motor pulls the vehicle’s weight quite easily. The continuously variable transmission wouldn’t get the nod of sporty drivers, but it gets the vehicle up to speed in a swift manner. Clever use of the accelerator pedal will allow you to eke out every bit of fuel efficiency from the hybrid powertrain.

In fact, I was able to get 11km/L in two hours of stop-and-go crawling. On the highway, I did 22km/L, which I found very impressive. Like the Corolla Altis Hybrid, the Corolla Cross 1.8V can run in pure EV mode. I was able to drive up to 90km/h on the expressway with no intervention from the internal-combustion engine whatsoever. That is why after a week of driving it, I was able to cover more than 400km and still had a fourth of the tank filled. And given how crazy our traffic situation is these days, that’s enough reason to put a smile on any prospective buyer’s face.

The gasoline engine works with an electric motor. PHOTO BY VINCENT SUAREZ

Despite the suspension being tuned for comfort, this crossover keeps its body roll in check during cornering. It is a stable highway cruiser, too, judging from the lack of drama when it’s passing large vehicles. The cabin is also surprisingly quiet. I was under the impression that NVH levels would be a bit more intrusive considering the car’s size. The brakes are easy to modulate. And although I had no intentions of testing them, the mere presence of the Toyota Safety Sense suite of electronic aids gave me the confidence to take the Corolla Cross on a long drive. It is these simple things that made this car fun to drive for me.

Oh, you can also find small logos all over the car, which should be a fun activity with your friends.

Who wants to find Corolla Cross logos? PHOTOS BY VINCENT SUAREZ

Toyota might be a bit late to the compact crossover party, but I believe it has a winner here in the Corolla Cross. The combination of hybrid propulsion and modern equipment makes the P1,650,000 price tag worth it. With good looks, great road manners and a comfortable ride, this car should appeal to many people (at least those who can afford it). Does it deserve all the hype surrounding it? You bet it does.


Engine1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline with electric motor
Power121hp @ 5,200rpm
Torque142Nm @ 3,600rpm
Dimensions4,460mm x 1,825mm x 1,620mm
Drive layoutFWD
PriceP1,650,000 (P1,665,000 for Platinum White Pearl Mica)
UpsideGreat fuel economy, impressive cabin refinement, and entertaining infotainment system.
DownsideRear-end styling could be better; it’s a bit RAV4-esque.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.